PGA Tour Preview: Shell Houston Open

Preview – PGA Tour – Shell Houston Open – Golf Club of Houston – Humble, Texas –

Nearly a Masters preview this week in Texas, the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open features plenty of Augusta National invitees including headliners Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.

The tournament is set up to simulate Masters’ conditions, especially around the putting surfaces.

Four of the last five champions at the Shell Houston Open were at least ranked 30th or better heading into the week including Hunter Mahan, Mickelson, Anthony Kim and Paul Casey.

There are 11 of the Top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking here this week at the Golf Club of Houston –formerly the Redstone Golf Club.

The renamed Rees Jones design at Humble, Texas stretches to more than 7,400 yards and plays to a par 72. The 18th hole ranks the most difficult at a 488-yard par 4. A water hazard borders the left side of the hole to challenge players down the stretch.

Look for a player specializing or having a great week scrambling to succeed here. And, of course, some timely one-putts. Bradley is sixth on Tour in Scrambling this season.

Johnson enters with five Top 10s in five stroke-play starts this season.

Golf Channel has the early-round television coverage including some early weekend action before NBC Sports brings home the leaders. Look for drama down the stretch. The tournament has a history filled with 21 playoffs.

2013 Outcome:

  • D.A. Points (16-under) used an opening-round 64 to set the tone. He closed with a Sunday 66 to capture a one-shot victory over Stenson and Billy Horschel. Dustin Johnson and Ben Crane finished 13-under. Bradley, Haas and Louis Oosthuizen were among a large group at T-10 just five back.

FANTASY: Avoid Phil, who is a question mark with his injury. Stenson is our best pick here. Rounding into form after his all-star 2013 season, Stenson is ranked No. 3 in the world. His last victory was the TOUR Championship, but he posted a T-5 at Bay Hill leading the field in Fairways and Greens. Mahan, ranked 32nd in the world, is a solid performer here at the former Redstone but returns from a back injury. He has four Top 10s in his last seven starts at the Shell Houston Open. Take Spieth, who should play well in front of a home crowd in this spot. Haas is a nice pick here.

BETTORS: McIlroy (10-to-1 odds) is the betting favorite at After a runner-up at Honda Classic, he is well rested. But, look for a trending player with history here like Dustin Johnson (14-1). He was T-4 at the WGC-Cadillac in early March. Bradley, 20-1, has been close to winning finishing runner-up at Bay Hill two weeks ago. Mahan, at 33-1, is worth a look as he is a recent champion here.

Other Golf News:

  • Tiger Woods had surgery Monday to repair a pinched nerve in his back. The recovery time forces him out of the Masters Tournament, where he has four green jackets but has not won in nearly a decade.
  • The LPGA Tour hosts the season’s first major championship this week in Palm Springs at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Inbee Park – the Rolex Ranking No. 1 – is the defending champion but comes into the week without a victory in 2014.
  • Charley Hull won the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meryum Cup in Morocco earlier in March for her first professional win. She was one of Europe’s heroes in the last Solheim Cup. 
  • Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, left Chubby Chandler’s agency and signed with IMG Sports Management.