Winner’s Share: $1,152,000
It’s hard not to have our eyes already on Augusta but when you glance at the field assembled in Texas for this week’s event, it has quality everywhere you look.
Played at the Golf Club of Houston (formerly called Redstone Country Club), the Shell Houston is back in its usual slot as pre-cursor to the Masters after a one year switch with the Valero Texas Open. This event works so well coming the week before the year’s first major because of the similarities between the tracks. Playing 7441yards, the par 72 features lightning fast greens, large collection areas and long, tight driving holes. Anyone who you have in consideration for the Masters will fit the bill here too. The par 5’s are also ranked as some of the hardest on the circuit, so you cannot be playing poorly on the longer holes. D.A. Points won in 2013, not one that many people called.
Statistically we have put emphasis on driving distance, accuracy, GIR% (all can be encapsulated in total driving and ball striking), par 5 scoring average, proximity to the hole, scrambling, 3-putt avoidance and strokes gained-putting. If you bring all of these to the first tee on Thursday, you could just win this thing.
Word of warning – with it being the first major next week we need to be wary of players using this week just to fine tune their game and loosen those muscles (we’re looking particularly at you Stricker!) The likes of McIlroy, Mahan, Garcia, Simpson, Poulter, Schwartzel and co could all fit into that category.
And whoever wins here, sneaks into the Masters. All the best.
Paddy Power are paying 6 places this week!
Keegan Bradley (28/1 Stan James)
It is a shame Bradley has a bit of a reputation in the DownThe18th boardroom for not producing the goods when we want him to. So we can assure you, when we do back Bradley we do so because he fits every area we look at!
His 2nd place two weeks ago means he will be on many people’s radar but it isn’t just his recent form that impresses us. He has recorded two top 10’s in the last two times here (he was our number 1 pick last year too). He ranks 23rd total driving, 39th ball striking, 16th 3-putt avoidance, 6th scrambling and 25th par 5 scoring average. Some impressive figures to say the least.
Not only is he statistically right, be we feel he is mentally right too. Bradley is someone with so much passion it doesn’t matter whether it’s a week before a major or 5 months, he will give it everything he has to win.
Graham DeLaet (40/1 Coral)
Most people who watch the PGA Tour as regularly as we do will agree that it is only a matter of time till the Canadian wins on the Tour. Taking absolutely nothing away from Steven Bowditch last week, but DeLaet will feel that if people such as the Aussie are winning, how isn’t he?
He drives the ball straight and far, is incredible with the irons and is even getting better year on year with the putter. He comes to Texas after an emotional and historic week for himself after being honoured by Boise State University for his achievements on and off the course. He is arguably Boise State’s most successful athlete and this will surely get him in the mood for the Shell Houston!
Three top 10’s (two 2nd places) in his last 6 starts make for impressive reading and he registered a 3rd on this track back in 2010. I think we are all in agreement that four years on, he is a much better player, so this bodes well. Fun fact, in 2013 he hit the longest drive of the tournament – 420yards!
Statistically he is outstanding as ever, 14th total driving, 6th ball striking, 4th GIR%, 56th proximity to the hole, 40th 3-putt avoidance and 30th par 5 scoring average.
Charley Hoffman (66/1 Various)
Hoffman can be described in no other way than a PGA Tour stalwart. For over a decade now he has consistently picked up money that puts more than a bit of bread on the table and amassed him 2 PGA titles for the Hoffman trophy cabinet.
The new streamlined Charley Hoffman is playing as good as ever in 2014, ranking 31st in the FedEx picking up 3 top 10s and only missing 1 cut. He has never excelled massively at the Shell Houston (best of 6th in 2008) but neither has he disgraced himself here. His course form reads considerably better than DA Points’, that is for sure.
His statistics read 28th total driving, 18th ball striking, 24th proximity to the hole, 55th scrambling and 54th strokes gained-putting.
Chris Stroud (80/1 BetVictor)
Houston, Texas resident Chris Stroud has been plugging away on the PGA Tour over the last few years and is steadily starting to be recognised as a top golfer. 2014 has already brought him more prize money than 2013 having played just over a third of the events! This has including two 3rd places and another top 10.
Being close to home means Stroud has been playing this event since 2005 but is yet to make an impression. As we have stated before, it seems most winners around this track do not possess impressive course form anyway. But he comes to the Shell Houston in great shape, being on our radar for a few weeks now. And being held in his home state always helps.
Statistics are probably his most impressive area – 47th total driving, 37th ball striking, 13th scoring average, 4th scrambling, 69th proximity to the hole and 12th par 5 scoring average. Perhaps not an obvious choice but someone who could easily win this thing! We wouldn’t mind grabbing a spot at Augusta next week either.
Matt Jones (125/1 Paddy Power) and Aaron Baddeley (140/1 Bet 365)
We will finish off with two Aussies, only fitting with Bowditch’s win last week and Adam Scott defending his Masters crown next. Firstly, Matt Jones is a player we have a lot of time for and someone who will probably win a few titles in his career. He lies 13th in total driving, 47th in ball striking as well as 25th in par 5 scoring average. His short game is where he needs to improve. 2014 has yet to kick into gear with only 3 top 25s so far. He is a player who plays well for short periods and with his ability off the tee he could easily have a good week in Texas. 14th two weeks ago will give him confidence.
The second Australian, Baddeley, is someone who has not really played to his full potential in recent times. He comes to a course where he finished 4th on in 2011. This year, like Jones, has not been exactly fruitful but his statistics suggest he is getting near to being back to the sort of play that has won him 3 PGA titles. His accuracy at times is wayward but he does rank 42nd in driving distance, 12th scrambling, 3rd strokes gained-putting, 3rd 3-putt avoidance and 49th par 5 scoring average. If he can get things right off the tee, his short game is unrivaled and could pull him through on the final day!