Prize Fund – $6,600,000
Winner’s Share – $1,188,000
Course – Golf Club of Houston (7,441 par 72)
Our 2014 Picks – Keegan Bradley – T43, Graham DeLaet – T19, Charley Hoffman – T37, Chris Stroud – T12, Matt Jones – WON, Aaron Baddeley – MC
Just one week to go before the first major of the year and many peoples attention will be towards Augusta. We have produced 2 previews detailing all sorts of information including trends, stats and history surrounding The Masters, so do check them out!
However, it would be foolish not to have a look at what will be happening in Texas for the Shell Houston Open. A pretty cracking field is assembling for one last push to get themselves ready for next week. Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Phil Mickelson, Bill Haas, Martin Kaymer, Keegan Bradley and Charl Schwartzel are all teeing it up and by simply listing those names, it shows this has turned out to be one of the best fields of the season so far.
It’s completely understandable why so many are using this as preparation because the similarities between the Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone Country Club) and Augusta are there for all to see.
Playing at 7,441 yards, the par 72 has ridiculously quick greens, with sloping run offs and large collection areas that will require some nifty scrambling, whilst the fairways are long and incredibly tight (although not half as tight as Augusta) – sound familiar?
There doesn’t seem to be as much of requisite for big hitters here compared to Augusta, shifting more importance on putting. One of our winners last year, Matt Jones, came top in putting stats, whilst 8 of the top 12 finished inside the top 20 in the same category.
He was also 2nd in GIR and 2nd placed Kuchar finished 1st for that category, so you can see the trend of what’s needed here.
The par 5’s are ranked amongst some of the most difficult on Tour, therefore we’ve put greater emphasis on total driving and par 5 scoring stats, whilst the main stats to look out will be putting, GIR and scrambling.
Be warned though, rarely will you have players considered ‘major contenders’ challenging properly the week before, unless they find themselves in the hunt going into the weekend. It’s more of a fine-tuning process, so do be careful on that front.
Although on the other hand, we’ve rarely seen a field of such magnitude the week before either….
Jason Kokrak (40/1 Various)
In a field where there is actually a bit of value flying around, we’ve decided to ignore it and go with this fella at 40’s. Despite his unappealing price (considering Rose is 40’s, Kaymer 66’s etc) we can’t get away from the fact he is a perfect fit for Houston. Not only does he bomb it but he finds plenty of fairways too.
So then you look at his recent form – 7th Valspar, 6th Arnold Palmer, 11th last week (where he ranked 13th GIR). The guy is playing some of the best stuff in the field and he’ll take even more confidence from his performance here in 2013 where he finished 9th. And don’t be fooled by Jason’s exterior either, he possesses a deft touch around the greens – ranks 30th scrambling and 49th strokes gained-putting.
Shawn Stefani (50/1 Paddy Power)
This man really is a quality driver of the ball. T18 total driving and T13 ball striking tells its own story really. Again, question marks could be raised about his price but when you consider so many of the names above him in the market will be loosening up for the Masters, it’s the perfect opportunity for someone like Shawn.
His 5th here last year gives us confidence but what really gets us going was his effort with the short stick in Texas last week, ranking 6th in putting. If there’s one thing we can argue at Shawn it’s his short game. So if we can suddenly marry up that putting with his ever-consistent ball striking, we could be on to something here.
Jason Bohn (200/1 Various)
Now, with Augusta literally around the corner we, like you, are looking to save a few pennies and go big next week. That said, we’ve done our best this week to find top players and ridiculously high odds – up step Mr Bohn.
The American quite simply is a stat man’s dream – 60th ball striking, T6 hole proximity, 36th scrambling, T58th 1-putts. For this course for someone at these odds, you’re not getting better. Then you look at his course form – 19th 2004, 6th 2009 and 11th 2010. Again, on a course as tough as this that’s pretty impressive. And then to complete the package Bohn actually comes in with a bit of recent form with his 17th at the Valspar 3 weeks ago.
Jonas Blixt (200/1 Various)
Value pick number 2. The Swede, as we’re sure you are aware, played out of his skin at last year’s Masters. That performance showed us not just the quality he has but also his liking for tough tracks. We cannot forget that this man has 2 PGA Tour titles.
So you have to wonder why he’s at this price. Quite simply, his form has been poor of late. Having started off the season like a relative train, T13 CIMB and T14 HSBC, lately things haven’t been as fruitful. But his runner-up at the Masters last year came in similar fashion off the back of 2 missed cuts. If he can get things going tee to green then 200/1 could look very healthy come the weekend.
Stewart Cink (300/1 Paddy Power)
His bald nut shining in the sun is a joy to behold when he gets things going on the course. Like Blixt, the American hasn’t enjoyed an amazing 2015 but we all know he has a big finish in his locker when the time is right.
He’s only played here 3 times and finished an impressive 6th in 2013 ending 3 shots off the pace – a better final round and the title could have been his. Despite his near miss, it shows he has what it takes around this track. T63 ball striking and T12 hole proximity is all we can muster up stats-wise but now aged 41, big finishes are becoming few and far between. You need to pick your week wisely with Cink and if his 6 PGA titles tell us something it’s that if he is up there on Sunday afternoon he’s certainly not going to shy away.
Every week we’re running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly. It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters! We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so keep an eye out.
It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets. Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.
Our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –
£1.75 e/w on Jason Kokrak at 40/1
£1.50 e/w on Shawn Stefani at 50/1
£1.00 e/w on Jason Bohn at 150/1
£0.45 e/w on Jonas Blixt at 200/1
£0.30 e/w on Stewart Cink at 300/1
Each way bets ¼ odds for top 6 finish. Prices sourced from Paddy Power
Find the Golf Monthly Preview here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/tour-news)
Current Standings after 11 weeks (and it makes for horrible reading…)
DownThe18th Golf Monthly
European Tour: £-26.60 European Tour: £-46
PGA Tour: £-47.28 PGA Tour: £76.25
Total: £-73.88 Total: £30.25
Golf Monthly leads by: £104.13