PGA Tour Golf Odds and Predictions: Shell Houston Open
by Alan Matthews - 3/28/2012
I have to say I am rather sad to see the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing end. After not being able to pick a winner in the first three months of the season out west, I was able to get Rory McIlroy winning the Honda Classic at PGA National and then last week Tiger Woods winning Arnold Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill. Not that I can exactly pat myself on the back for picking the two best players in the world to win an event!
This week’s Shell Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club is going to be overshadowed even more than normal. Tiger’s win at Bay Hill was – his first official win since 2009 -- arguably the biggest sporting news of the week, which is saying something with the Tim Tebow trade, New Orleans Saints punishment and NCAA Tournament. Plus, this is the final tournament before golf’s biggest event, next week’s Masters.
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But there are two key things in the Shell Houston Open’s favor: First, the course is designed to simulate what players will face at Augusta next week. The greens at Redstone are fast and firm, along with the slopes around the greens making chipping and scrambling tough. At 7,457 yards, Redstone measures only 32 yards longer than Augusta. Both are par 72s with premiums on hitting greens in regulation, scrambling and scoring on the par 5s. Redstone has ranked as the hardest course on Tour in scrambling from the rough in each of the last three years. And second, this is the final chance for players who don’t have a Masters invite to get into the field with a victory (or getting into the Top 50 of the world rankings).
Three of the world’s best players aren’t here in Tiger, Luke Donald and McIlroy as they prepare for the Masters on their own. But it’s a good field with seven Top-25 players, led by Top-10 guys Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel. And Phil Mickelson is back to defend his 2011 title here. Also playing is Fred Couples, who won last week on the Champions Tour and will be playing in the event that was his last PGA Tour win in 2003.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Shell Houston Open Favorites
Westwood is the 10/1 favorite this week on Bovada (that site will offer live in-round betting on Saturday and Sunday). Westwood is one of those guys who seems to always prefer playing the week before a major. The world No. 3 hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since the 2010 St. Jude Classic – which just so happened to come the week before a major (U.S. Open). But Westwood has two Top-5 finishes on tour this year (one at Match Play) in three stops. This will be Westwood’s sixth time playing this event with a best finish of T8 in 2010.
Mickelson is the 12/1 second-favorite to win. Last year, Mickelson shot 63-65 on the weekend to beat Scott Verplank and Chris Kirk by three strokes (it was Mickelson’s only win of 2011). Lefty went into the 2011 Masters as the guy to beat and the betting favorite to defend there but never broke 70 at Augusta and finished a distant 1-under and T27. For what it’s worth, only five players have won the week before the Masters and then at Augusta and one was Lefty in 2006 at the BellSouth Classic. Since his February win at Pebble Beach and then near-win at Riviera, Mickelson hasn’t been great this year, with finishes of T43 at the Cadillac and T24 last week. Lefty never had a Top-10 finish at this tournament before last year’s victory.
Rounding out the Top-5 favorites are Stricker (14/1), Schwartzel (18/1) and Keegan Bradley (18/1). Stricker has played four events so far this year on the PGA Tour yet owns three Top-10s, including a win at the season-opener. Four of his last five starts at the Shell Houston Open provided finishes of T11 or better, including T4 last year. Schwartzel plays here for the fourth time and has a best finish of T3 two years ago. Bradley has been Mr. Consistent this year, with Top-22 finishes in all eight events. He played this event for the first time last year, finishing T51.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Shell Houston Open Predictions
I loved Ernie Els for a Top-10 finish last week as he fought to get a Masters invite – he hasn’t missed that event since 1993 – and Els finished T4 at Bay Hill. The putter continues to plague Els. Last week he was within striking distance of Tiger but a final-round 75 wasted another opportunity. Els had 32 putts on Sunday. He is 28/1 to win this week and that is somewhat tempting. I would take him at +250 to finish in the Top 10 again (‘no’ is at -350). Only a win gets Els to Augusta and he has yet to have a Top-10 finish in four previous tries here.
I think the best “value” this week is Johnson Wagner at 40/1. He is very quietly having a tremendous season with four Top-10 finishes, including a win at the Sony in Hawaii. And he was T4 last week at Bay Hill. Better still, Wagner won in Houston in 2009 and was T8 the year before. He was T36 a year ago. If you want to really roll the dice, consider Chris Kirk at 100/1. Last year in finishing T2 he was the only player who shot in the 60s all four rounds at this tournament. He has only one Top 10 in seven events this year, however.
My pick, however, is Bradley as he prepares for his first Masters. You can also get him at +165 to finish in the Top 10.