After a star-studded leaderboard in Puerto Rico we now head north for the Houston Open in Humble, Texas.
The way this year’s schedule lined up, we’re actually seeing quite a few big names in the field this week, trying to tune-up their game ahead of the Masters.
There is no better course than the Golf Club of Houston to do that. The course is a par 72 that plays over 7,400 yards just like Augusta National. While the greens at GC of Houston are bermuda, the tournament officials made the decision years ago to heavily overseed the greens with bentgrass/rye to get them closer to what the pros will see next week. They’ve done a good job, as the past results here correlate nicely with Bentgrass Performance, but not so much with bermuda.
The overseeding isn’t the only thing done to replicate conditions at Augusta National, they also mow the fairways toward the tee boxes, speed up the greens, and shave the runoff areas around the greens. They also cut the rough to 2 inches or less, basically non-existent. It’s no wonder that big hitters can gain an advantage here, as long as they avoid the hazards.
Like usual in Texas, good wind players will also have an edge. Scott Piercy has a great quote about the wind being heavier in this area, so the wind can still play a factor even when it’s only blowing 10 mph. Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for that quote and many others.
As for course scoring, both nines greet the golfers with a handshake and then slap them in the face as they are coming down the stretch. Hole #9 is the hardest hole to birdie and Holes 17 & 18 are ranked 2nd and 4th toughest in that regard.
For correlated events I’m targeting the Masters, Doral, WGC-Bridgestone, THE PLAYERS, and WM Phoenix Open.
Players to Watch
Jordan Spieth… The man to beat this week after DJ pulled out. He’s in form, has a runner-up finish already to his name here, and also has the Texas Connection. The only concern is price for DFS purposes. On paper he’s tough to beat, but will his mind already be in Georgia?
Jon Rahm… While Spieth has the potential of looking ahead to Augusta, Rahm has the “tired” narrative liking attached this week. He played his way into the finals at the Match Play last week. I know you can say, “this guys are professional athletes, they don’t get tired from walking around a course.” Physical fatigue is not the only concern. So many head-to-head matches can also be mentally draining. Just like Spieth, though, he’s a clear-cut top 5 play this week, on paper.
Billy Horschel… Trending very nicely recently, and we know how streaky Billy Ho can get. Looking at ball-striking over the last 10 weeks of stroke-play events, he’s one of just six golfers in the field to gain 10+ strokes off-the-tee AND approaching-the-green. He’s obviously aware of how close he is after posting a video on Twitter that told the world how close he is…and also entering this event for the first time since his runner-up finish in 2013.
Ollie Schniederjans… Looking at the course setup this week, there are four par 4s over 450 yards. That is a zone I immediately connect with Ollie. Since 2015, he’s third in the field in Birdie or Better Percentage in that range. Only Lee Westwood and Jon Rahm are ahead of him. I was slow to jump back on Ollie this fall because his Web.com Tour performance actually lowered his stock, but he’s piecing it all together on the big stage, so I finally jumped back on board recently. I will stay on for the ride this week, for sure.
Lucas Glover… It’s been a fun ride with Glove, but whenever we head to bentgrass, I kiss Lucas goodbye. He’s more than 3/4 of a stroke worse on bentgrass greens since 2014. I understand how rock solid he’s been tee-to-green, but this is when I will turn to the long-term putting stats and be willing to miss out if he happens to keep it rolling. This also means Tony Finau is very much back on my radar this week. He’s been striping the ball all year just like Glover and putts better on bentgrass versus bermuda.
Beau Hossler… The youngster is trying to play his way into TOUR status or at least earn his way into the Web.com Tour Finals. This would be a good place to grab some FedExCup Points as he went to the University of Texas and now calls Dallas home. Should be comfy in these Texas conditions. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull a Robby Shelton on us. Not everyone can make the leap from college to the pros, seamlessly.
David Hearn… Finally felt that “contending feeling” last week in Puerto Rico, although he faded on the weekend. Perhaps that will re-train his memory on what it feels like to throw his name into the mix. Sets up nicely this week but he’s been hit or miss here, with two top 25s in seven tries but also three missed cuts.
Bernd Wiesberger… If conditions get tough this week, he’s always one that benefits from a tough layout. He’s a par-making machine which doesn’t help much on DraftKings, but might be suited a bit better on FanDuel.
Lee Westwood… Speaking of FanDuel, Westwood is another golfer that may find a place on my rosters over there. He’s been known to rocket out of the gates and then implode during R3 or R4. When I say, “he’s been known” I really mean “I can recall a few times.”
My Top 25 for the 2017 Shell Houston Open
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Adam Scott
3. Jon Rahm
4. Billy Horschel
5. Rickie Fowler
6. Matt Kuchar
7. Justin Rose
8. J.B. Holmes
9. Henrik Stenson
10. Tony Finau
11. Charley Hoffman
12. Russell Henley
13. Charles Howell III
14. Ollie Schniederjans
15. Daniel Berger
16. Phil Mickelson
17. Nick Watney
18. Lee Westwood
19. Bernd Wiesberger
20. Stewart Cink
21. Bud Cauley
22. Keegan Bradley
23. Patrick Reed
24. Jimmy Walker
David Hearn Kyle Stanley replaces Hearn after his pre-tourney WD