Bottleneck

Morning rains delayed play and softened up the Golf Club of Houston, leading to a flurry of red numbers on Thursday. Rookie Sam Ryder is leading the charge at 8-under through 15 holes. Ryder will finish up his round in the morning and look to hold on to his one-shot lead over clubhouse leaders Lucas Glover and Kevin Tway and Beau Hossler, who is through 16 holes. Right behind Glover, Tway and Hossler is the group of Rickie Fowler, Rod Pampling and Monday-Qualifier Justin Suri. The leaderboard is jammed with names, and an astounding 71 players are within five shots of Ryder. Full scores

What to watch this weekend

The Masters contenders
For golf's big names, this week is about finding form and a good rhythm leading up to the Masters. So far so good for Rickie Fowler, who made seven birdies and only one bogey. Fowler finished in a tie for third at this event last year.

The other big Masters contenders are all deadlocked at 4-under. Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar each fired 68 to sit in a tie for 26th.

Speaking of Augusta, I put together the 9 storylines to watch heading into next week's Masters. Check them out here.

Of the 71 names within five shots heading into today's action, only ten are currently in the Masters field. A win would earn a spot in the year's first major; some of the big names who aren't in the field yet include: Steve Stricker (-5), Brandt Snedeker (-5), Bill Haas (-4), Keegan Bradley (-4) and Ernie Els (-3). SB Nation's Brendan Porath wrote an article on some players currently not in the Augusta field that might deserve a last minute invite.

Why is the leaderboard stacked up?
The rain, which makes the course vulnerable to scoring and increases the margin for error with golf shots. Shots not rolling out makes the fairways wider and the greens larger. The soft conditions and mediocre Rees Jones design lead to a test of execution rather than one of thought and strategy. With the soft conditions in Houston, you may as well hold the tournament on the driving range. Thankfully, Augusta is next week.

The Yolk with Doak

Part two of our podcast with Tom Doak and Don Placek is up on the site and in your podcast feeds. We continue our discussion on the soul of a golf course, the routing.

Listen to the podcast on iTunesStitcher or the website, and please leave a review if you enjoy it!

The first major

Pernilla Lindberg leads the LPGA's ANA Inspiration by one shot after an opening-round 65. At 7-under, Lindberg leads by one shot over Ayako Uehara and Beatriz Recari. Jessica Korda (-5) is two shots back, and Lexi Thompson, Brittany Altomare and Cristie Kerr are at -4. Full scores

Tryon's return

Christian Brand and Kyle Jones lead the Web.com Tour's Savannah Championship by one shot over Timothy O'Neal. The story of the week in Savannah is former phenom Ty Tryon, who qualified into the event Monday. Tryon opened with a two-over-par 74, four shots off the likely 2-under cut line. Tryon tees off this morning, follow scores here.

In case you missed it

Check out Will Knights’ article ranking the last decade of the Masters.