tampabay.com

Huston looking to end his struggles - here

Strong final round would keep John Huston in top 125 and at home in Clearwater.

By RODNEY PAGE
Published October 30, 2005


PALM HARBOR - No offense to the Southern Farm Bureau Classic in Mississippi, the last official tournament of the 2005 PGA season, but John Huston doesn't want to go. He would like to have a strong finish in today's final round of the Chrysler Championship and put the clubs away for a couple of weeks.

He needs time to shop for a new putter and a stroke to go with it. It has not been an enjoyable season.

Huston, who lives in Clearwater and attended Dunedin High School, shot 1-over 72 Saturday and was tied with four others at 2-under 211, seven off the lead. That's not bad for most, but Huston thought he left several shots on the course. A good showing could have given him breathing room today.

He is 122nd on the money list with $602,698. A strong showing today likely will move him up the list, which means he will not go to Mississippi because he would not be in danger of falling out of the top 125.

The top 125 at the end of the season retain their card for 2006. If Huston finishes outside the top 125 he loses his fully exempt status next season.

"I'm just ready for this year to be over," Huston said. "I've been missing short putts all year, which makes you less aggressive on your longer putts."

Huston, 44, has struggled this season. He has missed 13 cuts in 29 events and had only two top-10 finishes. His best was a tie for fifth at the 84 Lumber Classic.

Huston, who has seven PGA wins, including the 2000 Tampa Bay Classic at Innisbrook, is used to playing better. He has not been this low on the money list since 1997, when he finished 141st. He followed that season with a 10th-place finish and more than $1.5-million.

Saturday was a microcosm of what Huston said he has been going through. He popped onto the leaderboard early in the day when he birdied the seventh hole to get to 4 under. But a poor finish took him out of the top 10.

Putting hurt Huston down the stretch. He was 4 under entering the 16th hole, but he bogeyed it and No. 18.

"I had a bunch of chances for birdie early on but never made any of them," Huston said. "Then I hit a pretty good drive on 16 and it went through the fairway and I had nothing. Same thing on 18. I'm 3 feet out of the fairway and had no lie. But really, I just didn't putt well."

It sounds all too familiar.