The Shell Houston Open
Redstone Golf Club
Yards: 7,441 per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Miniverde Bermudagrass overseeded with bentgrass, perennial ryegrass and Poa trivialis (6,700 square feet on average)
Rough: Tif-Sport Bermudagrass with perennial ryegrass at 1.25”
Water Hazards: 13
Course Architect: Rees Jones with player consultant David Toms (2004)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Hunter Mahan chased down and passed 54-hole leader Louis Oosthuizen to win for the second time in 2012 as he defeated Carl Pettersson by a lone shot.
Dates: March 28-31
Notes: 72 holes, stroke-play event with a field of 156 players.
Gamers, the Tournament Course has been in use for this event since 2006 only so any other historical data you wish to use will not be from here. Beware.
The only player to defend their championship at this event was Vijay Singh in 2004-2005. Remember, that was not on this track.
Since moving to the Tournament Course in 2006, the winners have been Stuart Appleby (2006), Adam Scott (2007), Johnson Wagner (2008), Paul Casey (2009), Anthony Kim (2010), Phil Mickelson (2011) and Hunter Mahan last year.
Paul Casey is the only European winner of this event.
Adam Scott and Anthony Kim are not entered this week.
Americans have won all 13 events on TOUR this season. It’s their best collective start since 1982 when they won the first 14 events to open the season.
Johnson Wagner made his victory here in 2008 his first on TOUR, as did Paul Casey. Casey had won before overseas.
Johnson Wagner is the last Texan to win this tournament since Mark Brooks in 1996.
Rank and File
According to the OWGR, 12 of the top 30 players in the world are entered this week.
The Tournament Course at Redstone was “tricked out” in 2007 to resemble course conditions that the TOUR players would face at Augusta as the Shell Houston Open (SHO) took its new spot on the calendar the week before the Masters. The rationale was to give the players a playing environment similar to what they would face so they would enter the tournament. Even though the tournament is now two weeks before the Masters, it’s still a great opportunity to play in these conditions.
The Tournament Course decided to keep the rough (or “first cut”) at only 1.25” so missing the fairway here shouldn’t lead to many problems. The greens are slightly larger than the ones the players faced last week at Bay Hill yet will be running even quicker as the Stimpmeter has measured 13’ plus. This will be a second-shot course. Missing the green will test the short game of the players as closely-mown areas will be the order of the day instead of thick, gnarly rough. Pitch-and-run? Bump-and-run? Pop a metal? Putt? Flop? All the shots in the bag will need to be on display if GIR aren’t accomplished this week. Once on the lightning-fast bermuda/bent mix, the putters will separate themselves from the pack.
I’ll be looking for those players who are rolling the rock and hitting plenty of greens to be successful this week. With 16-under being the average winning score, those who make the most birdies will be near the top this week. The old axiom continues, though: guys who hit plenty of GIR will have the most chances to make birdie; the guys who make the most putts will make the most birdies! I’m looking for guys who kill the par-fives, make tons of birdies-or-better and can putt and scramble. Sounds easy, right?!?
The Tournament Course has ranked 29th or easiest in four of the last six years out of 50 courses used on TOUR. In 2010 it ranked 14th-most difficult and 22nd in 2011. The average winning score here is 16-under-par and that’s exactly (272) what Hunter Mahan posted last year in his victory. That means birdies will need to be made on the four par-fives and short par-four hole No. 12. The two finishing par-fours are no picnic as both play almost 500 yards each so the players will have to have their birdies on the card before coming home.
Top 10, Plus One
Steve Stricker: We’ve all seen that Stricker is comfortable with his decision to play a limited schedule this year and the proof is in the results. He’s finished second, T5 and second in this three outings this year. Did I mention that the last two were against WGC fields? He’s a great wedge player, even better putter and loves to make birdies. This course should set up nicely for him.
Keegan Bradley: The hottest player on TOUR not named Tiger Woods wrapped up the “Florida Swing” by playing three events and finishing T4, seventh and T3 last week at API. He’s proven he can win in Texas before as he won the 2011 HPBNC before winning the PGA the same year. He destroys par fives and has no problem on or around the greens as evidenced by his victories on fast greens at the PGA and WGC-Bridgestone.
Hunter Mahan: The 2012 champion is having another excellent season even though he hasn’t won yet. His worst two rounds this season, not including the HTOC, have been on Sundays in his last two events so he’s close to breaking out again this year. He shot 74 at WGC-Cadillac to finish T25 and fired 75 on Sunday at API to finish T21. Imagine if those were both 72s…He’s teed it up nine times at Houston and has four top 10 finishes. Automatic.
Brandt Snedeker: He showed us multiple times last year that when he comes back from injury that he usually needs a week to get tuned up before he’s back to his regular game. His 76-76 last week at API shouldn’t deter you this week from taking a look at one of the best players and putters on TOUR this week.
Rory McIlroy: There was a great picture of him hitting balls at a Miami muni late last week. He’s the new generation. He’s going to things differently. Let’s not forget that the last time out he fired 65 at Doral to move into the top 10 against the best field of 2013. He’s hardly washed up and it seems that his wisdom teeth have calmed down for the moment. He’s only played two rounds of six under par here but I think those were when he was a teenager…
Jimmy Walker: The Texan is looking to join Mark Brooks and Johnson Wagner as the only Texans to win this tournament since 1996. Walker has been playing some excellent golf lately and his game has traveled from California to Florida. He’s made 17 cuts in a row and has six top 25s from eight starts this year which included three top 10s. He’s my one-and-done choice this week or next.
Dustin Johnson: The curse of Paulina Gretzky almost wore off in Miami as DJ opened up 68-69 but cooled on the weekend 70-72. He’s opened up 66, 68 in his last two stroke-play events. Now, it’s just a question of putting together four, solid rounds. He hasn’t teed it up here since 2009.
Bill Haas: He’s now recorded four top 10s in 2013 and is currently sixth in GIR. Add in his 7th in scrambling and Haas should be a contender this week regardless of his history at the Tournament Course. His brother is back on his bag and he’s playing well.
Chris Kirk: In his first trip around the Tournament Course, Kirk made 23 birdies and finished T2. He’s currently sixth on TOUR in scoring average, sixth in birdie-or-better conversion and sixth in strokes-gained putting. Wait, that’s 6-6-6. Oh, he’s also sixth in scoring average before the cut. Whew. His short game and ability to make birdies should make him a nice outsider this week.
Lee Westwood: He’s made the cut in all five of his trips to SHO since they moved courses in 2007, including four in a row in the top 30. He was T21 last year, T30 in 2011, T8 in 2010 and T11 in 2009. Westwood takes this week seriously as evidenced by his last four years of finishes at the Masters.
Phil Mickelson: I might just change the “Plus One” category to the “Plus Phil” category. The 2011 champion tore this course to shreds as he posted 20-under 268 on the back of 27 birdies. Last week he fired 73-79 that included a four-putt from five feet! That followed a T3 at Doral. Makes sense, right?!? He was T4 here last year so that helps clear up the confusion as well.