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BlogHouston Open Preview and Picks

Houston Open

March 29th – April 1st, 2018

Golf Club of Houston (Tournament Course)

Humble,, TX

Par: 72 / Yardage:7,441

Purse: $7 million

with $1,260,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Russell Henley

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 38 of the top 100 and 13 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with three players from the top-ten: #4 Jordan Spieth, #5 Justin Rose and #8 Rickie Fowler. The other top 50 players are #15 Henrik Stenson, #18 Phil Mickelson, #20 Matt Kuchar, #22 Rafael Cabrera-Bello, #34 Tony Finau, #37 Daniel Berger, #45 Thomas Pieters, #47 Dylan Frittelli, #48 Chez Reavie and #49 Jason Dufner.

Last year there were 15 top-50 players

The field includes 11 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  Those players are #4 Jon Rahm, #7 Jordan Spieth, #10 Rickie Fowler, #12 Mackenzie Hughes, #13 Charles Howell III, #14 Hudson Swafford, #17 Justin Rose, #21 Daniel Berger, #22 Lucas Glover, #23 Cody Gribble and #24 Luke List.

The field includes 7 past champions: Russell Henley (2017), J.B. Holmes (2015), Matt Jones (2014), D.A. Points (2013), Hunter Mahan (2012), Phil Mickelson (2011) and Johnson Wagner (2008).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Shell Houston Open field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Shell Houston Open in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Shell Houston Open.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Houston Open

Player WGC – Dell Match Play Corales Arnold Palmer Valspar Indian Open WGC Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open Qatar Masters AT&T Pebble Phoenix Open Farmers Dubai Classic
Phil Mickelson
(279.83 pts)
T17
(49.5)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP T2
(33.33)
T5
(23.33)
T45
(1.67)
DNP
Luke List
(192.33 pts)
T59
(0)
DNP T7
(55)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
T26
(16)
DNP DNP T26
(8)
T12
(12.67)
DNP
Justin Rose
(189.67 pts)
DNP DNP 3
(90)
T5
(70)
DNP T37
(13)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(169 pts)
T36
(21)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(90)
T29
(14)
T26
(16)
DNP T26
(8)
DNP DNP T6
(20)
Brice Garnett
(147.67 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T31
(19)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T35
(5)
DNP T35
(5)
DNP
Tony Finau
(145.83 pts)
T17
(49.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T27
(23)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T6
(20)
DNP
Charles Howell III
(135.5 pts)
T9
(67.5)
DNP T14
(36)
T40
(10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T37
(8.67)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP
Kelly Kraft
(132.33 pts)
DNP 3
(90)
DNP T31
(19)
DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
63
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Emiliano Grillo
(131 pts)
DNP T50
(1)
T26
(24)
DNP 6
(60)
DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
T12
(12.67)
DNP
Patrick Rodgers
(120.33 pts)
DNP T22
(28)
T7
(55)
T59
(0)
DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
T26
(16)
DNP T8
(16.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Ian Poulter
(117.33 pts)
T5
(105)
DNP T41
(9)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T52
(0)
DNP T6
(20)
Matt Kuchar
(116.83 pts)
T9
(67.5)
DNP DNP T40
(10)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP T62
(0)
T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP
Rory Sabbatini
(115.33 pts)
DNP T43
(7)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP 72
(0)
T31
(6.33)
T20
(10)
DNP
Jordan Spieth
(112.17 pts)
T17
(49.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP T20
(10)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Harris English
(106 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
T22
(28)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T8
(16.67)
DNP
Byeong Hun An
(101.67 pts)
DNP DNP T14
(36)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T5
(46.67)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP T6
(20)
Scott Stallings
(100.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
T31
(19)
DNP DNP T29
(14)
T4
(53.33)
DNP 7
(18.33)
T23
(9)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Seungsu Han
(94.67 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Keith Mitchell
(94.33 pts)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T47
(1)
DNP T63
(0)
DNP
Shubhankar Sharma
(93.33 pts)
T59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T7
(55)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T61
(0)
Jamie Lovemark
(92.33 pts)
DNP DNP T41
(9)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP 7
(36.67)
T26
(16)
DNP DNP T52
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Henrik Stenson
(90 pts)
DNP DNP 4
(80)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
Chez Reavie
(88.17 pts)
T29
(31.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T52
(0)
DNP T73
(0)
DNP T2
(33.33)
2
(33.33)
DNP DNP
Sean O’Hair
(86.33 pts)
DNP DNP T7
(55)
T12
(38)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T64
(0)
DNP T73
(0)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP
Keegan Bradley
(83.67 pts)
T36
(21)
DNP T26
(24)
T31
(19)
DNP DNP T49
(0.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T43
(2.33)
5
(23.33)
DNP
Tom Lovelady
(77 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T45
(1.67)
DNP
Corey Conners
(74.67 pts)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP DNP T59
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP
Abraham Ancer
(74.33 pts)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP T52
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
T68
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP
Jason Kokrak
(71.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(20)
DNP T35
(5)
T31
(6.33)
DNP DNP
Denny McCarthy
(70 pts)
DNP 4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T66
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Peter Uihlein
(68.5 pts)
T17
(49.5)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP DNP T37
(13)
CUT
(-6.67)
T26
(16)
DNP DNP T52
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
James Hahn
(67.67 pts)
T36
(21)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T14
(24)
DNP T26
(8)
T11
(13)
T45
(1.67)
DNP
William McGirt
(67.33 pts)
DNP DNP T26
(24)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T26
(8)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Dylan Frittelli
(67 pts)
T36
(21)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T55
(0)
11
(26)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
K.J. Choi
(64.67 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T26
(8)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Houston Open

