Before we review the Shell Houston Open, I want to relay that Rotoworld will be rolling out a pair of new features in the next two weeks. Beginning this Friday, April 6, the first of two recurring features will publish. It will become a standard reference tool for you throughout the season. I’ll share more about the second feature next week. Keep an eye out for both.
Hunter Mahan fired 16-under-par 272 to win the Shell Houston Open at the Tournament Course at Redstone. He fended off Swede Carl Pettersson by one shot and South African and overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen was third two shots back. Mahan now becomes the only player on Tour in 2012 to have multiple wins as he adds this title to his WGC-Match Play victory from February. Mahan now has five career victories on Tour. Hunter Mahan will now try to join Sandy Lyle in 1998 and Phil Mickelson in 2006 as the only golfers to win both the week before and The Masters in the same year.
Hunter Mahan is known as one of the best drivers and strikers of the golf ball on Tour. The one category he wasn’t as well known for before 2012 was victories. His talent is unquestioned but questions about his short game and putting persisted as victories were not being achieved. After two victories in 2010, an 18th place finish in the FedExCup and a Ryder Cup appearance, the experts thought that Mahan would explode in 2011. He did, finishing seventh in the FedExCup but without any victories. What a difference a year makes! Now Mahan has won twice in 40 days.
His record at SHO has been excellent and this victory just reinforces that. In nine events at SHO, Mahan now has finished in the top 11 five times. He likes this course because his accuracy off the tee and his superior iron game can take over. He was T1 in GIR and T33 in driving accuracy. His Achilles Heel is usually his short game and putting. He avoided disaster down the stretch by getting the ball up and in the closing holes after finally missing a few greens. Mahan capped off his superb week of golf finishing fifth in strokes gained-putting, continuing the trend of 11 straight winners finishing in the top 10 in putting.
Not to take anything away from Mahan, but how about the 2012 season that swing coach Sean Foley is having? Mahan has won twice, Tiger Woods at API and Justin Rose at WGC-CC at Doral. That’s one heck of a stable of golfers and one heck of a trophy case in just 14 events on Tour this year.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
For the ninth time in 14 events this season the 54-hole leader did not win the golf tournament. Hunter Mahan began the day two shots behind leader Louis Oosthuizen. After turning in 41, Oosthuizen’s mountain was going to be too much to climb to get back in the hunt. Mahan steady start of eight-straight pars was rewarded with a birdie on nine from 232 yards on the par three. Only one of three birdies on nine on Sunday, Mahan used this to springboard on to the backside. Coming in Mahan made birdie on 10 to reach 17-under, the number Oosthuizen began the day with next to his name. Mahan would make bogey on 14 but that would be the only one of the day and only his second of the tournament. Mahan played his first 44 holes and 26 of his last 27 bogey-free. That’s excellent work.
With this victory, Mahan earns $1,080,000 and 500 FedExCup points. He’s now currently first in the FedExCup standings leading Johnson Wagner by 258 points.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 15 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-4-2 as Hunter Mahan scores another point for the youth.
For the young, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34) and now Tiger Woods (36) in the middle.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the old folks on Tour.
After three weeks of international domination, Mahan and Woods make it back-to-back for the Stars and Stripes.
Carl Pettersson: As I mentioned in my preview this week, I didn’t believe this was going to be Pettersson’s week. His record here in two events was T50 and T71 and he hadn’t finished better than T33 at WMPO since his T2 opener at Sony. Pettersson finished the week second in strokes gained-putting and was T9 GIR. These numbers contributed to his 20 birdies on the week which helped him to a second place finish. Pettersson, who has four-career victories, just one behind Mahan interestingly enough, only made two of those 20 birdies on Sunday. Pettersson now has made the cut in six of eight events and has finished second twice.
Louis Oosthuizen: After making 20 birdies against only three bogeys in his first three rounds, the 2010 Open Champion looked set to add the SHO to his trophy cabinet. On Sunday, Oosthuizen turned in 41 and found himself five strokes behind leader Hunter Mahan. The back nine started just as bad as it ended with a bogey on 10. Oosthuizen rallied for three birdies coming in but couldn’t get any closer than two shots and finished third alone. His solid iron play, T5 GIR, led to 24 birdies but his two doubles on Sunday were the knock-out punch. His last six rounds before Sunday’s 75 were 66, 66, 67, 68, 68 and 68.
Jeff Overton: What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday Overton carded 84 at API which included a double, a quadruple and a quintuple. The sign of a solid player is taking that round and flushing it down the toilet. Overton ended up only making four bogeys this WEEK in finishing T4. He joined Pat Perez as the only two players to have bogey-free rounds on Sunday and tied for the low round of the day with 68. Overton only made 14 birdies on the week but was T6 with 53 pars. Overton’s steady driving of the golf ball and his ability to get up and down helped him to his second top-five finish in three weeks.
Keegan Bradley: Bradley bombed and gouged his way to T4 this week. Bradley finished second in driving distance and was T10 in putts per round. Hitting 75 percent GIR (T21) didn’t hurt his chances either. Bradley has teed it up nine times in 2012. Bradley now has finished in the top 25 in all nine of those starts with his worst finish being T22 at FIO. His last three stroke-play events have been T4, T8 and T12. What sophomore slump?
