Before we get the best week of the golf season, The Tour heads to Houston, Texas for The 2018 Shell Houston Open. It is held at The Golf Club of Houston, which is a par 72, that comes in at 7,441 yards in length. Russell Henley won this PGA stop last season, shooting -20 for the week. Short and long players can succeed here and it isn’t a must to find the fairway, but you must be accurate enough to avoid all the water on this course. Finding the putting surface, as it is with any course, is crucial, with four of the last five champs ranking T10 or better in GIR during their wins. Golfers will tend to club down on most of these holes, naturally making every player more accurate off the tee.
So, not only will I be looking for players who are hitting greens at a high rate right now, but I think finding strong ball strikers is a smart move, as “ball striking” combines driving and approach stats. The par fives will be their best chances to convert birdies and eagles, and are important, but par four scoring has been more significant over the last five years. All of the last five winners have ranked inside the top five in par four scoring in their wins, with three of them leading the field in this category. Finally, I think it’s worth noting that four of these five golfers have shot five or less bogeys in their victories, putting some weight on bogey avoidance. This is a dramatically better field of players compared to last week’s standard PGA event, The Corales Puntacana, but it is still a relatively weak field overall that is top heavy and those big names up top will be mostly focusing on the perfecting their game in advance of next week’s first major of the season, The Masters. But for the lower end guys who have yet to gain an invite to The Masters, a win would send them to Augusta National to compete for a green jacket next week. All in all, I believe it is a better tournament to play a lighter amount of your bankroll and to focus more on GPPs and Millionaire Maker Satellites, with The Masters only one week away. @Hunta512.
Sean O’Hair: (7,200) Right now, O’Hair is playing his best golf of the season. He is coming off a T12 at The Valspar Championship and a T7 two weeks ago at The Arnold Palmer Invitational. Before this, his best finish of the season was a T50 at The Career Builder Challenge. Over these last two starts, his stats have been impressive, ranking 3rd in SGT2G, 46th in SGAPP, 32nd in GIR, 12th ball striking, 2nd in par five scoring, 3rd in par five scoring, 7th in BOB%, 13th in bogeys avoided, and 66th in SGP. (via Fantasy National) This is going to be his sixth time playing in Houston and if exclude two withdrawals, O’Hair 3/3 here in made cuts, including a T10 in 2016.
His iron play isn’t perfect right now, sitting at a 64.6% GIR in these last two events, but this number should rise this week, with these greens being much larger than ones he faced in these two Florida stops. His par four and par five scoring couldn’t be much better at the moment and if he keeps this up he has a nice chance of making his third consecutive cut The Golf Club of Houston. (2-4% projected ownership via Fantasy Labs)
James Hahn: (7,100) Given how weak the bottom half of this field is, I think there is no way Hahn should be this cheap. He has yet to miss a cut this season and has three top 30s in his last four starts. He has been a great tee to green player in his last two starts, ranking 4th in SGT2G, 9th in SGAPP, and 14th in ball striking when comparing all of these golfers last 12 rounds of golf. Furthermore, he ranks 36th in GIR, 37th in BOB%, 36th in bogeys avoided, 19th in par five scoring, and 54th in SGP during this time. (via Fantasy National) He struggled on the par fours at Bay Hill for The Arnold Palmer Invitational in his last start, but for the season he has been solid, ranking 36th in par four efficiency. (via Fantasy National)
He lacks high finishes at The Shell, but he is 3/4 in made cuts overall for his career. He is very mispriced considering his 80/1 odds to win this week, which are the same odds as a player like Bud Cauley, who cost $1,100 more than Hahn on DraftKings. (via Bovada) The bottom line is no player who has made eight straight cuts should be only $7,100 at a venue he has decent success at. He should make it to the weekend and I believe Hahn is one of the best values available this week.
Jamie Lovemark: (7,300) Lovemark is always a scary player to roster, but he has found some consistency as of late, making five consecutive cuts. In this span he has two quality finishes, with a T7 at The Honda Classic and a T16 at The Valspar Championship. During this five tournaments he ranks 11th in SGT2G, 9th in SG APP, 65th in greens hit, 25th in ball striking, 31st in BOB%, 13th in bogeys avoided, 71st in par four scoring, 32nd in par five scoring, and 41st in SGP. (via Fantasy National) If you don’t include his withdrawal in his first time playing at a Shell Houston Open back in 2011, he has made the cut in this event three out of four tries, with a T18 just two years ago.
Just like with Hahn, Lovemark stands out as a strong value based on his Vegas odds, with him currently at 60/1 to take home the big check this Sunday. Finally, it’s worth mentioning, just like many players in this field, Lovemark has yet to qualify for The Masters and if he could somehow win this weekend in Hosuton, he would gain himself invite to next week’s major. I am not saying he is going to win, but this is clearly on his mind, making Lovemark a worthwhile risk at this low of a price.
Also Consider: Dylan Frittelli (he has never played in this event as a pro, but he went to The University of Texas, so I am sure he knows this course well and would love to post a high finish in front of this crowd. His Vegas odds are also great for a first timer, with 55/1 odds to win), Chez Reavie (before his MC at The Valspar, this man had made 11 straight cuts. He is 5/8 at The Shell and is a player that may go under owned because he missed the cut in his last start), Chris Kirk (3/3 at The Golf Club of Houston and is coming off a T13 at The Arnold Palmer Invitational), Kelly Kraft (four straight made cuts and is the number one ranked player in bogey avoidance when comparing all these golfers last 12 rounds of golf), Jhonattan Vegas (four straight made cuts here, with top 20s the last two years), Dominic Bozzelli (has finished inside the top 30 in his last three starts and is the second best par four player over his 12 rounds), and Scott Piercy. (never missed a cut at this event, including three top 25s. He also ranks 1st in SGAPP, 5th in SGT2G, and 5th in ball striking during his last three events)