Player WGC – Dell Match Play Corales Arnold Palmer Valspar Indian Open WGC Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open Qatar Masters AT&T Pebble Phoenix Open Farmers Dubai Classic
Robert Streb
(-50 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
66
(0)
DNP
Smylie Kaufman
(-50 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
D.A. Points
(-43.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Danny Lee
(-33.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP WD
(-3.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T58
(0)
DNP
Padraig Harrington
(-33.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T64
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Tyler Duncan
(-29.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T24
(17.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Camilo Villegas
(-26.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T68
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T57
(0)
77
(0)
DNP
Martin Piller
(-26.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP 67
(0)
67
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Cameron Tringale
(-25.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T47
(1)
CUT
(-3.33)
T58
(0)
DNP
Whee Kim
(-22.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
T49
(1)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

The big question is if this could be the last Houston Open?  Since 1991 Shell Oil had been a significant fixture of this event and when they announced 18 months ago that they would stop sponsoring the tournament after 2017, nobody was worried.  For the last decade, even though the hard times in 2008 through 2010, the PGA Tour has always found sponsors of tournaments.  Of course, some went away, but those that did weren’t that big of a deal.

But the Houston Open is a big deal.  It’s been around since 1946 making it one of the oldest.  On top of that, it’s in the fourth biggest city in America, has been very generous to charities and has been a part of the most successful First Tee operation in the country.  So what’s the deal?

Nobody seems to know; maybe it’s the case of the PGA Tour not have that Midas touch any more of being able to find sponsors for everything. Perhaps the market for companies to spend over $10 million to sponsor tournaments is not there.  Just look at the disaster one of the sponsors the PGA Tour got with Dean & Deluca for the Colonial event.  Everyone asked how an upmarket retailer with locations around the country but none in Texas would want to spend all of that money to sponsor an event in Texas.  Things didn’t work out, Dean & Deluca walked away from their deal leaving Colonial with no sponsorship for 2018.  In Washington D.C. Quicken Loan left, and a replacement has not been found.  So could the sponsorship well be drying up?

The Houston Open, which has a well-placed date the week before the Masters but no sponsor, has a fuzzy future.  Rumors of the new schedule with lot’s of changes could spell the Houston Open losing its pre-Masters date which could make it harder to find a sponsor.  But the big question will be, can three events find suitable long-term sponsors?  Guess we will have to wait and see, but it would be a shame if the Houston Open would go away.

