It's the final tune-up for the Masters with the PGA Tour in Houston for the Houston Open. It's likely the final playing of the event after Shell dropped its sponsorship after 26 years. Headlining the field are Masters favorites Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. Full field and tee times
More than a shirt style
Russell Henley came from 4 back of 54-hole leader Sung Kang to win and earn a spot in the Masters field. The win was the 3rd of the 28-year-old's career and came thanks to 10 birdies in the final round. Henley rode the momentum from Houston to Augusta, where he finished a career best 11th in the Masters.
The host course for the Houston Open is the Rees Jones-designed Golf Club of Houston. The golf course is a stout test of golf from tee-to-green, featuring water hazards on 13 of the 18 holes. While architecturally it has little resemblance to Augusta National, it mimics the agronomic conditions players will see next week. The overseeded rye is what attracts the big name players to Houston to prep for the Masters.
The course requires a strong week from tee-to-green in order to contend. Last year, the top five finishers all ranked in the top ten of the strokes gained: tee-to-green category. The 18th and 5th holes are two of the most intimidating and difficult holes on tour thanks to their tee shots. My favorite hole out there is the short par-4 12th, which offers players a number of options off the tee. Here's a video and a breakdown of the hole that I put together.
Last year's Hurricane Harvey made preparation for this week challenging for the ground staff and superintendent Brian Buckner. Our contributor Lawson Klotz conducted a brief interview with Brian about the cleanup and getting the course ready for this week's tournament.
The major storylines of the week revolve around next week's Masters. Houston is a great place for some of the favorites to build momentum heading into next week. A winner at Houston has never gone on to win the Masters, but getting into the mix at Houston tends to bode well for success at Augusta. Here's a rundown of some of the big names at Houston and their form heading into Augusta:
Jordan Spieth has yet to record a finish better than 9th in 2018. The three-time major winner is driving the ball as well as ever in his career (24th in SG: Off-the-tee) but has been dismal on the greens (172nd in SG: Putting).
Rickie Fowler parlayed a t3rd at last year's Houston Open into a spot in Sunday's final pairing at Augusta. Fowler's best full-field finish in 2018 is a t11th in Scottsdale. It would be nice to see Fowler contend to feel good about his chances at the Masters.
With a win in Houston, Justin Rose would move to number 3 in the world rankings. After runner-up finishes in two of the past three Masters, Rose is 14 to 1 at Augusta and one of the favorites to grab the Green Jacket. In his last 15 starts, Rose has notched three wins and finished outside the top 10 just twice.
A regular contender in Houston is Phil Mickelson, who until last year hadn't finished outside the top 20 since 2010. Mickelson is in top form having finished t5th, t2nd, t6th and 1st in his last four stroke play starts. Expect another strong start from the 2011 Houston Open champion.
A final chance
If a player not already in the Masters wins the Houston Open, they earn a spot at Augusta. We have seen it the last two years with Henley and 2016 champion Jim Herman each playing their way into the year's first major. A few names that aren't yet in the Masters field include Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Lee Westwood, Byeong Hun An, Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Emiliano Grillo, Bill Haas, JB Holmes and Geoff Ogilvy.
With the packed schedule, Paulie is leaning on some lesser-known players this week in Houston. Here's who he likes for DraftKings, one and done and longshots.
The Yolk with Doak is back
Our podcast with golf course architect Tom Doak is back, and in this two-part episode, we discuss the routing process with Renaissance Golf Associate, Don Placek. Listen to part I of the two-part podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or our website.
Former phenom Ty Tryon earned a spot in this week's Web.com Tour field after advancing out of the Monday qualifier. Tryon is famous for earning his Tour card in 2001 as a 16-year-old high school student. Friend of The Fried Egg, Cody Sundberg, profiled the rise and fall of Tryon's career a while back.
Tryon will certainly be the main story in Savannah, but with the season past the quarter mark, it's time to start looking at the top 25 list to see who is in position to move to the PGA Tour and who needs to make some moves. Money list
The season's first major
The LPGA hosts their first of five major championships this week, the ANA Inspiration. Last year's event was the lasting memory from the 2017 season, with Lexi Thompson incorrectly marking her ball and receiving a two-shot penalty. The penalty led to So Yeon Ryu capturing the win in a playoff over Thompson and drew into question video replay review. Full preview
Campus Update with Will Knights
The last couple days have been great for All-Americans.
The Hootie Intercollegiate finished up in South Carolina yesterday with Ole Miss claiming the team title and All-American Braden Thornberry winning individually. Ole Miss charged up the leaderboard with the low final round and held off Kent State by 1 shot. Thornberry shot a final round 66 to win the individual title by two.
Out west, Oregon and Liberty shared the team title at the Oregon Duck Invitational. This was Oregon’s first win of the season as they gain momentum heading into the Pac 12 tournament. Individually, All-American Norman Xiong won at -11. Xiong made 8 birdies in the final round on his way to a 64 and his third win of the season.
Get your tour visors..