Shell Houston Open Preview

03-28-27

The folks at the Golf Club of Houston decided a few years ago that they were going to make their event the premier tune-up for those heading to Augusta the following week.

Good idea.

Shell

Here’s your defending champion:

 

Shell Houston Open

Golf Club of Houston

Humble, Texas

 

Yards: 7,441 per the official scorecard

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Tifeagle Bermudagrass; 6,950 square feet on average running at no less than 12′ on the Stimpmeter

Rough: Bermudagrasss, ryegrass at 1.25″

Bunkers: 60

Water Hazards: 8

Course Architect(s): Rees Jones, David Toms (2006)

Purse: $7 million; $1.26 million (winner); 500 FedExCup Points;

Defending Champion:  Jim Herman defeated Henrik Stenson by one shot to win for the first time on Tour and book a place in the Masters the following week.

Notes:

  • 144 players; stroke play
  • top 70 and ties make the cut
  • winner gets a trip to the Masters next week

 

2016-17 Winners

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

The Particulars:

 

The final tune-up before the Masters is true in both calendar and in course set-up. With the green jacket on the line next week in Augusta, the folks in Houston decided to make their event relative by setting their track up like Augusta. The Bent/Bermuda greens will be running no less than 12′ on the Stimpmeter. The closely mown areas around the greens and the lack of rough off the fairways will mimic the conditions found next week down Magnolia Lane. The 29 players already qualified will enjoy the tournament-like conditions as they prepare for next week.

With four par fives on the card plus minimal rough off the tee, it’s hardly a wonder why 15 or 16-under-par was won this the last five years. Players who are able to hit the larger-than-average putting surfaces will have plenty of chances at birdie-or-better. Since the rough is minimal and the greens above average in size, the non-ball-strikers will have plenty of chances this week. Avoiding bogeys is just as important as making them this week. Remember, there were only six rounds of par or worse from the top 12 finishers last year.

Accuracy won’t matter off the tee this week so bombing and gouging is the way forward. Those who keep it out of the fairway bunkers and lakes that line the fairways will have an advantage. Accuracy in the iron game on bigger greens never hurts. Those who enjoy chipping, pitching, hybrid-ing from around the greens in closely-mown areas can also save and gain strokes. Each week on Tour there’s always more than one way to navigate into the top 10 and this week isn’t any different.

The weather in Texas during the spring can always be volatile. Unlike last year, the Houston area has been mostly dry in March so fast and firm could be on the cards. Humble had a quarter of an inch of rain over the last seven days and barley two inches for the month when the average is almost three-and-a-half inches. Tournament week weather suggests thunderstorms on Wednesday and Sunday with mostly sunny skies the other days.

Course Ratings

 

2016: 23rd hardest of 50 courses used; -0.115

2015: 41st easiest of 52; -1.145

2014: 23rd; +0.245

2013: 25th; -0.132

2012: 34th; -0.548

2011: 29th; -0.260

2010: 14th; +0.596

2009: 22nd; +0.202

2008: 30th; +0.068

2007: 29th; +0.050

Previous Champions

(since moving to Golf Club of Houston in 2006)

2016: Jim Herman, -15

2015: J.B. Holmes, -16*

2014: Matt Jones, -16*

2013: D.A. Points, -15

2012: Hunter Mahan, -16

2011: Phil Mickelson, -20

2010: # Anthony Kim, -12*

2009: # Paul Casey, -11*

2008: Johnson Wagner, -16

2007: Adam Scott, -17

2006: Stuart Appleby -19

*-playoff

#-not playing this week

 

Facts and Figures:

  • Tournament record: 268; Phil Mickelson (2011).
  • Course Record: 63; Scott Piercy, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Johnson Wagner.
  • Defending champ: None since moving to GCH as J.B. Holmes WD last year.
  • Multiple Winners: None since moving to GCH.
  • Maiden PGA Tour Win: Jim Herman (2016), Matt Jones (2014), Paul Casey (2009) and Johnson Wagner (2008). Only Wagner has won again.
  • First Time at Event: Adam Scott (2007) and Paul Casey (2009).
  • Wire-to-Wire (no ties): Day; first since 1992.
  • Bogey-free rounds: Too many to count on Thursday but rain and soft conditions yielded only six more the rest of the week including two by Rafael Cabrera Bello on the weekend.
  • Low round of 2016: 64; Charley Hoffman (Thursday).
  • Americans Winners: Seven of the last eight.
  • International Winners: Matt Jones, Australia, is the only one in the last eight.
  • Only Euro Winner: Casey.
  • Rookie Studs: Si Woo Kim (T-13).