Big dud in Austin

For the last three years, the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship has been on a roll.  With the new course and new format, lot’s of marquee names made it to the weekend.  Nobody could complain about the winners with Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson winning.  But this year, something happened.  All of the marquee names, players like Rory, Dustin, Jason, Phil, and Jon never made it to the weekend.  Things were so bad that Rory lost two matches and who could ever see Dustin Johnson losing all three of his matches.  Rumors had Johnson not feeling well during the tournament, one of the reasons for his terrible play.  Still, Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas did make it to Sunday, so it wasn’t the end of the world.  Unfortunately, Thomas said he was nervous over the possibility of moving into the top of the world rankings lost his semi-final match to Bubba Watson 3 & 2 and then was clobbered by Alex Noren 5 & 3 in the consolation match.  Let’s see what the ratings were on Sunday when Bubba Watson won his first five holes in the final match against Kevin Kisner and then winning 7 & 6, causing NBC to linger with interviews and highlights for almost an hour.  Have to think not many TV’s were on NBC around 6:30.  Still, the positive that came out was that the Match Play had another great winning in Bubba Watson.  Its been a trend of late, if you look at all of the tournaments since the start of the calendar year, you couldn’t ask for any better winners than Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy.  Yes, Patton Kizzire, Gary Woodland, Ted Potter, Jr. and on Sunday in the second event in the Dominican Republic Brice Garnett won, but hey the year has been great.  Tiger is back and bringing eyeballs for TV  putting golf back on the sporting map, and professional golf is healthy.

Going to miss the Masters

On Monday Brooks Koepka notified Augusta National that he is not able to play due to his left wrist injury.  Koepka told the Treasure Coast Palm last week that he would only be 80% ready and was starting to putt and chip and hasn’t hit any long shots.  He has not played since the Sentry TofC and doesn’t want to re-injure his wrist, which has bothered him since he returned from Japan right after Thanksgiving. Koepka has been a big part of the majors the last few years, posting finishes of T-13th or better in eight of his previous nine appearances, including a win at the U.S. Open. He hasn’t said if he has a timetable or when he will return to playing.

Playing the week before a major

For the first time in the last couple of years, the Houston Open doesn’t have the great field it has had in past years.  There are 13 top-50 players, and the field does have Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson.  The big disappointment is the number of players in the field that are playing next week in the Masters.  Last year, 28 players that were in the Masters participated at the Houston Open.  This year it’s down to 18 (Daniel Berger, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Jason Dufner, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Dylan Frittelli, Russell Henley, Yuta Ikeda, Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Thomas Pieters, Chez Reavie, Justin Rose, Shubhankar Sharma, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Jhonattan Vegas).  So does that mean that more players don’t think to play the week before the Masters is worth it?  For years the Houston Open got rave reviews for setting up Golf Club of Houston with some of the characteristics of Augusta National, but I guess for this year they are taking a pass.

Still, some like Phil Mickelson swear by it, but who knows, maybe for some playing the Match Play and Houston could be a grind.

Now the Masters field is set, but there is one golden ticket out there for anyone that wins this week’s Houston Open.  For the last two years, Russell Henley and Jim Herman came to Houston with other plans for the week after.  But with their Houston wins it gave them a chance to play in the Masters.  So there are 18 in the field of 144 with Masters invites, that means that 126 players in the field this week will have that added incentive to win, for that last “Golden Ticket” to the Masters.  Some include Lee Westwood, who has played over the previous 13 Masters, he would love to make it 14 in a row.  Bill Haas has played the last 8 Masters in a row and doesn’t have a spot.  Steve Stricker played last year, it was his 16th Masters, and he would love to play again.  He is one of the hottest players in golf; he has won in his last two starts. Unfortunately, those starts are on the PGA Tour Champions Tour, and Augusta doesn’t give exemptions for Senior wins. There is also Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Lucas Glover, Retief Goosen and Geoff Ogilvy who have won major championships but their exemptions have expired to get into the Masters.  There are also others that were close in the world rankings.  Ian Poulter was told that getting to the Quarterfinals got him into the Masters, but before teeing off in that match against Kevin Kisner, Poulter found at the information was wrong, he needed to win his match against Kisner to qualify.  Poulter was slaughtered 8 & 6 and you know he was disappointed to learn that his 51st ranking is one of getting a Masters spot.  Charles Howell III is another disappointed person.  He grew up in Augusta and loves to play in the Masters and played every year between 2002 and 2008.  He did play in 2012 but hasn’t played since.  He too was in the same boat as Poulter and needed to make it into the semifinals in his round of 16 match against Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Howell was 1 up after 16, but when Aphibarnrat made birdies at 17 and 18, it shattered Howell’s chance of possibly making it.  For Brice Garnett, he won last week in the Dominican Republic, but that event doesn’t qualify for a Masters invite.  The same for Paul Dunne who last October won the British Masters on the European Tour but that win doesn’t count either.  Last but not least how about Luke List, James Hahn, Alex Cejka, and Whee Kim.  They all lost in playoffs on the PGA Tour in 2018 and are not in the Masters, but are playing in Houston.  All of these guys are in Houston and trying to find that magic so that they can return to Augusta.  So this week it’s like another tournament in a tournament.

