PGA Tour Picks: Shell Houston Open Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/31/2015
We finally have our first two-time winner of the current PGA Tour golf season as Jimmy Walker won in his hometown of San Antonio last week at the Texas Open. Well, technically Walker lives 35 miles away in Bourne, but he grew up attending the Texas Open, so it had to feel sweet.
Walker took a four-shot lead into Sunday and never was much challenged, shooting a final-round 2-under 70 to finish 11-under 277 and beat Jordan Spieth, another Texan, by four shots. Walker's putter was on as he led the field in strokes gained: putting as well as going a cumulative 12-under on the par 5s. Walker, who hadn't played Tour event since the WGC-Cadillac at Doral, also won the Sony Open in January in Hawaii and now leads the PGA Tour with five victories over the past two seasons. Walker played his first 187 events on the Tour without a win. He has now won five times in his last 37 starts. Walker is up to a career-high No. 10 in the world rankings and was originally going to play this week but not surprisingly withdrew.
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Walker has a commanding lead in the FedEx Cup points right now if that sort of thing matters to you. Last season, it took 1,769 points to qualify for the Tour Championship; Walker already has 1,650. Spieth has been playing out of his mind of late and moved up to No. 4 in the world rankings. Over the last five months, he has three wins worldwide and eight Top-10 finishes. The most memorable shot of the Texas Open was nearly the rarest of rare: a hole-in-one on a par 4. Aaron Baddeley did hole out on his drive at the par-4 17th from 336 yards on Thursday. However, that was his second shot because he hooked his first drive into the woods and took an unplayable lie, thus returning to the tee.
I didn't have Walker, who was 20/1 at Bovada to open, as the winner. However, I did get him for a finishing spot under 17.5 as well as at +240 as the highest-placed finisher against Ryan Palmer, Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na. Also hit on Walker at -130 for a Top 20. On Spieth, I collected at -155 for a Top 10 as well as under 8.5 for a finishing spot and -130 head-to-head against Dustin Johnson. Two guys I liked to win were Zach Johnson (T20) and Jim Furyk (T58). I also got Dustin Johnson at -250 for a Top 20, Na (-115) over Harris English and Gary Woodland (-115) over Sean O'Hair. So pretty solid all around.
So the two-event mini-Texas Swing concludes this week at the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston, which will be set up as much as possible to replicate Augusta National. Walker wasn't the only big name who withdrew this week; so did Henrik Stenson, who would have been a favorite as well. I'm sure they are both already in Augusta. There is one spot open for next week's Masters and that goes to the winner here if not already qualified.
The past two years, the guy who won hadn't been eligible for the Masters. The defending champion is Aussie Matt Jones. The finish last year was excellent as Jones drained a 46-foot birdie putt to force a playoff with Matt Kuchar and then holed out from off the green for birdie to beat Kuchar on the same hole. Jones started Sunday six shots out of the lead. That playoff was the 22nd in Houston Open history, trailing only the U.S. Open (33).
In case you are wondering, Tiger Woods isn't playing this week, but it does appear he will at the Masters. Phil Mickelson (25/1) is in Houston.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Houston Open Favorites
No surprise that Spieth is the 8/1 favorite . If this wasn't in Texas, I'm fairly confident he wouldn't be playing, but he badly wants that first one in his native state. Spieth missed the cut here in 2014.
Kuchar is the 10/1 second favorite. What's wrong with Mr. Top 10? He has just two in nine events this season, and his last was in late January. Kuchar did look a little better last week with a T15. Prior to that runner-up here last year he was T8 in his last two trips to Houston.
Patrick Reed (14/1), J.B. Holmes (20/1) and Rickie Fowler (22/1) round out the favorites. Reed has a win in Hawaii to his credit this year and lost in a playoff in that Tampa-area tournament in his last start. Reed missed the cut in 2013 in his only trip to this tournament. Holmes was a runner-up here in 2009, had a T8 in 2012 and T12 last year. I thought Fowler was going to have the type of year Spieth and Walker are. But Fowler has just one Top 10 in six events. He was sixth here a year ago.
PGA Tour Picks: Houston Open Expert Betting Predictions
No Sportsbook.ag finishing positions posted as of this writing. For a Top-10 finish, I like Spieth (-170), Reed (+115), Sergio Garcia (+225) and Holmes (+185). I don't like Lefty for a Top 10 but do a Top 20 (+110). Might was well go with a playoff as the winning margin at +250.
Take Lee Westwood at +188 as the top Englishman and Aaron Baddeley at +350 as the top Aussie. I also like Westwood (+350) as the highest-placed finisher against Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Jason Kokrak and Jones (all +350 as well). Sergio's my guy for top European at +500.
Head-to-head, lean Reed (-120) over Kuchar (-110), Mickelson (-110) over Fowler (-120), Sergio (-130) over Justin Rose (even money), Holmes (-115) over Ryan Moore (-115), and Bradley (-115) over Haas (-115).
I'm taking Sergio at +2500 as the best value to win. He had the 36-hole lead last year on his way to a T3. I actually may throw a few dollars on Lefty at +2500 as well as he won here in 2011 and usually gets his focus back ahead of the Masters.
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