The Field

Favorites

in order of preference for this week and this tournament

 

Jon Rahm: There’s no downside. Every course he’s played is essentially “new” to him and he’s having zero problems taming them. His last two events were WGC and he finished T-3 and second and might have won both if it wasn’t for Dustin Johnson. His confidence is almost as impressive as his power and there’s not a club in the bag that’s giving him problems at the moment.

Jordan Spieth: If they’re setting this up with Augusta-like qualities, Spieth will finish first or second obviously. He’s 24-under the last two years as he finished T-2 and T-13. He only had three matches last week so he should be fresh and not many in the field will hole more putts this week.

Rickie Fowler: He’s excellent tee-to-green and even better with his short game. He’s second in scoring and fifth in SG: Total. He’s never MC in five tries and has top 10’s in two of his last three in Houston. We’ll see if skippingMatch Play last week to prep for Augusta was the right plan.

Henrik Stenson: Another skipper of Match Play, the big Swede has three podium finishes here in five tries. It’s no surprise that he can overpower the place and his ball-striking comes in handy on the big greens. He’s 44-under through five events so this track obviously fits his eye. Remember, the more greens hit, the more birdie/eagle chances to make!

J.B. Holmes: He missed out on his chance to defend last year as an ailing shoulder forced him out Wednesday night. It was a sound idea as he finished T-4 at Augusta. Holmes strength is airmailing the field and being able to get his putter going. All of his results seem to be on courses 7,400 or better and this is one of those places (2nd, T-42, T-8, T-12 and WIN in his last five).

Adam Scott: The 2007 champ is always on this list if he’s in the field. He’s way too good tee-to-green to omit. The key is always getting a round or two out of his putter. He co-shares the course record of 63 but hasn’t played here since 2010. With the Masters next week, I’d expect a game effort or he wouldn’t be wasting his time adding this even to his schedule.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello: He’s plays everywhere and hasn’t MC in 11 months (THE PLAYERS, 2016). He doesn’t get the love his young countryman does but he hits all of the greens and keeps his golf ball out of trouble. He’s a quick learner as well as evidenced by his 68-65 bogey-free weekend last year to finish fourth.

Phil Mickelson: Man, I hate this time of year. A few doses of PHIL REGULAR and my head starts spinning. He’s 47 at the U.S. Open so I have to keep that in mind. I also have to remember that he’s playing very well RIGHT NOW. As quickly as Mickelson burns to the top he can apply the brakes even faster. Since he holds the tournament record, plays here every year since and has nothing worse than T-17 in that stretch, he’s in this week. God help us all.

Patrick Reed: Home game for the Houston resident might be exactly the jump-start he needs to get his season going. He back-doored a top 10 here last year so be patient. I’m leaning on the familiarity of the course as the angle because his recent results aren’t inspiring.

Charles Howell, III: After THE PLAYERS, we’ll hang up our three sticks for the rest of the summer. Until then, all ahead full! If you need more proof he’s gone T-10, MC, T-5 and T-7 in his last four here. #ChooChoo. A “W” is his only chance to get into his hometown event next week.

Matt Kuchar: He’s one bad Sunday round (last year) from rolling out four consecutive top 10 finishes in Houston. He’ll prefer firm and fast this week as that will help with the tee ball and give him more chances for the shorter clubs in his bag. There’s not a mystery to why he plays well here and Augusta as his nasty short game can handle an off-week of ball-striking.

Russell Henley: He’s 37-under-par the last four seasons and the last three have all found him T-7 or better. He’s in the top 20 in GIR, SGP and scoring. He’s in the top 30 in all three scoring categories (par 3, par 4 and par 5). Those dots should connect to another big showing this week.

Lucas Glover: He’s on tilt as he’s played his last nine weekends in a row. The last three have gone for T-21, T-18 and T-7, all on TifEagle in Florida. He’s played this event every year but one since 2004 but his record suggests maybe he shouldn’t. He keeps coming back for more and now he’s in sound form so an excellent combo! I think.

Jason Dufner: His last four stroke play starts have all resulted in top 25’s. Gamers, you shouldn’t be confused by know on what I think is going to translate this week: ball-striking. That’s Dufner’s calling card.

Daniel Berger: He finished T-25 as a rookie and came back for more last year and opened with 67 and closed with 66. Last year was even more impressive because he injured his wrist in Match Play the week prior. His wonderful inconsistency is part of the deal but he’s a super putter that can roll in plenty of birdies/eagles.

 

 

 

Next Tier

no particular order

Jamie Lovemark: He learned a valuable lesson here last year playing in the final group with Herman and shooting 76. He showed signs of life at API last time out where he also had a very good outing in 2016.

