This week’s PGA Tour event, the Shell Houston Open, is the final stateside tournament prior to the first Major of the season, with players looking to hone their game ahead of the Masters.
What they’ll find at Golf Club of Houston should stand them in good stead for a run at the Green Jacket, as tournament organisers have set up the par 72, 7,441-yard track in similar vein to Augusta.
It helps swell the field in terms of quality, and, like the Masters, players have to make sure they hit greens in regulation, with devilish run-off areas making scrambling difficult – even the best up-and-downers will struggle if they miss the putting surfaces with their approach shots.
Best then, to go with performers who won’t get themselves in trouble, and the golfer who did that more than anyone last season was Henrik Stenson at 16/1.
The Swede become the first player to win the Fedex Cup and the Race to Dubai title in the same year and while his current campaign hasn’t quite gone to plan, there were signs in his latest start that he is ready to resume world domination.
Stenson finished fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational a fortnight ago – his first top five (and indeed top 10) of the year – with a strong display of golf in which he ranked top on the week for both greens in regulation and driving accuracy.
It was the type of controlled play that saw him contend in event after event last autumn and, if his putter hots up this week, we could easily see Stenson return to the winners’ enclosure.
Rory McIlroy is the favourite at 10/1, and I couldn’t put anyone off having a saver on the Masters favourite whose odds for next week will plummet should he win in Houston, but after a three week break the Ulsterman is worth taking on.
Dustin Johnson goes well when fresh and has barely put a foot wrong this season with a win, two seconds, a fourth and a sixth in his last six starts suggesting a new level of consistency for the 14/1 second favourite.
Johnson topped the GIR numbers in the Northern Trust Open in February and looks primed
for a serious challenge this week.
As does Jason Kokrak at 50/1, who battled conditions and last day pin positions better than nearly everyone in Texas with a Sunday 70.
His GIR stats are solid and he can boast a top ten finish at this week’s venue 12 months ago.
My three to follow – Stenson (16/1), D. Johnson (14/1) and Kokrak (50/1).
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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