Texas Children’s Houston Open Key Fantasy Stats

Texas Children’s Houston Open

March 28th – 31st, 2024

Memorial Park Golf Course

Houston,, TX

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,412

Purse: $9.1 million

with $1,638,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Tony Finau

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This is based on the most important stats for Memorial Park, and data from the 2023 Houston Open, and data from all the players in the field with stats from this year. We take their rank for each stat and then add the four categories.
About half of the courses used by the PGA Tour during the year are open to the general public. The famous ones, like Pebble Beach, are resort courses that anyone can play, but the price tag of $575 is costly. The same is true with courses like TPC Sawgrass, home to the Players Championship, which is $400 during peak months in the winter and spring. Even places like the Plantation Course at Kapalua, which held the Sentry Championship, cost $299. There are about 25 courses on the PGA Tour that anyone could play, but only two “municipal” courses on the PGA Tour, Memorial Park and Torrey Pines. What makes them different is that they are run by a local government that is open to all and has two different price marks, one for local residents and a price for non-residents.
Memorial Park is the cheapest course that holds a PGA Tour event. For locals, the course is $30 Monday through Thursday, $38 Friday through Sunday, and holidays. It’s $120 and $140 for non-residents, which is a bargain. With this price range, 60,000 play the course each year.
The course was first opened in 1912 as a nine-holer with sand greens and was built near a hospital for the use of convalescent soldiers. In 1935, the city hired architect John Bredemus to redo the course, and many thought the course was a true gem when it opened in 1936. The course was used in 1947, the second year of the Houston Open, and South African Bobby Locke won. In 1951, it became the regular venue of the Houston Open, and it remained so through 1963. It was won by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Cary Middlecoff, and Jack Burke, Jr. Because of its location in Downtown Houston, the tournament moved away after 1963, and the course fell in disrepair over the coming decades. For years, many knew of the potential of Memorial Park, but the city had no money to renovate it.
However, local Houstonian James Crane, who made it big in freight and then petroleum before buying the Houston Astros in 2011, was a scratch golfer who fell in love with Memorial Park. For decades, Shell Oil sponsored the Houston Open, and when they discounted their sponsorship in 2018, no sponsor was found, and it looked like the tournament would end. But Crane stepped up and took over ownership of the event. At the same time, Crane stepped up to do a significant renovation to Memorial Park. He spent $34 million renovating Memorial Park and upgrading the course to PGA Tour standards. He also built a short course on the property for the First Tee, expanded the driving range into a public version of Topgolf, and built a new clubhouse. In January 2019, they hired architect Tom Doak to do the renovation. In less than a year, he took out a lot of trees to give those playing it views of the Houston skyline and changed how the course played and looked. He redid all 18 greens, giving them unique contours, strategic bunkering, and runoffs, giving them a different and tough new challenge so that players could use the putter more from off the green. Doak did something different as he reduced the number of bunkers on the course from 54 to 20, thus reducing maintenance and making it easier for the average player. But he made the 20 bunkers very challenging and essential. Doak also emphasized the final five holes, making them exciting and difficult, with water coming into play on holes 15, 16, and 17. The players received the changes well when they returned to play the 2021 Houston Open at Memorial.

The course has been played three times in the last three years and has shown some bite. In 2021, it played to a par of 70 and 7,412 yards, with an average score of 71.03, and it ranked 8th hardest on the PGA Tour.
In 2022, it played easier to a 70,80 average and was the 9th most challenging course on the PGA Tour.
Last year, it played a bit easier to a 70,56 average and was the 11th hardest course on the PGA Tour. In looking at the stats, the one item that sticks out is that all its champions proved to be players who are average drivers off the tee, in getting the ball in the fairway, and the ability to hit a lot of greens.

A bit of an oddity: winners Carlos Ortiz and Jason Kokrak are now members of LIV Golf and won’t be around this week. That leaves the only Memorial Park champion, Tony Finau, who won 17 months ago by four shots. Despite all three being average putters in their careers, they shined during the week of the Houston Open, which became why they all won.

