The best thing the PGA TOUR has done this year is swapping the Puerto Rico Open to the week of Match Play. Rather than watching my bracket crumble (inevitably), I was able to sweat the PRO where Tony Finau walked away with his maiden win. What a treat.
Now ShotLink packs up their gear from Austin Country Club and takes a short journey to Humble, Texas. The course is Golf Club of Houston, a par 72 that stretches out to 7,441 yards. The venue does their best to replicate the conditions at next week’s mammoth event. The MASTERS!
They overseed the greens with bentgrass, mow the fairways toward the players, try to speed up the greens, and shave the runoff areas around the greens. It’s also a right-to-left golf course where draws are rewarded for righties. Much like Augusta, errant drives are not too penal, which puts a premium on distance.
Wind is almost always a factor here. Scott Piercy put it best when he said, “The wind here is so heavy since we’re at sea level. If it’s blowing 10 miles an hour, it plays probably close to 20 yards worth of, you know, of distance, where when you get downwind, if you have 10 miles into the wind downwind, it’s probably about 5 miles or 5 yards difference.” There will almost guaranteed be one very windy day, but keep an eye out on the forecast in case that increases.
Take a look at the Shell Houston Open Fantasy Golfanac for more course specifics and also golfer quotes.
Players to Watch
Phil Mickelson… GC of Houston pride themselves on setting this course up like Augusta National. It’s no wonder Phil the Thrill excels here. He won in 2011 and has rattled of top 20s in the four trips since then. Also in great form. You know what to do, fire him up!
J.B. Holmes… His history at the GC of Houston isn’t QUITE as good as Mickelsons, but its right up there. Other than his victory last year, he also sports three finishes inside the top 15s. Thats four top 15s in six tries. When asked what he likes about the course he responded with, “You know, it’s a good preview for the Masters. They don’t have as much rough around here. Few holes you can get loose with the driver and it benefits you to hit it farther at this golf course because the wind can get up and it can get difficult.” Hey Mikey, he likes it!
Louis Oosthuizen… In six visits here, he’s missed the cut in three but finishe dtop 20 in the other three. It’s a coin flip, but one half of the coin is worth the risk. If you want a reason to fade, you could cite his frequent back injuries as a WD risk and/or the fact he just played a lot of matches in a short time period last week at the Dell Match Play. I would label him a great GPP play, though.
Vaughn Taylor… Unlike Louis, probably not the best GPP play, but a great cash play on DraftKings. He’s only $5,700 but four top 30s in his last six starts here at GC of Houston suggests he could easily pay off that tag.
Shawn Stefani… Now we’re back in GPP territory. It would be risky business going back to the well on Stefani. He’s missed the cut in five of his last six starts, including a near-dead-last result at last week’s alternate event Puerto Rico Open. Why would I even mention him then? Well, he lives in Houston and says this about the course, “I played a lot of golf here. In my off-season I come out here and practice a lot and get a lot of work done.” Could be a great venue to get back on track. A few other notables with local knowledge or playing close to home include K.J. Choi, Johnson Wagner, Jordan Spieth, Hunter Mahan, Chad Campbell, Ryan Palmer, and Patrick Reed.
Lee Westwood… Another golfer with a great track record here as well as Augusta National. I’m not comfortable investing in Westwood this week given how scarce he’s made himself this year. Last week was just his third start of 2016, worldwide. His track record here suggests he could really pop this week, but I’m not buying it just yet.
Bernd Wiesberger… Unlike Westy, the Austrian has been active in 2016. This will be his eight start of the calendar year with three top 20s thus far. In his limited PGA TOUR data, we’ve seen him perform better on par 72 course, long courses, and bentgrass greens. We have all three on hand this week. Yahtzee!
Patrick Reed… If the wind picks up then Patty should rise to the top. His local knowledge will only help, and sleeping in your own bed is rarely a bad thing. Arrows up this week.
Rickie Fowler… Sure he’s made some big strides over the past year but his course history here is pretty poor. He’s lost two or more strokes to the field in five of his 16 rounds at GC of Houston. He does have a sixth-place finish squeezed into his course history, but I don’t want to pay up for a Fowler and hope he can repeat that. He’s going to be a fade for me.
Russell Henley… The opposite of Rickie…Has beat the field average by two or more strokes in seven of his 12 rounds at this course. That’s the recipe for a slumpbuster!
Shell Houston Open Cheatsheet… Head over to Daily Fantasy Solutions and grab this week’s DraftKings cheatsheet for FREE! Yup, the cheatsheet will be made available for free this week, so come check that out this week! It will go live mid-to-late Tuesday.
My Top 25 for the 2016 Shell Houston Open
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Henrik Stenson
4. Sergio Garcia
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Charl Schwartzel
7. Louis Oosthuizen
8. Brooks Koepka
9. Patrick Reed
10. Charles Howell III
11. Bernd Wiesberger
12. Charley Hoffman
13. Graham DeLaet
14. J.B. Holmes
15. Gary Woodland
16. Steve Stricker
17. Tony Finau
18. Rickie Fowler
19. Patton Kizzire
20. Ryan Palmer
21. Keegan Bradley
22. Hunter Mahan
23. Cameron Tringale
24. Russell Henley
25. Shawn Stefani
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Josh: don’t forget Burgoon (born in The Woodlands, TX, went to A&M), Stroud (born in Nederland, TX, went to Lamar), and van der Walt (born in RSA, went to Lamar); all three guys reside in Houston. In fact, van der Walt lives in Kingwood, TX which is like a 10 minute drive from the GC of Houston.
Good calls! Stroud I left out on purpose though ?