Shell Houston Open Predictions
The Shell Houston Open is set to get underway on Thursday, March 28 and will run through Sunday, March 31. This will be the first time in the FedExCup era that this tournament isn’t scheduled the week before the Masters, which is in two weeks. That’s because next week’s Valero Texas Open has an agreement with the PGA TOUR to not finish on Easter Sunday.
Redstone Country Club will be set up similarly to Augusta National to prepare players for the first major of the year. Most of the similarities will be around the greens, which are very undulated. These greens will average 6,700 feet and could exceed 13 on the Stimpmeter. Chipping areas around the greens are very tough, making it important to hit them.
Redstone’s overall yardage of 7,441 is just six more yards than that of Augusta National. The course’s scoring average of 71.45 last year was its lowest in history as host of this tournament. It also ranked as the sixth-easiest course on TOUR last year in greens in regulation (71.77 percent). The scrambling rate of 57.88 percent last year was the highest since 2006 here.
Still, any course that advertises itself as a primer for Augusta has its challenges. Redstone has ranked as the most difficult track on TOUR in scrambling from the rough in each of the last four years. Last year’s 41.20 percent clip was the highest during this span. This tournament also ranked as the fourth-most difficult in one-putt percentage (35.07 percent), making hitting it close and cashing in those opportunities a premium.
This course has four Par 5′s that play as some of the toughest on TOUR. In fact, last year their collective scoring average of 4.80 was the ninth-highest on TOUR. The weather forecast is calling for breezy conditions throughout the week with a threat of inclement weather over the weekends. Look for a high in the upper 70s over the four days. Without further ado, here is my Pick 5 for the Shell Houston Open.
Top Four Contenders
Steve Stricker (+1400) – Already has two runner-up finishes this season. Has had two weeks off since his second-place finish to Tiger Woods at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Stricker has four top-11 finishes in six starts at Redstone.
Phil Mickelson (+1600) – The 2011 champ here has a string of 10 consecutive rounds under par going at Redstone. He co-led after one round last year on his way to a 4th place finish.
Lee Westwood (+3300) – These are great odds for a player the caliber of Westwood, who will be hungry for his first win on TOUR this year. Westwood has three top 25s in six starts this year. He hasn’t finished worse than a T30 in any of his last four trips to Redstone, including a personal best T8 in 2010.
Jimmy Walker (+5000) – He’s still tearing it up while looking for his first win on TOUR. Walker has posted three straight top 10s, including a T8 at Bay Hill last week despite a closing 74. He has shot under par in 26 of 32 rounds this season.
Charles Howell III (+6000) – He’s having a heck of a year so far as he sits eighth on TOUR in FedExCup points. Howell III finished T19 in his last appearance at Redstone in 2011. His game fits well at Redstone considering he’s 21st on TOUR in strokes gained-putting, 12th in adjusted scoring and fourth in scrambling.