For Steve Wheatcroft, nothing to lose

HUMBLE, Tex. -- On Monday, Steve Wheatcroft was in a qualifier at the nearby Cypresswood Golf Club, where he shot 67 to earn one of the four spots into the Shell Houston Open.

Now after a second-consecutive 5-under 67, the 35-year-old former Indiana walk-on has a 1-shot lead heading into the final two rounds.

At a tournament where many players are looking ahead to the Masters, Wheatcroft is just happy to be playing in a tour event.

Last week, he couldn't get in as an alternate in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Web.com Tour. So he hung around Lafayette, La., and worked on his game. With the Web.com Tour off this week, he made the three-hour drive to Houston for the Monday qualifier.

Though he's played in dozens of Monday qualifiers and pre-qualifiers through the years, he still despises these 1-day shootouts.

"Monday qualifiers are terrible," Wheatcroft said. "They're just not fun. I've had success with them, but I just don't like them. I know I'm playing well.

"I knew I wasn't playing 63 well, but I can throw up 68 or 69 or 70 every round where, if you're in a tournament, you're going to play well. But Monday qualifiers, it's hard to get through doing that."

On Monday morning after he finished his round, Wheatcroft, a native of Indiana, Pa., went to see the movie "Olympus Has Fallen" instead of waiting around for scores to come in.

"I knew there was a big afternoon wave and a lot of PGA Tour players and Web.com players," he said. "I didn't want to sit here and watch everybody finish and figure out what they're fist-pumping for on 18."

During the movie, which is about a secret service agent trapped in the White House during a terrorist attack, Wheatcroft continually refreshed the scores on his phone.

When he got back to Cypresswood, he sat in his car for a while and listened to music until the last groups finished from the afternoon wave.

Michael Putnam, another one of the four qualifiers, walked up to him and told him that they were in a playoff. So he started warming up on the driving range.

Putnam, who missed the cut this week, had played a cruel prank on his friend. They were both in the Houston field.

This weekend, Wheatcroft is dangerous to the rest of the field because he has nothing to lose.

"I don't have to worry about the money list out here," said Wheatcroft, who has conditional status on the Web.com Tour. "If I win, it's great. It's kind of a win or nothing. I just get to go play golf this week. Everybody else can worry their status on the PGA Tour. Hopefully I can make enough money to get ... temporary status out here.

"Who knows? I could shoot 61 tomorrow, I could shoot 81 tomorrow. I really don't know. I'm not going to sit here and think about it too much. I'm going to think about the first tee ball on the first tee and we'll go from there."

Wheatcroft's only other win on one of the top tours came at the Web.com's Melwood Prince George's County Open in 2011, where he won by 12 shots with rounds of 66, 60, 65 and 64.

Another weekend like that and he won't have to worry about Monday qualifiers for the next couple of years.