The US Masters starts next week, and the world’s elite golfers tend to fall into two distinct categories the week before the first major of the season. The likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day prefer to take the week off to fine-tune their skills with their coaches and arrive rested and ready for the most-intense 4-days of the golfing year. Meanwhile, the likes of Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickleson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson prefer to mix-it in the heat of competition on a course that has been set-up to mirror playing-conditions at Augusta as much as possible to allow players to get their eye-in.
The Golf Course of Houston certainly has plenty of length at 7,441 yards, and the greens will be perfect for those who like them fast as the green-staff will be aiming to have them at 13 on the Stimpmeter; if the last few years are anything to go by. The greens are also bigger than average and, just like Augusta, there will be little rough but several water hazards waiting to punish miss-judged or miss-hit shots.
Recent winners have also fallen into two distinct categories, with two winners having missed the cut on their previous visit, whilst others finished 35th, 38th and 57th. However, 4 winners finished 2nd, 8th, 9th and 12th, suggesting plenty of players who’ve gone well here before go well here again.
Market-leader Jordan Spieth has finished second and 12th the last two years but only arrives in average form, whilst second-favourite John Rahm has two negatives in that this is his debut here, and he’s got to get over an exhausting week after reaching the final of last-week’s WGC match-play. Meanwhile, third-favourite Henrik Stenson has three top-5 finishes in his last 5 visits, but his form has been plagued by injury and illness of late.
However, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickleson both look worth backing. Fowler has finished 6th and 10th here in the last 3 years, and comes here in solid-form ahead of Augusta, whilst previous winner Mickleson has tournament figures of 1/4/16/12/17/13 and will see this as a good opportunity to get back in the winner’s enclosure.
Charles Howell also looks worth a bet in the Top-10 market, as he’s filled that position on 3 of his last 4 visits here, and in 3 of his last 8 tournaments.
The final recommendation this week is Kyle Reifers to finish in the top-20. He’s finished 21/11/7 on his three previous visits, and showed his first worthwhile form for a while when finishing 17th last time out.
2017 Shell Houston Open Tips
Rickie Fowler 1.5 Points Each-Way @ 16/1 (Bet365, Betvictor) ¼ odds 1-2-3-4-5
Phil Mickleson 1.5 Points Each-Way @ 20/1 (Bet365, Betvictor) ¼ odds 1-2-3-4-5
Charles Howell 2 Points Top-10 @ 11/2 (Betvictor)
Kyle Reifers 2 Points Top-20 @ 15/2 (Various Bookies)