Phil Mickelson: Mickelson blistered the course in round one making eight birdies against just one bogey. Sadly for Mickelson, he only made nine more birdies on the week to finish T4. Mickelson never was in it on the weekend and that’s more of a tribute to Mahan than a knock on him. Mickelson only made five bogeys but never broke 70 after the first round. In Mickelson’s last three events he finished T4, T24 and T43. He appears to be on the right track heading to Augusta.
Brian Davis: Davis began the day three shots behind and was playing some excellent golf. In his first three rounds at SHO, Davis had 15 birdies to one bogey and looked poised to break his 0-for-230 streak on Tour. Sunday was the complete opposite of what we saw the first three rounds. Davis made six bogeys and two doubles to offset six birdies. He made only five pars on the round for 74. His 21 birdies made were good for third; his putts per round were the best in the field and he was T5 in driving accuracy. His T4 matches his T4 last week at API as his best finish in 2012.
Bud Cauley: The name of the game is getting the ball in the hole and Bud Cauley has done that in his past three events. This week Cauley didn’t fall in the top 50 in any of the three major putting statistics after he was top 20 in all three last week. No matter as he was T1 GIR and finished T6 with 53 pars. The last three weeks Cauley has finished T8, T4 and T16. This is the second week in a row that Cauley has finished with 68. In his first full year on Tour he’s played in 10 events and has made the cut in eight of them. He looks to be the real deal.
Cameron Tringale: After CUT (79-69) last week at API, Tringale found some consistency this week at SHO. Banging out the fourth-best GIR gave Tringale his second top 10 of 2012 (T4 at FIO). His 68 on Sunday with six birdies and two bogeys was tied for the best round of the day. His three outings in March resulted in CUT, T46 and T47 so if you had him this week, well done.
J.B. Holmes: One of the founding fathers of bomb and gauge, Holmes didn’t disappoint this week. Holmes was second in driving distance and second in putts per round which helped him to match his best finish of 2012, T8 (NTO). Holmes had “routine” brain surgery in 2011. I don’t think there’s anything “routine” about brain surgery, but whatever, it’s great to see him back to bombing away. Coming into this week, Holmes had only four rounds in the 60’s (out of 25) on the season.
James Driscoll: His best finish of the 2012 season was his opener at Humana where he finished T26. This week Driscoll made 20 birdies and was 20th in strokes gained-putting which helped him vault into the top 10 for the first time since The Travelers last June. Driscoll ranks 10th in strokes gained-putting and 6th in total putting on Tour in 2012.
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Ernie Els: Els needed to win this week to qualify for his 19th straight appearance at The Masters. His effort fell short but his run of solid golf continued with his T12 finish. In his last four stroke play events, Els has finished T12, T4, T5 and T21 so his game overall has shown signs of life. Not making The Masters is no doubt disappointing but if he continues to play well, he can work himself up the OWGR. Els only made two bogeys this week but he backed that up with only 12 birdies. He led the field in pars made with 58 which means he the putter wasn’t hot enough to match his T18 GIR.
Lee Westwood: The world No. 3 opened with a solid 68 but couldn’t break 70 the rest of the tournament and finished with a closing 73 finishing T21. Westwood is known as one of the best ball strikers in the world but admitted on television that he just didn’t make enough putts this week when given the chance. Westwood fans shouldn’t be too concerned about this finish because in his last 10 majors, he’s finished T16 or better in eight of them (CUT, DNS were the other two). Inside of those eight finishes, he has finished T8, T3 three times, and T2 twice. The last three years at Augusta he’s finished T11, second and T3.
Steve Stricker: The world No. 5 also started with 68 but a Saturday round of 75 knocked him out of contention this week and he finished T36. Strangely, the putter was the main culprit of Stricker not contending this week. He finished T21 in GIR but was only 60th in GIR. If Stricker is going to win his first major next week at The Masters, his putter will have to be more cooperative than that. After not playing since the WGC-CC, I chalk this week up to knocking off some rust and will be taking a long look at Stricker next week.
Johnson Wagner: The moustache man also found his cold putter to be his hindrance this week at SHO as he finished T29. Wagner, who ranks near the top of most putting categories, wasted excellent iron play this week (third in GIR) by finishing T54 or worse in all three putting categories. The 2008 SHO champ couldn’t back up his opening round 68 as well as he toiled in the 70’s for the final three rounds. I’ll chalk this up to an off-week and 2012 has been quite a ride for Wagner so far.
Graeme McDowell: After his second place finish at API last week, I thought McDowell would be a safe bet to this week. After his 70-69 start, I felt even better! Unfortunately for G-MAC, his weekend saw him card seven bogeys and two doubles while only circling five birdies. For the week he led co-led the field with three doubles. McDowell was steady off the tee finishing T1 in driving accuracy but he struggled to make putts and find greens. His record in 2012 coming into this week was excellent but I’m not sure if this was the prep he was looking for going into Augusta next week.