The Shell Houston Open | Thursday 02 April - Sunday 05 April | Golf Club of Houston
This week the PGA Tour remains in Texas for the Shell Houston Open and with the Masters only a week away this event is definitely one to keep an eye on, as the similarities between the Golf Club of Houston (GCH) and Augusta are plentiful. That would probably explain why such a classy field has assembled for this tournament which has traditionally been the perfect warm-up for the first Major of the year. So where do these similarities lie? The first is with the greens. On both courses they are lightning fast and one can’t help but think that anyone who gets a feel for the greens at GCH will have a distinct advantage over the rest of the field. The fairways at GCH also seem to resemble those at Augusta. Measuring 7,441 yards, this course is long and tight and playing it should allow the field to ease into next week’s challenge.
Accurate driving and iron play is most certainly the name of the game as trees and thick rough line the fairways waiting to swallow misdirected drives, whilst approaches need to be accurate and carefully thought out as just hitting the green is not enough. You need to hit it close to the pin. With the par fives ranking as some of the more difficult on Tour and the greens playing as fast as they do, don’t expect anyone to go to low here. Rather, this will be a tournament for the consistent players in the field and they should be rewarded.
Jordan Spieth 15/2
Jimmy Walker 12/1
Matt Kuchar 14/1
Patrick Reed 16/1
JB Holmes 25/1
Matt Kuchar (14/1 a win, 3/1 a place)
Matt Kuchar seems to be the tournament specialist here this week and he has not finished outside the Top 10 in the last three years. This may not seem that impressive on the face of it, considering that we regularly see back-to-back tournament winners on the Tour, but when you consider just how difficult it is to play here, Kuchar has shown magnificent consistency. He’s one of the most consistent players on the Tour so when he takes a liking to a course, you’ll generally be able to have a confident bet that he’ll continue performing there. Hopefully this year he manages to go one better than he did last year when he was edged out in a playoff. Each way is the bet for me.
Phil Mickelson (30/1 a win, 66/10 a place)
Phil Mickelson hasn’t been in the best form of his life this season but with the experience he’s gained over the years, he will be well aware that this is the perfect tournament to fine tune your game in preparation for the Masters and should come here eager to perform. Like Kuchar, he’s also consistently performed on this course and hasn’t missed the cut in five years. A win in 2011 shows he has what it takes to finish on top; let’s hope his season gets going this week.
Henrik Stenson (14/1 a win, 3/1 a place)
I can’t look past Henrik Stenson this week because like Kuchar, he has shown a real liking for this course in the past and although he hasn’t always performed here, he has managed a T3 and a T2 in the past few years. Add to that his current form and it looks like we are onto something. Three Top 5 finishes so far this season on some of the more tricky courses that have been played show he loves a challenge. This week shouldn’t be much different.
Sergio Garcia (25/1 a win, 11/2 a place)
In my preview last week I mentioned how scarce Sergio had been over the past few weeks but you could have guessed he would have arrived here this week to help himself prepare for the Masters. So far this season he has played well when he has stepped out and his best finish was a T4 at Riviera a few weeks ago. That showed he can come out and perform despite not playing week in and week out so there’s little worry that this week he’ll have any rust to shake off. As one of the players on Tour who seems to find more greens in regulation that most, Sergio’s abilities with the irons will be richly rewarded this week. Each way on Garcia is my best bet this week.