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Preview: PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open

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

The PGA Tour  makes its final stop before the Masters this week at the Shell Houston Open. Part of the Texas two-step, the Houston stop features a host of Augusta hopefuls.

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

Four of the last six champions at the Shell Houston Open were at least ranked 30th or better heading into the week including Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim and Paul Casey. Last year, a longer shot in Matt Jones captured the title when Matt Kuchar stumped down the stretch.

The  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.

Golf Channel has the early-round television coverage including some early weekend action before NBC Sports brings home the leaders.

The field features a number of internationally-born super start players including Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel. Leading the American-born crowd this week is Phil Mickelson, Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Keegan Bradley.

The tournament has produced 22 playoffs in its history, so look for another one this season.

2013 Outcome:

  • Jones fired 66 in the final round including a long putt on the 72nd hole to earn a playoff bid against Kuchar. Jones then chipped-in to win the title in the playoff. Both finished 15-under in regulation. Garcia was third at 13-under followed by Cameron Tringale and Shawn Stefani.

FANTASY: J.B. Holmes has two runner-up efforts this spring and lost in a playoff here in 2009. Spieth is a most-play with his trending game. He won two events ago and was runner-up last week at the Valero Texas Open and has five Top 10s in his last seven starts. Take Westwood, who has Top 25s in five of his last six trips to Houston. Brendan Steele is worth a play. He has four Top 15s in his last four starts and has made 15 straight cuts. He needs a win to earn a Masters bid.

BETTORS: At 6-to-1 odds at www.ladbrokes.com, Spieth is the outright betting favorite. He is the best-ranked player in the field at No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Consider Reed, who comes in well rested. Reed (14-1) lost to Spieth in a playoff at the Valspar Championship. He won earlier this season in Hawaii. Jason Kokrak, at 40-1, is a great long-shot selection. He has a T-7, T-6 and T-13 in his last three outings.

Other Golf News:

  • Tiger Woods showed up for a practice round at Augusta this week creating quite a buzz on the internet. The former World No. 1 and four-time Masters champion has yet to commit to play in next week’s edition.
  • Jimmy Walker (rest/illness) and Henrik Stenson (sore throat) withdrew from this week’s Shell Houston Open.
  • Lydia Ko is searching for her first major champions this week at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California. The Rolex Ranking World No. 1 is the favorite this week at 5 1/2-1 odds.