The Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston – it’s about as Texas as you can get, no? Except where it’s more like Georgia (Augusta to be specific). For the past eight years, this has been the immediate precursor to The Masters, and gradually the course has taken on some characteristics of Augusta National (fast greens, long rough) as players use it for a final week of preparation. Maybe the picks you make should be a little bit Texas and a little bit Augusta as well? Good luck.
Depending on the strategy you decide on to build your lineup, you might need – or want – to consider a few players from each of these price levels:
LINEUP NOTE: Henrik Stenson has withdrawn from the Shell Houston Open this week
Henrik Stenson ($13,300) – Stenson is one of those guys who come along every now and then who top the price list, and make you want to spend the money. You know how sometimes you can’t afford the very top guy, but you still get really excited about managing to fit one of the top five or so onto your squad? Well, if you do that here, somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re going to wish you could shave enough cost to upgrade to Stenson. He’s racked a lot of U.S tourney play up over the past couple of months – maybe he’s making a push to take down that first major. But whatever the reason, his game looks sharp and he looks comfortable, as evidenced by four straight tournaments with a finish no worse than 4th.
Jordan Spieth ($13,200) – He’s played here twice, and never finished better than 50th, but expect that to change this weekend. He has missed one cut in his last eight tries, and was in the top-20 in each of the other seven. And never mind the top-20, but the top-10 in six of those, and the top-five four times, including two wins. Plus, Texas.
Matt Kuchar ($11,400) – This pick is more about history at the course than what’s been going on lately with his game. He hasn’t looked bad, but he’s been more middle-of-the-pack than leader over the past month or so. But he’s been making cuts, which means his game is not far off, and he has been 2nd and T8, T8 in his last three trips to this course. If you check out the PGA Breakdown, I mentioned that recovering from the rough is a challenge here, and Kuchar ranks 4th on Tour in “scrambling from the rough,” so that might be a stat you want to look at while you build your lineups.
Phil Mickelson ($9,500) – You know he wants to see his game take shape in the week leading into Augusta – I’m sure his training has been leading exactly to this point, right now, as much as he can possibly control. Plus, this course presents the types of challenges Augusta has that he can handle – the tough approach shots, and tight greens – without the challenges that might be his undoing, like narrow fairways. This weekend will be much more forgiving, with expansive fairways before you make it to that difficult rough.
J.B. Holmes ($9,300) – One of my favorite players to go with this weekend, his MC at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week was the only time in his last five tournaments that he didn’t finish in the top-25. He has claimed top-15 spots on the leaderboard three times in this tournament and that history plus a few recent demonstrations of his ability to play four solid rounds and compete with anyone makes him a solid pick if you’re looking someone just a little more affordable than the top guys.
Jason Kokrak ($8,800) – Another one of my favorite picks on the board this week, Kokrak has finished T11, T6 and T7 in his last three tournaments, with only two rounds over par during that entire span. He is averaging only nine bogeys over those three, the kind of consistency that means he should definitely be there until the very end, earning you fantasy points and- hopefully – putting himself squarely into contention. He finished 9th here in his last appearance (2013).
Brendan Steele ($8,300) – He’s made eleven straight cuts, and he has been in the top-15 three times in his last four tourneys. That’s better consistency AND better upside than you usually see for this money.
Martin Kaymer ($7,900) – This seem a little cheap to anyone else? He hasn’t played great in his last three appearances, but he absolutely has the game to be able to reverse that trend this weekend, with the length to give himself nice approach shots, and the short game to capitalize on those scoring chances. He just needs to avoid the blow-up holes.
Shawn Stefani ($7,700) – He claimed a solo fifth here last year, and he’s a local boy. And, considering he is also top-20 in FedEx points right now, he seems to be trending in the right direction. All those factors together? They mean I want him in my lineup.
Cameron Tringale ($7,300) – He has finished T8, T16 and 5 in the last three years at this tournament, never shooting worse than -10. He is the kind of consistent that doesn’t do you a lot of good on your fantasy roster very often – he is consistently ok, making a lot of cuts, not often challenging, and not holing enough birdies. But if history is any guide, this tournament is one where he likes to reverse that trend, because I would take a -10, top-20 finish for $7,300 in a heartbeat.
Ernie Els ($6,200) – Another guy who you know is just hoping his game feels good heading into next weekend, but that’s fine with me. The bottom line is that you just don’t often find this level of talent for this price. He is older now, and the consistency is not there, but he had rounds of 67 and 68 last weekend en route to a T13 last weekend. If he’s playing well, you might as well take advantage of the value while it’s there, because it won’t be all season long.