The Shell Houston Open is the last tournament before the years first major and generally sports a solid field. The organizers setup the course to mimic Augusta in numerous ways (green speeds, fairways) and the players have flocked to this event because of it. This year were getting a handful of the top contenders for the Masters and also a lot of really motivated golfers who could conceivably use a win here to get a last minute ticket to Augusta. For DraftKings purposes the withdraw of Dustin Johnson has left Jordan Spieth as the lone golfer priced above 11k and will probably mean higher ownership on both himself and Jon Rahm.
The week before a major: There are some storylines to monitor here this week with the most pertinent being that this is a week before a major. We’ve seen top players bail/withdraw from pre-major tournaments early before and with the match-play event the week prior I’d be slightly cautious on players who may be fatigued or have their focus elsewhere. This isn’t to say you should fade everyone who played last week but it’s still something to keep in mind when making your picks. Be aware of who has the motivation for a solid week in Houston and who may not.
The course: The GC of Houston sets up like Augusta in a few ways, in that it’s a longer par 72, and has fast greens and fairways that aren’t very penal on accurate drivers. That being said it also features water on over 10 holes and so hitting the greens is a must here. Past champions and top finishers have almost always ranked inside the top ten in Greens in Regulation for the week and that is a stat I’d venture to look very closely when doing DraftKings research.
Henrik Stenson ($10,400): Average round here the past three years has been right around 69.5. Finished 2nd here twice since 2013. Coming off a week of rest I can’t see the Swede not being hyper focused this week given how poorly the last two starts have gone for him. I’m anticipating a big bounce back and all things considered like him at this price over the top two players. There’s a lot of question marks on a week before the major but we should get “good Stenson” this week.
Rickie Fowler ($10,000): Fowler has been terrific since a T4 finish back in Phoenix. While his recent 12th at the Arnold Palmer and 16th in Mexico don’t jump off the page he looked strong at times in both those events and was coming off a huge win at the Honda Classic. Rickie’s looked in complete control of his game of late and has amassed a pair of top tens in Houston over the past three seasons. Dollar for dollar he’s my favorite play amoung the top players and I love the fact he’ll be coming into this week fresh after skipping the match-play.
Russell Henley ($8,700): Unmatched course history here, Henley has posted an average score of 69.25 at GC of Houston over the past three years with finishes of 4th, 5th and 7th. The Georgia native has improved statistically this season and ranks 20th in Greens in regulation which should be vital considering many greens are protected by water this week. Many may be put off by his inflated price but I’m not shying away as I believe a breakthrough is on the way and the fact a win would get him into the Masters is great motivation.
Charley Hoffman ($8,400): Coming off a great week at the Arnold Palmer, Hoffman has rounded into form of late with two top 5’s in his last two starts. Hoffman has been solid at this event making nine of 10 cuts overall and loves playing in Texas. All things considered I’d very slightly prefer him over Charles Howell this week at virtually the same price as Howell is playing his fourth week in a row and looked a little tried at the end of the match-play.
Lucas Glover ($8,300): Solid as they come, he should be a good fit for this week’s course which usually rewards Green in Regulation machines. Glover ranks ninth in GIR for the year and comes into the week off the back of six straight made cuts. His record here isn’t great but I’m willing to overlook it as includes some bad missed cuts from when his game wasn’t in the shape it is now.
Others: JB Holmes
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($7,900): Cabrera-Bello should be a lock for cash games this week given his cut-making prowess. On the year alone he’s made eight straight and never seems to perform too poorly even with his grueling schedule. He’s eighth in greens in regulation on the European Tour and finished strongly at this event last year with a final round 65 that saw him land a T4. At under 8k I wouldn’t overthink the Spanish paycheck machine.
Billy Horschel ($7,700): Horschel is another player who has been in good form this season and should be highly motivated this week to get the win as he’s currently without a ticket to Augusta. Billy Ho is fourth in Greens in Regulation and tee to green his game is sound. Hasn’t played here since 2013 when he finished second to D.A. Points, but if he can get his putter working he’ll have every chance to be in the mix late Sunday.
Kyle Stanley ($7,400): Another tee to green monster who should set up for this week perfectly. Stanley ranks 10th in Greens in Regulation and fifth overall in SG: Tee to Green. Stanley hasn’t cracked the top ten yet this year but he’s been uber-consistent making seven of eight cuts and never finishing outside of the top 40 when he’s made the weekend. A T19 at this event from last year is a good omen and given his current form an improved placing isn’t hard to imagine.
Tony Finau ($7,100): Quite simply, my favorite play of the week. Finau has been beasting recently ranking T2 and T1 for Greens hit in his last two starts. The only thing holding him back has been a cold putter, but I love the fact he was forced to take last week off as an alternate for the match-play and should be very well-rested and motivated. Would not be shocked if he ended the week as the winner.
Martin Flores ($6,700): A slightly off the board play on the face of it Flores ended last week with a T10 and also ranked second in the week for birdies made. He’s been a bit of journeyman over his career but currently ranks seventh in Greens in Regulation on tour and his putting has been better than many on my list. His track record at this event doesn’t look great but he does have a T17 and comes in this year in possibly his best form ever.
Others: Roberto Castro
High-upside GPP Picks
Phil Mickelson ($8,900): It’s hard to say whether Phil will actually be that low owned as he is Phil after all and always gets the popular vote so to speak. That being said two top tens at the last two WGC events and a great course history at this event, including a win from 2011 and a top ten last year, definitely means he has to be on your radar. The fatigue from a long run at the match-play is the only reason he is a gpp only play for me as his price is lower than expected here.
Peter Uihlein ($7,300): Uihlein is coming in with one of the best recent forms of any golfer in this field. He’s made eight straight cuts worldwide and now has top 5 finishes in two of his last three starts. I worry he might struggle with a harder setup this week as he’s not ranked highly in greens in regulation on the euro tour but as a tournament pick there’s definite upside with the former number one amateur player in the world.
Danny Lee ($7,100): Lee has now made three straight cuts and seems to have his game back in form. He didn’t finish well last week but he was ranked inside the top ten in greens in regulation and as someone who grew up playing in Texas he should be well suited for the venue. He’s had some success at other long par 72’s as well and his recent form makes him nice value at just $7,100.
John Peterson ($6,900): Tee to Green he has been very good at times this year and the fact he’s ranked 20th in Greens in Regulation could pay off this week. He’s another Texas native who played well in Puerto Rico but could simply not sink enough putts to get near the lead. Has been a tad inconsistent with his results but has shown top ten upside when he puts it all together.
Other: Luke List, Bud Cauley
Players to Consider (in no order)
– Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Russell Henley, Phil Mickelson, Lucas Glover, Charley Hoffman, JB Holmes, Kyle Stanley, Tony Finau
– Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Bill Horschel, Martin Flores, Roberto Castro, Peter Uihlein, Danny Lee, John Peterson, Luke List, Bud Cauley
Russell Henley 40-1
Tony Finau 50-1
Billy Horschel 50-1
John Peterson 200-1
Martin Flores 200-1
Roberto Castro 250-1