Is it right or wrong to play before a major?

Now the disadvantage of playing the week before a major is peaking too soon.  Hunter Mahan won twice the week before a major, at Houston in 2012 and Bridgestone in 2011 and he was flat at the next major. Same with Lee Westwood, both of his PGA Tour wins came the week before a major and he wasn’t in the running the next week.  You always want to win no matter if it’s a major or the week before a major.  Winning takes a lot out of you, and players are mentally fried not able to keep it going the week after winning especially at a major.

Now on the other end look at what happened to Phil Mickelson in 2013.  He won the Scottish Open and it help get his game in shape for the British Open.  This isn’t the first time that Phil has done that, in 2006 Mickelson won in Atlanta and then won the next week at the Masters.  There is no right or wrong answer on this; it’s all that you feel.  But I leave you with one significant thought on this if the purse for the Houston was $3 million instead of $7 million and if first place was just $500,000 compared to over a million dollars, I bet you a lot of players would take the week off.  Greed at times can be incredible and frankly, a lot of players wouldn’t care less about a major if they could win a million the week before.

Things you need to know about the  Houston Open

This will be the 71st edition of the Houston Open.  This is its 13th year at the Golf Club of Houston which use to be called Tournament Course at Redstone.  This course was created mainly with the Houston Open in mind. In prior years the tournament was held across the street at the Members Course at Redstone between 2003 and 2005.  Before that, the TPC at the Woodlands had been the site between 1985 and 2002.  Courses used before 1985 include the West course at the Woodlands, River Oaks C.C., Memorial Park G.C., Pine Forest C.C., Brae Burn C.C., Sharpstown C.C., Champions G.C., Westwood G.C. and Quail Valley G.C.  The first Houston Open was played in 1946 and was called the Tournament of Champions. Byron Nelson beat Ben Hogan that year by two strokes at River Oaks.

Course information:

  • Golf Club of Houston
  • Humble, Tx.
  • 7,441 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • The tournament course at Redstone features a course rating of 76.0 and a slope rating from the back tees of 144. The tees, fairway, and rough are TifSport bermudaGrass as the greens are Miniverde bermudagrass. The course is a semi-private course and played by the public.
  • The average green size at Redstone is 6,500 square feet, which is a little larger than average on the PGA Tour. The course has 50 bunkers and water comes into play on 10 holes.
  • In 2017 Golf Club of Houston was the 24th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to an average of 71.982 which is just about par.
  • In 2016 Golf Club of Houston was the 22nd hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to an average of 71.890 which is just about par.
  • In 2015 Golf Club of Houston was the 41st hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 70.855 average, playing 1.145 strokes over par.
  • In 2014 Golf Club of Houston was the 23rd hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 72.245 average, playing .245 strokes over par.
  • In 2013 the Redstone was the 25th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.868 average, playing .132 strokes under par.
  • Golf Club in Houston is an anomaly. It’s a relatively new course with a history, located on the site of the former El Dorado Country Club. Designed by Jay Riviere, El Dorado Country Club opened in the 1960s but was closed in the early 1990s as a victim of a suffering Houston economy following the oil bust.
  • Golf Club in Houston is one of only a couple dozen courses in the country that are open to the public and host a PGA Tour event.  Rees Jones designed it with PGA Tour Professional David Toms serving as course design consultant.
  • The course has a variety of different holes, but what sticks out are the short par 4s.  Four of them are under 400 yards (holes 1, 3, 10 & 12) but they’re offset by four par 4s that are longer than 460 yards (holes 5, 6, 17 & 18).  It also has a killer finish with the par 3, 16th hole playing at 204 yards and the final two holes playing at 489 and 488 yards.  The last hole was the hardest hole on the course last year playing to a 4.412 average.

Let’s take a look at vital stats that are important for those playing at Golf Club of Houston:

We are basing this on the most important stats for the Golf Club of Houston, based on data from last years Shell Houston Open, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2018. What we do is take their rank for each stat and then add up the four categories.
The scoring average of the field at G.C. of Houston in 2017 was 71.98, so with par being 72, that means the average score was just about par last year, making G.C. of Houston the 24th hardest course to score on in 2017. It’s also important to see how the weather could play a factor, last year’s conditions were overcast with some showers over the weekend with the wind blowing 10 and 20 mph. This year no rain to speak of but the winds will be up Friday through Sunday.  So the significant factor for the players, it will be windy which gives the course some bite.