Jimmy Walker: He’s starting to figure it out around here as he’s rattled off six weekends in a row. The Texan has put three of four rounds in the red the last three years and has moved up the leaderboard in all three. The only downside is nothing is better than T-19 but he’s starting to enjoy no rough off the tee and slick greens.

Jhonattan Vegas: He’s churning out weekends for fun, nine in a row now, as he’s become a very steady player. Like Walker, he’s figuring it out at GCH as he’s made his last four and had his best ever last year with T-19.

Sean O’Hair: If you believe in history repeating, I’d look this way. Last year O’Hair WD at Valspar and scraped it around Bay Hill before hitting the top 10 here. This year he WD at Valspar, MC at API and is back for more.

Lee Westwood: He’s MC here the last two years with just one round over par. He was in the fight late in Mexico City before the double-bogey blues. Of his eight weekends here, five are T-21 or better.

Bernd Wiesberger: The last time he MC was the PGA, a streak of 15 in a row. Of those 15 checks, nine were of the top 11 variety.

Nick Watney: He’s quietly going along with a trio of T-14’s plus a T-28 in his last four. I also like that two were on the west coast and two were on the east coast so it looks like it’s not course/region specific.

Harold Varner, III: I’m going to be here when he pops. We’ve learned he’s a monster off the tee and chews up par fives. This sounds like his kind of party. He’s starting to tune it back in with T-34 at Bay Hill and T-24 last time at PRO.

Peter Uihlein: The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has made nine in a row worldwide with four landing in the top 10. The pressure is on this week as he’s playing on the back of his top 10 last week at PRO.

Justin Rose: He probably should be higher up the list but I’m not sure if he’s in tournament mode or tune up mode. He’s had indifferent results at Pebble and Mexico City but played well at Riviera and at Bay Hill. This week might be a clue into what’s in store next week. Like Fowler and Stenson, he chose not to dabble in the Match Play last week so he should be fresh.

Charley Hoffman: He should be higher up this list as he’s never MC in 10 previous tries. He should be higher up this list as he owns a pair of top five finishes in his last four starts including T-2 at Bay Hill his last time out.

Patrick Cantlay: The legend continues to grow as he finished second in his second start of 2017 at Valspar.

 

 

Off the Beaten Path

Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings

 

Stewart Cink: He’s made his last four at GCH and

Bryson Dechambeau: He’s not from Texas but he played at SMU. He should have plenty of eyes on him this week after T-2 at PRO last week. It was time last year where he finished low am at the Masters and followed it up with a top 10 at RBC Heritage.

Cameron Tringale: He’s six-for-six but his T-57 last year halted four years in a row of T-16 or better. He also had three top 10’s in that streak. I’m playing him this week because his only decent finish this year was at Riviera where he carried a similar stout record.

Bud Cauley: His only two starts before his labrum injury resulted in T-8 and T-16 and he was 21-under-par.

D.A. Points: The 2011 champ won last week in Puerto Rico. He did so by hitting every fairway and every green and that should travel. Don’t look up his results here since he’s won or before though. Just go blind on this one, trust me.

Billy Horschel: The last time he played here in 2013 he was the runner up. He hasn’t been back since. Weird. The “FloridaCoaster” went T-4 Honda, MC Valspar and T-13 API so your guess is as good as mine this week.

Michael Kim: There’s a reason why he’s in here almost every week as half of his eight starts in 2017 are top 25’s. #Value.

Jim Herman: I usually don’t like defending champs that were first-time winners because their time is stretched the week of the event with their duties. I don’t think Herman falls into that category because he’s almost 40. I also noticed he’s played three weekends in a row and was third at Valspar. Hush.

J.T. Poston: He’s rattled off his last five on Tour and the last four have included three inside the top 17. His T-10 at PRO last week was his best on Tour and that followed up his previous best, T-14, his last time out at Valspar. #Hot.

Kyle Reifers: He broke out of a NASTY funk last week with T-17 at PRO. Normally this wouldn’t interest me but he’s posted 13 of 16 career rounds here in red figures. He was T-7 last year and T-11 in 2015. #Woke.

Chris Stroud: If you didn’t burn him last week at his annual top 10 spot in Puerto Rico (T-8), you’ve got another chance. He hasn’t MC here in his last five and the last three years he’s collected on T-12, T-17 and T-27 last year. This is his part of the world as he went to Lamar so he should be extra comfy this week.

Tony Finau: He has plenty of length to eat this track up but two of his six rounds here are 76 and 77. He’s plenty risky and rewardy.

Fades

injured, rusty or not the track this week

Matt Jones: Nothing to write about before his victory in the 2014 and nothing in the 60’s after.

Kevin Chappell: It’s just not happening for him right now.

Next:

 

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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