So, in looking at who the course favors, the first thing that hits us is how well the top players do in putting. Looking at the three events played at Memorial Park, of the 35 players that finished in the top ten, 14 finished in the top ten in putts per round.
In putting average, Memorial Park ranked 10th last year of all the courses on the PGA Tour, T-10th again in 2022, and T-15th in 2021.
When Tony Finau won last year, he was 2nd in Putting average, T-12th in One-Putt average, T-14th in 3-putt average, and T-23rd in Putting Inside ten feet, making 60 of 66 putts inside ten feet. For the week, Finau ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting as he picked up 7.931 strokes for the four rounds.
When Jason Kokrak won in 2021, he was 1st in Putting average, T-6th in One-Putt average, T-15th in 3-putt average, and T-18th in Putting Inside ten feet, making 61 of 67 putts inside ten feet. For the week, Kokrak ranked 3rd in Strokes Gained Putting as he picked up 8.682 strokes for the four rounds.
In 2021, when Carlos Ortiz won, he was T-36th in Putting average, T-12th in One-Putt average, T-34th in 3-putt average, and 7th in Putting Inside ten feet, making 61 of 65 putts inside ten feet. For the week, Ortiz ranked 5th in Strokes Gained Putting, picking up 6.117 strokes for the four rounds. So, the secret to picking a winner this week is to choose a very good putter.

Our second category is Proximity to the hole. Because Memorial is a public course, the greens are 7,000 square feet, and even though the players averaged 15th last year, T-16th in 2022, and 18th in 2021 in greens in regulation, getting the ball close to the hole is tougher.
Last year, Memorial Park ranked 9th in Proximity to the Hole, while winner Finau was T9th. In 2022, Memorial Park ranked 5th in Proximity to the Hole, while winner Kokrak was T-21st. In 2021, Memorial Park was 10th in Proximity to the Hole, and winner Ortiz was T-22nd.

Our third category looks at how difficult it is to make birdies and eagles and how Par Breakers are integral to Memorial Park’s ruggedness.
Last year, only 1,191 birdies were made at Memorial Park (It ranked 23rd), and 27 eagles were made (ranking T-23rd). The course ranked 8th in Par Breakers, with 17.17% of the holes being played under par. In looking at those ahead of Memorial Park, courses that held three of the four majors were ahead, showing how hard Memorial Park is to break par. Winner Tony Finau made 22 birdies (best in field) and no eagles as he was 1st in Par Breakers, with 30.56% of the holes he played under par.
In 2022, 1,071 birdies were made at Memorial Park (Ranked 15th), and 11 eagles were made (ranked 2nd). As for Par Breaker, the course ranked 4th hardest at 15.26%. This is a remarkable stat when you look at 2022, and the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and Scottish Open courses had the least offense on the PGA Tour. Winner Kokrak made 24 birdies (best in field) and no eagles; he was 1st in Par Breakers, playing 33.33% of the holes under par.
In 2021, only 1,221 birdies were made at Memorial Park (it ranked 17th), and 13 eagles were made (ranking 4th). The course was 6th in Par Breakers with a 17.27%. Four of the courses that held majors were the ones that played harder. Winner Ortiz made 18 birdies (T-6th) and no eagles. He was T-7th in Par Breakers as he played 25.00% of his holes under par. This shows how hard it is to make birdies and eagles at Memorial Park.
So, we will be looking for players who are highly offensive and make a lot of eagles and birdies.

Our last category is one we rarely use: par 5 scoring averages. Memorial Park has just three par 5s, and they have been ranked the hardest on the PGA Tour to score on. Last year, the scoring average of the par 5s was 4.74, and it was the 10th hardest on tour. Now, last year was the first time the par 5s played easier. In 2022, Memorial Park averaged a 4.86 average on the par 5s, which was the 2nd hardest on the PGA Tour. In 2021, they were T-1st along Torrey Pines in the U.S. Open, again showing how hard they were.
Now, in most events, the winners play the par 5s in double-digit numbers. But that hasn’t happened to those who have won at Memorial Park. Last year, Tony Finau played the par 5s in 6 under, which was T-6th. In 2022 and ’21, winners Kokrak and Ortiz were 8 under on the par 5s for the week, showing how instrumental it was in all of their victories.

*Strokes Gained Putting: So who saves the most strokes on the greens

*Proximity to Hole: The average length of a shot going into the green leaves a player

*Par Breakers: A combination of eagles and birdies made during the week to see who has the most.

*Par 5 leaders: A look at who plays the par 5s the best for the week.

115 of the 144 Players from this year’s field with stats from 2024

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

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