The Houston Open is back after an 18-month hiatus, but will be the last time the Golf Club of Houston will host the tournament. After 13 years, the Houston Open will be moved to Memorial Park Golf Club, but stay in its current spot on the new schedule. Since 2003, the Houston Open played as the lead-in tournament to The Masters with the field consisting mostly of those looking for one more opportunity to qualify for Augusta, which is what happened with Ian Poulter last season, when he became the last entry beating Beau Hossler in a playoff. The Houston Open has been a tournament where we’ve seen a ton of exciting finishes. Since 2009, eight of the last 10 winners have either been decided in a playoff or by just one stroke.
Others in the field joining Poulter are Russell Henley, Cameron Champ and Henrik Stenson, who makes his PGA TOUR debut at a tournament he’s played well at in the past. The Golf Club of Houston is a par 72, measures a long 7,441 yards and will move to bermuda greens this week. The Houston Open played as the 10th easiest course in scoring relative to par last season, but played as the 24th most difficult course the year before. What changed? The wind. The weekend rounds recorded extremely winding conditions and scores averaged 73.4 on Saturday and a few strokes better on Sunday at 70.2. Playing in Texas always means potentially playing in the wind; since 2015 the Houston Open has had 25% of their rounds played with really windy conditions.
Other than Vijay Singh who’s won this tournament three times dating back to the early 2000s, Australian golfers have done extremely well winning this tournament five times since 1999. Check the weather report for wind conditions as this is an important piece of information we can leverage when building lineups.
Other than playing the weather conditions, golfers will need to again be strong with their approach. In 2018, the top-5 gained an average just under three strokes with their irons (2.92). A lot of those iron shots were hit from 200-plus yards out, once again being the approach distance with the highest shot distribution. This is the first time we’ll experience the course in its new scheduling slot and we don’t know how it will play differently, but the strokes gained category to correlate the highest here is Strokes Gained: Putting. Winners here have gained 34% more strokes on the greens than off-the-tee en route to their victories. Putting has the highest variance day-to-day making it difficult to predict, but should still be important on these bermuda greens this week. Other key statistics will be Par-5 Scoring average and birdie or better percentage on this Rees Jones course design.
Scottie Scheffler ($9,900)He’s been my favorite play even though he shot seven over on the weekend in Las Vegas, which has been Scheffler’s Achilles heel of recent. His scoring average in the opening two rounds so far this season is 65.8 while his weekend scores increase to an average of 71.75. Scheffler will head to the State of Texas, where he grew up and played his college golf (University of Texas). Oh yea, he also ranks first in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green over his last two tournaments.
Harris English ($8,900)English is hitting the ball fantastic and playing impeccable golf gaining an average of three strokes tee-to-green over his last five tournaments. English ranks 15th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, first in Par-4 scoring average, and first in birdie or better percentage over his last six tournaments. English is also a great putter ranking eighth in Strokes Gained: Putting on bermuda greens over his last 50 rounds. If he’s able to hit these fairways with regularity this week, he should be in contention.
Cameron Davis ($7,000)Davis is a cheaper option who has upside with his ability to score ranking sixth in birdie or better percentage over his last three tournaments. He’s been struggling with his driving accuracy of recent, but these wide bermuda fairways should help Davis find the short grass even though he ranks 192nd in hit fairway percentage this season. He’s also struggled on bermuda greens last season ranking 147th, but gained 4.5 strokes putting over his last two tournaments on bermuda. His experience growing up and playing in Australia should give him an advantage over the field this week hopefully mitigating his inconsistency over his short career.
Shawn Stefani ($6,800)Stefani played decently in his first start of the season with a top-30 a couple weeks ago and should have another solid performance this week heading back to his home state of Texas, where he also played his College golf. It’s not only his home ties, which make him potential play this week, he also ranks 21st in birdie or better percentage, eighth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-green and inside the top-50 in Strokes Gained: Putting on bermuda greens over his last 50 rounds.
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