So I think I'm going to place a futures wager on an Australian winning a gold medal at this summer's Rio Olympics. Right now, Aussies own the golf world following Jason Day's win at the WGC-Match Play on Sunday, his second straight PGA Tour victory this season and the fourth in the past five tournaments by an Aussie -- Adam Scott went back-to-back a few weeks ago in Florida.
Day actually tweaked a back injury during his first-round group match with Graeme McDowell on Wednesday in Austin and some members of his entourage told Day he should withdraw and heal up for the Masters. Smart thinking in one way as the Match Play is the most grueling tournament in golf if you make the finals as you play seven rounds over five days. But Day kept playing and won the event, routing Louis Oosthuizen 5 and 4 in the final. Day had beaten Rory McIlroy 1 up in a star-studded semifinal earlier Sunday.
It was his Day's second Match Play title in three years -- at a different course -- and got him back to No. 1 in the world, replacing Jordan Spieth. Day won his group stage matches against McDowell, Thongchai Jaidee and Paul Casey. He then beat Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka on Saturday. It was Day's seventh win in his past 26 PGA Tour starts; he had two in his first 151. McIlroy beat Rafa Carbrera Bello in the consolation match Sunday.
I generally stuck to group winners and such last week but went with Casey to win the event; obviously I wasn't high on Day after winning in Orlando the previous week. Casey flopped, going just 0-2-1 in group play. I did get Dustin Johnson at +138 to win his group and Oosthuizen at +150 in his. My top American finisher pick was Johnson at +1100: 11 Americans reached the round of 16 - the most since 2002 - but none reached the semifinals. Johnson was knocked out of the quarters by Oosthuizen 2 & 1. So technically Johnson did tie for the best finish by an American with Ryan Moore, Chris Kirk and Brooks Koepka.
In one regard, this is the longest week in golf because the Masters can't get here soon enough and of course that's next week. But first the Tour moves to Texas for the Houston Open and a course setup at the Golf Club of Houston that's supposed to mimic as best as possible those at Augusta National. To no surprise, Day is taking this week off. So is McIlroy, who also says he's not playing the Masters Par 3 Contest if you care about such things.
It's still a pretty good field with six of the world's Top 11. The final spot in the Masters field awaits the winner if not already qualified. The last time a player took advantage of that was Matt Jones in 2014. Only Sandy Lyle in 1988 and Phil Mickelson in 2006 have won the week prior the Masters and then taken the green jacket.
The defending champion is J.B. Holmes. He beat Spieth and Johnson Wagner in a playoff. Holmes birdied the first five holes and nine of the first 12 on Sunday after starting the day six shots back of Spieth. Holmes, whose 64 was the low round Sunday, won the second playoff hole. Spieth was knocked out on the first extra hole. Holmes is +2500 at Bovada to repeat. The last guy to go back-to-back here was Vijay Singh 2004-05.
Golf Odds: Houston Open Favorites
Spieth is the heavy +600 favorite and he said he thought not being No. 1 for the Masters might actually be a good thing. Spieth, a Texas native, hasn't played great since winning the Hyundai event in Hawaii but was credited with for a tie for ninth last week, his first Top 10 since he was runner-up in the Singapore Open two months ago. Spieth had that runner-up here last year but didn't do well in his previous two trips to Houston.
Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Johnson at all +1200. Stenson skipped last week and that could be an advantage. He nearly won the week before at Bay Hill and was runner-up here three years ago. Fowler didn't play great last week and has struggled here in four trips other than a T6 in 2014. Johnson hasn't played here since withdrawing in 2014. He was fourth in 2013.
Mickelson rounds out the favorites at +1600. Lefty likes this course. He won here in 2011 and hasn't finished worse than 17th since 2010.
PGA Tour Picks: Houston Open Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like Stenson (+120), Mickelson (+165) and Patrick Reed (+200). I'm tempted to go Holmes too as he has a very good track record here even outside that win but he's been a bit off this season.
Head-to-head, go Spieth (-150) over Fowler (+115), Stenson (-110) over Johnson (-120), Reed (-110) over Mickelson (-120), Charl Schwartzel (-105) over Oosthuizen (-125), Holmes (-115) over Sergio Garcia (-115), and Koepka (-125) over Jimmy Walker (-105).
I may throw a few dollars on Mickelson to win but my main guy is Reed at +2000. He's a Houston resident who was T17 last year. He also has a Tour-best six Top-10 finishes this season.
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