In looking at the stats for Golf Club of Houston from last year, one thing is apparent, the course is for bombers. Of the 11 in the top-ten, seven of them are in the top-50 of driving distance for 2018. Look at some of the champions at Golf Club of Houston, J.B. Holmes, Matt Jones, Phil Mickelson hit it long. So those that know how to beat it out there has a significant advantage since accuracy doesn’t come into play. So for our first stat, we pick Strokes Gained from tee-to-Green because this is a good barometer if a player is considered a “bomber.” Last year in his Shell Houston Open win, Russell Henley, who isn’t considered a long driver, more in the middle of the road in distance was 7th for the week in SG Off-the-Tee and 8th in SG Tee-to-Green. So you can see one of the keys for Henley’s victory Our second stat is Proximity to the hole because the greens are smooth (34th hardest last year) to hit, but it’s essential to get it close to the pin from the fairway. For the week Golf Club of Houston was T-17th for the year with the players hitting it an average of 36 feet, 8 inches away Henley was 4th in Greens hit and 31st in proximity to hole Next is scrambling if you miss the green you have to get it up and down. One of the things that the folks that run this event do is get conditions on the course to match those at Augusta National, site of next week’s Masters. One of the most prominent elements of this is giving those that miss the greens the same challenges that Augusta National has, so scrambling is very important in the Shell Houston Open. It ranked 30th on Tour, and even though Henley was T-43rd the year before the 2016 champion Jim Herman was T-4th showing the importance of getting it up and down from off the green. Last is par breakers because you have to make a lot of birdies and eagles to do well. Last year the course ranked 22nd as Henley was T-1st in this stat because he made lot’s of birdies (27) with ranked him T-1st so you can see the importance of this and all of our stats for this week.

SO HERE ARE OUR FOUR CHOICES FOR THE MOST CRITICAL STATS FROM PLAYERS TO DO WELL AT GC of Houston

*Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green: The per round average of the number of Strokes the player was better or worse than the field average on the same course & event minus the Players Strokes Gained putting value.

*Proximity to Hole: The average length that a player hits from the pin with shots from the fairway.

*Scrambling: So which course is tough to get it up and down on holes players miss the greens. Since all of the areas’s around the greens are mowed short, making it a lot like Augusta National it should be easier for players to getting it up and down.

*ParBreakers: The course allows a lot of birdies and eagles to be made, so par breakers is important for the players.

The 127 players of the field of 144 that have stats from 2018:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here is the link to the other 117 players with stats from 2018

DraftKings tips

Of the 144 in the field, 104 have played at least once at Golf Club of Houston in the Houston Open.  

*Here are the players with the most under par totals at the Houston Open since 2010:

  • Phil Mickelson is 68 under in 32 rounds playing 8 years
  • Russell Henley is 57 under in 20 rounds playing 5 years
  • Keegan Bradley is 42 under in 26 rounds playing 7 years
  • Cameron Tringale is 38 under in 27 rounds playing 7 years
  • Charles Howell III is 37 under in 24 rounds playing 7 years
  • J.B. Holmes is 35 under in 18 rounds playing 5 years
  • Ben Crane is 34 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Daniel Berger is 32 under in 12 rounds playing 3 years
  • Henrik Stenson is 30 under in 18 rounds playing 5 years
  • Lee Westwood is 29 under in 26 rounds playing 8 years
  • Matt Kuchar is 28 under in 18 rounds playing 5 years
  • Steve Stricker is 26 under in 18 rounds playing 5 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

  • Russell Henley is 57 under playing 5 years (-2.85)
  • Daniel Berger is 32 under playing 3 years (-2.67)
  • Phil Mickelson is 68 under playing 8 years (-2.13)
  • J.B. Holmes is 35 under playing 5 years (-1.94)
  • Bud Cauley is 19 under playing 3 years (-1.90)
  • Chris Kirk is 21 under playing 3 years (-1.75)
  • Henrik Stenson is 30 under playing 5 years (-1.67)
  • Justin Rose is 20 under playing 3 years (-1.67)
  • Brice Garnett is 10 under playing 2 years (-1.67)
  • Michael Kim is 13 under playing 2 years (-1.63)
  • Keegan Bradley is 42 under playing 7 years (-1.62)
  • Luke List is 16 under playing 3 years (-1.60)
  • Matt Kuchar is 28 under playing 5 years (-1.56)
  • Charles Howell III is 37 under playing 7 years (-1.54)
  • Jordan Spieth is 24 under playing 5 years (-1.50)
  • Bill Haas is 15 under playing 3 years (-1.50)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:

