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Shell Houston Open Preview and PIcks
by Matt Fargo - 04/02/2014
The Shell Houston Open takes center stage this week back in its familiar spot the week before the Masters after preceding the first Major by two weeks last year. Taking place at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas, this is the final tuneup before players head to Augusta next week and the field is again a strong one. Last week at the Valero Texas Open, Steven Bowditch captured his firs PGA Tour victory and while he is in the field this week, more importantly, he is in the Masters field next week.
The Golf Club of Houston, formerly known as Redstone Golf Club, has hosted this event since 2003 and two years ago, it yielded the lowest scoring average in the history of the event. Last year, it was not as easy but still resulted in an overall average of 0.13 strokes under par, the third straight year it has come in under par. The rough is light and banks around greens and water hazards are shaved, creating many of the same tight, quick conditions you get at Augusta. Hitting fairways is a must however.
This is because scrambling from the rough was a challenge as players got up and down just over 40 percent of the time for the second straight year. It marked the fifth straight year that the Golf Club of Houston ranked as the hardest course in scrambling from the rough. This isn't because the rough is so difficult as much as the heavy rye overseeded fairways and bentgrass/rye combination greens are very quick and undulating. This likely is not going to change this year.
As mentioned, the field this week is strong headlined by Henrik Stenson, ranked third in the world and Rory McIlroy, ranked seventh in the world. In total, 11 of the top 20 in the OWGR are playing this week including notables Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Keegan Bradley. McIlroy (+900) is the favorite despite never having played well here with a 19th in 2010, a missed cut in 2010 and a T45 last year.
Henrik Stenson (+1,700) will be our low favorite this week. We used him two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and he finished a respectable T5. That was his best finish this season but I expect him to better that this week. Last year he finished T2 at the SHO after a T8 at Bay Hill and back in 2009, he finished T3 so he not only likes it here, he is focused despite the pending Major.
Keegan Bradley (+2,300) has been up and down this year but his downs have been minimal. He had a missed cut in Phoenix and a T50 at the Cadillac Championship but he has placed in the top 20 in his other eight medal play events including two top tens. This includes a solo second in his last start at Bay Hill and he has fared well here with a T10 last year and a T4 in 2012.
Everyone is probably getting sick of hearing Graham DeLaet (+3,000) but I am not about to give up on him just yet. Despite an opening 75, he finished T8 in his last start at the Valspar Championship which was his fifth top ten of the season that includes two runner-ups. He is still without a win on tour but is painfully close as he had three other top threes after June last year. His best finish here is a T3 in 2010.
Jason Kokrak (+5,000) is new to these pages but he is making a name for himself with some very consistent play. He has missed three cuts but in his nine made cuts, he has finished inside the top 20 in seven of those. One of those exceptions was last week when he finished T31 but that was in part to a Saturday 77 so take that out and he was -4 in his other rounds. He finished solo ninth here last year.
We used Charley Hoffman (+6,500) last week at +2,500 and now he is in the longshot category this week. A Friday 75 kept him out of contention but he still finished a solid T11 as he posted 70 in his other three rounds. He has three top tens this year and is coming off a T12, a T25 and that T11 last week in his last three starts. He has three top 25's at the SHO since 2008 and his overall Texas success makes him a live dog here.
Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Shell Houston Open - All for 1 Unit
Henrik Stenson (+1,700)
Keegan Bradley (+2,300)
Graham DeLaet (+3,000)
Jason Kokrak (+5,000)
Charley Hoffman (+6,500)
2014 Record to date after 12 events: -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge -5 Units
Farmers Insurance Open -5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open -5 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am +22 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC - Accenture Match Play +23 Units
Honda Classic -5 Units
WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units
Valspar Championship -5 Units
Arnold Palmer Invitational -5 Units
Valero Texas Open -5 Units