PGA Tour Picks: Shell Houston Open Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/2/2014
What would a Masters be like without both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson? The huge news this week was that Tiger would be forced to skip Augusta after undergoing back surgery. It's fair to say his availability for the U.S. Open also is in jeopardy, and maybe he decides to just take the rest of the year off to get fully healthy.
Tiger was never going to play at this week's final Masters tune-up, the Shell Houston Open. Phil Mickelson is supposed to as of this writing. However, that's no sure thing. Lefty had to withdraw after 10 holes of his third round last week in San Antonio with a strained oblique muscle. He did not play in Wednesday's pro-am at the Houston Open, either, so his chances of teeing off Thursday is tenuous. PGA players can skip two pro-ams a season without an injury reason, so maybe Mickelson just didn't want to play in that. It's the second straight year he has pulled out of the pro-am in Houston. Mickelson is due for a 8:50 a.m. ET tee time Thursday, and he is to play with Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.
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As usual, I want to quickly look back at last week's tournament, the Valero Texas Open, yet another failure on my part. I'm certainly getting tired of these fairly no-name players winning on the PGA Tour this year. Australia's Steven Bowditch was the latest, taking home the Texas Open by a shot over Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays, not exactly a powerhouse leader board. Bowditch managed to hold on despite a final-round 76, the highest final-round score by a winner since Vijay Singh at the 2004 PGA Championship. It was Bowditch's first Tour win, and he'll now play in the Masters. Honestly, this is why it's often best to wager on Top-10 finishes or head-to-head than an actual winner, but I'll keep picking them.
The one thing I did right last week was recommend against Mickelson on every prop or head-to-head, and obviously that paid off with his WD. He hasn't played well at all this year. I went with Freddie Jacobson to win at 28/1, and he finished T16. On the Top-10 props, I hit on Matt Kuchar at +145 as he finished T4. He was tied with Bowditch through nine holes on Sunday before Kuchar went off the rails. I just missed on Charley Hoffman (+220) for a Top-10 as he finished T11. Head-to-head I hit on Kuchar (-115) over Jordan Spieth (-115). I also recommended Jacobson as the top European, and that paid 11/4.
The Shell Houston Open is the last chance for five players to earn a Masters invite, and they have to win: Padraig Harrington, Charles Howell III, Geoff Ogilvy, Ryo Ishikawa and Matt Jones. Harrington, a three-time major champion, has played the Masters every year since 2000. Howell III is from Augusta.
This course used to be called Redstone but was sold and renamed the Golf Club of Houston. It's still the same track, and it's designed and set up to as best replicate Augusta as possible. Thus, there's a pretty good field for being the week before a major, with 23 of the world's Top 50 scheduled to tee off. A total of 46 players who are eligible for the Masters as of now are playing this week. D.A. Points is the defending champion. He closed with a final-round 6-under 66 and drained a putt from about 12 feet on No. 18 to avoid a playoff with Henrik Stenson and Billy Horschel. The final round was delayed a while by storms.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Shell Houston Open Favorites
Rory McIlroy is the 9/1 favorite at Bovada . I'm not sure why, at least with his history at this tournament. He has never contended in three trips and was T45 a year ago. That said, McIlroy does have two runner-up finishes this season around the world and the golf marquee is his to take again with Woods down for the count.
Dustin Johnson is 14/1 . He has been terrific in all five of his stroke-play events in the new season and was T4 at this tournament a year ago. DJ leads the Tour in GIR and scoring average. Stenson is 16/1. He looks to be getting back to form with a fifth at Bay Hill in his last start. And he had that runner-up here in 2013.
Spieth, Bradley, Kuchar, Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are all at 22/1. I don't like Mickelson again this week if he even plays. Bradley was T4 here in 2012 and T10 a year ago. Garcia is really playing well but hasn't played in Houston since 2009. Kuchar is simply Mr. Top 10 wherever he plays.
PGA Tour Picks: Shell Houston Open Predictions
On the Top-10 props, I like Johnson (+120), Stenson (+135), Bradley (+165), Hunter Mahan (+200) and will roll the dice on Steve Stricker (+325). He has barely played this year and not well but is one of three players with at least three Top-10s at this tournament since 2006. Take Ogilvy as the top Aussie (7/2) as he makes a push to get a Masters ticket. Also like Brian Davis as the +600 long shot to be the top English player. He was T4 here in 2012 and T6 last year. Head-to-head, go with Stenson (+155) over McIlroy (-200) and Johnson (+145) over McIlroy (-185). Anyone against Mickelson. Stricker (-115) over Chris Kirk (-115).
I'll cut to the chase on my winner. Going with past results at a tournament hasn't paid off yet, but I'm still holding onto my faith in that regard. So I like Hunter Mahan at 28/1. He's either going to contend or stink -- that's his history in Houston. Yes, he missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer last but he has four Top-10s here since 2006, including a win in 2012.
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