  • Rickie Fowler – $11,500
  • Justin Rose – $11,400
  • Jordan Spieth- $11,100
  • Henrik Stenson – $10,500
  • Phil Mickelson – $10,200
  • Luke List – $9,600
  • Daniel Berger – $9,400
  • Rafael Cabrera-Bello – $9,400
  • Russell Henley – $9,200
  • Matt Kuchar – $9,100
  • Tony Finau – $9,000
  • Charles Howell III – $8,900

In looking at this, it’s a toss-up on your best pick between Justin Rose at $11,400, Henrik Stenson at $10,500 and Phil Mickelson at $10,200.  Phil played last week in the Match Play and lost his first match to Charles Howell III but won his next two  He played the Golf Club of Houston well, last year was his worst year but look at his production number, 4.88 in par breakers and 68 under in 32 rounds played.  Justin Rose at $11,400 also has excellent production numbers with a 4.33 par breaker average, plus he is due to win very soon, and this is a right course for him.  As for Henrik Stenson at $10,500, he has been runner-up twice and after what he did at the Palmer you have to think he will be in the running this week.  I don’t like Rickie Fowler because his price is very high at $11,500 and he has been inconsistent for a couple of months.  He does have three top-tens in his last four starts and his production numbers are ok at 4.38 but again too high of a price.  Jordan Spieth at $11,100 is high, I don’t like that since he was T-2nd in 2015 has been T-13th and missed the cut last year.  He is still struggling with his putter and I think that he will be working hard on it this week so may want to take a pass.  Luke List at $9,600 is way too high and the only reason he is high, he was T-3rd last year in Houston.  Now Daniel Berger at $9,400 is also a savvy pick, don’t worry about how poorly he played last week, he has been playing well and has off the chart production numbers at Golf Club of Houston, one of the reasons he has finished T-5th the last two years.  But he is a good pick because of his par breaker numbers with 2 eagles and 59 birdies in just 12 rounds.  I would take a pass on Rafael Cabrera-Bello at $9,400, but Russell Henley at $9,200 is a good buy with his high production numbers and the fact that in his last four starts in Houston he has a win, T-5th, 4th, and T-7th.  He makes a lot of eagles and birdies, 100 of them in just 20 rounds.  Matt Kuchar at $9,100 is a toss-up pick, he played well last week in the Match Play and ran into a buzz-saw in his match with Kevin Kisner, his record in Houston is ok with average production level.  As for Tony Finau at $9,000, he is way too high for what you get out of him.  Again I have said this in the past; a relative of Finau must be making these numbers at Draft Kings because each week he is $1,000 too much.  Charles Howell III at $8,900 is a better buy because he has been solid in not only Houston but for the year he also was unlucky in the Match Play last week.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,800 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

They have Steve Stricker at $8,800 which is very high, remember he is one of the shortest hitters on tour playing a bombers course.  He may have won his last two Champions Tour events and finished T-12th at Valspar, but the course is not good for him.  Now there is no real hit me in the face type of guys, Shubhankar Sharma at $8,400 was playing well until the Match Play, I still like him, and he could be ok.  Bud Cauley at $8,200 is an ok buy; he has consistent numbers for the year.  Another person at $8,200 that could be good is Patrick Rodgers; he was T-22nd at Corales last week and T-7th at Palmer.  Also was T-8th at the AT&T Pebble.  Now it’s time to go outside the box on these guys who did ok in the Dominican Republic and has half decent numbers, and the price is reasonable.  Brice Garnett is $7,800; he won last week.  Seungsu Han has played great and at 7,700 is a good buy.  He was T-5th last week, T-13th at Qatar Masters and T-4th at NBO Oman Open.  I also like Corey Conners at $7,500.  Another person at $7,500 that could be good is Thomas Pieters.  He has been consistent this year, in nine starts hasn’t missed a cut and was T-5th in Abu Dhabi.

Are there any “Bargains” out there?

