The 2014 Shell Houston Open will serve as the tune up to the first major of the year in The Masters next week. The Golf Club of Houston has undergone renovations throughout the years to try and make it as Augusta-like as possible.
That’s why this tournament gets many of the world’s elite to play in it every year. In fact, 20 of the top 40 players in the Official World Golf Rankings will be in the field this week to hone their skills for The Masters.
This par 72 stretches out to 7,441 yards and will certainly benefit the long hitters. It averaged 71.868 strokes last year and the field hit the greens 70.13 percent of the time. However, each 25-yard range from 100-200 yards ranked inside the top-10 longest in proximity to the hole last year.
That means that getting up and down around the greens becomes one of the key factors this week. Golf Club of Houston was the 13th-mist challenging in scrambling (55.54%) last year. For the fifth consecutive year, it ranked hardest on TOUR in getting up and down from the rough (40.85%).
Collection areas surround most of the greens, so missing them in the right spots will be key. These bentgrass greens can reach up to 13 in the stimpmeter and featured undulations galore. Players average 4.78 on the par 5s last year, which ranked 10th-toughest on TOUR.
D.A. Points is your defending champion. He ranked T10 in greens in regulation, 10th in strokes gained-putting, 5th in scrambling and 8th in average distance of putts made. His biggest key to victory was ranking 1st in par-4 scoring (3.75). The winner this week will get an automatic invite to The Masters.
The weather is sure to be windy in Texas as it always is for this event. I’m going to go through and offer my Pick 5 for the Shell Houston Open. I list my top four contenders as well as a long shot pick, and recommend a small bet on each player.
Top 4 Contenders
Dustin Johnson (+1400) – Has finished in the top 10 in all five stroke-play events in 2013-14, including a T4 in his last start at Doral. Johnson is a bomber who is the ideal fit for this course. He leads the TOUR in a number of different categories and shared fourth place at the Shell Houston Open last year.
Henrik Stenson (+1750) – Stenson is rounding into form with a T5 at Bay Hill in which he ranked tops in fairways hit and greens in regulation. He has a great history here, finishing T3 in 2009 and T2 last year. Most importantly, he’ll be motivated knowing that a win at Golf Club of Houston would make him the 17th different player to reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Matt Kuchar (+2700) – With five top 10s in 2013-14, including a T4 at TPC San Antonio last week, Kuchar’s game is coming togetehr leading up to the masters. He has finished T8 in his last two starts at Golf Club of Houston (2010, 2011), so he loves it here, too.
Graham DeLaet (+3400) – Tied for third as a rookie in 2010 at the Shell Houston Open. He still has yet to earn his first PGA Tour victory, so you know that has to be eating at him despite ranking No. 30 in the world. He has posted a runner-up at Torrey Pines (also a Rees Jones design) and TPC Scottsdale this season. DeLaet closed with a 68 for a T8 at Copperhead last time out, so he is rested. This is a ball-striker’s paradise, and DeLaet leads the TOUR in ball striking.
Long Shot Pick
Ricky Fowler (+9500) – Ranked No. 40 in the world, there’s no question that Fowler is among the most talented golfers on the planet. Sure, he is going through swing changes, but he has still shown enough that a breakthrough isn’t far away. He has a knack for playing difficult courses well. Fowler was 3rd at the long, Bentgrass-greened par 72 set-up at Dove Mountain in the Accenture Match Play. His career has included excellent results at long formats like Torrey Pines, Muirfield, Firestone and Quail Hollow, where he won in 2012. At this price, he’s certainly worth a look this week.