Dylan Frittelli at $7,400 is a good pick.  He has been so good he moved into the top-50 in the world rankings and gets to play in the Masters.  Everything about him is good, he won the Mauritius Open in December, was T-6th in Dubai, T-5th in Malaysia and 11th at the Honda.  He had mix results in the WGC-Mexico and WGC-Dell Match Play, but what I like about him is that he will make the cut and give you points.  J.B. Holmes at $7,300 can also be good, he has excellent production numbers at GC of Houston and has made lot’s of cuts this week.  The only thing that I worry about, on the PGA Tour he has struggled to make eagles and birdies that is something that may sway you away from him.  Two people that don’t have that problem with par breakers and are at $7,300 is Chez Reavie and Matt Jones.  Reavie has had some good events this year while Jones has struggled but does put up good numbers at GC of Houston.  Some other off the wall picks, Ian Poulter at $7,200, he doesn’t make a lot of eagles and birdies but would love to win and get into the Masters.  I also like Paul Dunne and Sung Kang at $7,100, Dunne played well in the Dominican Republic, and Kang played well last year finishing 2nd at Houston.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Shell Houston Open:

Key stat for the winner:

  • This is a bombers type of course; length helps to get it down the fairways.  But that is the most crucial aspect of playing well.
  • The relevant stat is hitting lots of greens, last year Russell Henley hit 57 of 72 greens and was ranked T-4th.  The year before Jim Herman was T-10th in greens hit, the same ranking that 2015 winner J.B. Holmes was.  In 2014 Matt Jones was 2nd while in 2013 D.A. Points was T10th. In 2012 Hunter Mahan was tied for the lead in hitting greens, one of two champions since 2004 that led this stat. Between 2009 and 2011 that stat was in play with 2009 winner Paul Casey ranking 22nd, 2010 winner Anthony Kim ranking T53rd and 2011 winner Phil Mickelson ranking T12th. But of the previous nine winners on two other courses, they ranked tenth or lower in greens hit.
  • The 2006 winner, Stuart Appleby, hit 56 of the 72 greens and that was 2nd best in the field.  In 2007, Adam Scott won while hitting 57 of 72 greens which ranked T8.  Runner-up in 2007 Stuart Appleby was 4th in that stat, and Bubba Watson was 12th.  Fourth-place finisher Tommy Armour III led the stat.   2008 winner Johnson Wagner hit 56 of 72 greens and ranked T4th while the leader in greens hit Billy Mayfair finished T4th.  One last thing, since being played at the tournament course three runner-ups led greens in regulation, Vaughn Taylor in 2010, Chris Kirk in 2011 and Matt Kuchar in 2014.  So hit a lot of greens and you will do great this week.

Here are some more key stats to look for this week:

  • Unimportant stat: Hitting lots of fairways is not that important at Golf Club at Houston. Sure last year’s winner Russell Henley was T-4th in fairways hit and was the first winner in the years the event has been played at Golf Club of Houston.  Before that in 2016 Jim Herman was T-16th in greens hit, 2015 winner J.B. Holmes was ranked 71st (dead last).  In 2014 Matt Jones was T25th while 2013 champion D.A. Points was T33rd. The year before Hunter Mahan was T33rd while Mickelson was T71st, 2010 champion Anthony Kim was 80th, 2009 winner Paul Casey ranked T36th while 2008 champion Johnson Wagner was T41st in hitting fairways.  The trend is not hitting it straight anymore on the PGA Tour it’s hitting it long, going a chasing it and hitting the next one on the green and making the birdie putt.
  • Interesting to note that since the Golf Club of Houston was first used in 2006, results show that the course is in the top 25% in length of drives while in driving accuracy it’s in the middle of all the other courses used on the PGA Tour.  What this means is that longer hitters that don’t hit fairways have a slight advantage over straight, short hitters.  That is why the list of champions at Golf Club of Houston included long hitters as J.B. Holmes, Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson.
  • Playing well on the par 4s. Last year Russell Henley was 11 under, in 2016 Jim Herman was 7 under while in 2015 J.B. Holmes was 12 under while in 2014 Matt Jones was 4 under on them while D.A. Points in 2013 was 10 under. In 2012 Hunter Mahan was 11 under, Phil Mickelson was 3 under in 2011.  Anthony Kim was 4 under in 2010, Paul Casey was 5 under in 2009, Johnson Wagner was 4 under in 2008, Adam Scott was 7 under on the par 4s in 2007 while Appleby was 13 under on them in 2006.  It’s a rare feat when players score lower on the par 4s than the par 5s.
  • In most events, you make up shots on par 5s.  But at Golf Club of Houston, the par 5s are very demanding, and players can’t overpower the par 5s because the shortest is 557 yards.  On the back nine, the two 5s are 590 and 608 yards, so getting it home in two is near impossible on two of the four par 5s. Last year the course ranked to have the 6th hardest par 5s on tour   On the other end of the spectrum the par 4s are less demanding than different course on the PGA Tour since four of the par 4s are under 400 yards, ranking 24th hardest on tour in 2017.
  • Since the Houston tournament started in 1946, 17 players have scored their first PGA Tour victories here including 2008 champion Johnson Wagner, 2009 winner Paul Casey and 2016 winner Jim Herman.  In the 1990s, this was the hot spot for those achieving their first wins; between 1990 and 1994 all the winners were first-timers.
  • Golf Club of Houston is deemed an excellent spot for getting ready for the Masters.  Shell Houston officials have gone out of their way to set up the course in the same manner as Augusta Nationals, with light fairway rough, fast, treacherous greens and low cut fridges which will help people get ready for the Masters.  In looking at this years field, 18 that are playing in Houston will also play at the Masters.
  • Since 2006 six of the 12 champions led going into the final round.  Last year Russell Henley was 3rd, in 2016 Jim Herman was co-leader with Jamie Lovemark while in 2015 we had a change of pace as J.B. Holmes started the final round six back of third-round leader Jordan Spieth, Holmes shot a final round 64 to catch Spieth and then beat him in a playoff
  • Overtime is still the norm for Houston with playoffs.  Since first played, there have been 23 playoffs, including 13 in the last 31 years.  Last time the event had a playoff was in 2015 with J.B. Holmes beating Johnson Wagner and Jordan Spieth.
  • In looking at the long-range weather forecast weather going to be gentle with temperatures in the high 70s, low 80s with no rain.  But look for each day to be windy with the winds the highest at 15 mph on the weekend.

Who to watch for at the Houston Open

Best Bets:

Justin Rose

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T15 T37 T14 T52

The guy is always week in and week out in the running. Only a matter of time before he wins.

Phil Mickelson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T55 T13 T17 T12 T16 T4 Win T35 CUT T23

Plays great on this course, he has a lot of momentum from his win in Mexico, hard to stop him when he is so confident.

Daniel Berger

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
5 T5 T25

The guy plays great in this event with lot’s of good numbers, his year has been good. He is ready to break out and win again.

Best of the rest:

Henrik Stenson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT 2 T54 T2 T21 T3

Has been runner-up twice in this event, played good enough to win at the Palmer, just seems to stumble in those final nine holes.

Russell Henley

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
Win T5 4 T7 T45

Hard to pick a defending champion but he seems to play well every time he plays at CG of Houston.

Rickie Fowler

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T3 T10 71 6 T63 T65

Still not playing consistently, he has played well on this course and should do well but seems to still struggle with his game.

Jordan Spieth

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T13 T2 CUT T50

Talk about struggling with your game, Jordan has been struggling with the putter. With a week to go before the Masters it will be interesting to see if he can regain the magic.

Solid contenders

Charles Howell III

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T39 T7 T5 CUT T10 T19 CUT T58 T47 T44

Has played well in this event, you have to think he will contend.

Dylan Frittelli

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

A little know player from the European Tour that has put up some great results in 2018.

Luke List

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T3 T27 CUT

Has been playing great of late, has the game to overpower this course which is made for players like List.

Chez Reavie

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T7 T37 T31 T79 CUT CUT T34

His stats for the year are off the chart pointing to him playing well on this course.

Patrick Rodgers

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT

Has put up some good numbers finishing T-7th at Palmer and T-8th at the AT&T Pebble.

Thomas Pieters

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

Has been very consistent this year making every cut and finishing T-5th in Abu Dhabi.

Long shots that could come through:

Shubhankar Sharma

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

Has played well in the last half a dozen stroke play events he has played in, he could be a good long shot.

Brice Garnett

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T7

Played great in his win in the D.R. last week has been pointing to having a great year.

Seungsu Han

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

What a great sleeper pick, the guy has played well week in and week out.

Corey Conners

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

Has played great since Valspar.

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