PGA Tour Picks: Houston Open Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
Is next week's Masters going to be filled with story lines or what? Phil Mickelson is back in form. Tiger Woods is healthy and a betting favorite at Augusta. And two-time champion Bubba Watson looks out of his 2016-17 slump by winning for a second time this season on Sunday at the WGC-Match Play.
Watson's final against Kevin Kisner wasn't very compelling golf as Bubba rolled to a 7 and 6 victory over a fellow former Georgia Bulldog at Austin Country Club. It was the largest margin of victory in the championship final since 2008, when Tiger beat Stewart Cink, 8 and 7 in the then-36-hole final. Watson became just the fifth player to win multiple WGCs and multiple majors. He won the WGC-HSBC Champions in the 2014-15 season.
Watson now has 11 PGA Tour victories, including two in his last four starts after winning the Genesis Open in mid-February at Riviera. In Sunday's semifinal match, Bubba beat Justin Thomas 3 and 2 to deny the current FedEx Cup leader a chance to move to world No. 1 for the first time. Thomas admitted he was thinking about the top ranking. Kisner beat Alex Noren in a terrific 19-hole semifinal with neither player ever leading by more than a single hole.
I went with South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen at +5000 to win and he did get out of a group that included one of the favorites in two-time winner Jason Day, but Oosthuizen was then beaten by Ian Poulter. Speaking of Poulter, he was mistakenly told by a group of reporters that by making it to the quarterfinals against Kisner that he had qualified for the Masters - anyone in the Top 50 of the world rankings after the Match Play gets in. Except, the information was wrong (he needed to reach the semifinals) and Poulter found out about 10 minutes before teeing off. He sure seemed rattled as Poulter was smoked by Kisner 8 and 6 and will not be going to Augusta barring a win this week at the Houston Open.
Four players not otherwise exempt qualified did qualify for the Masters by being inside the Top 50 of the rankings Monday: Cameron Smith, Satoshi Kodaira, Dylan Frittelli and Chez Reavie. That brings the field next week to 87, although reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka is expected to miss because of a wrist injury but has yet to formally withdraw. It would be the smallest Masters field since 1991.
Poulter is among some big names like Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Charles Howell III, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood who only get a spot with a victory at the Golf Club of Houston's Tournament course, a par 72 at 7,441 yards. Houston Open organizers try to simulate Augusta National as much as the can with how they cut the grass, the difficulty of the greens, etc. Still, a lot of big-name players simply don't like competing the week before a major (Tiger, for one, isn't - but then he rarely does before a major).
It's the 12th straight year this is the lead-in tournament to the Masters. In four of the past five years, the winner hadn't already been qualified for the Masters. That includes 2017 winner Russell Henley, who was four shots out of the lead as he teed off Sunday but shot a 7-under 65 and won by three at 20 under over Sunghoon Kang. Henley made 10 birdies in his round and never more than two holes without one. A bogey at No. 18 kept Henley from breaking Mickelson's tournament record at the course.
Golf Odds: Houston Open Favorites
Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are co-Bovada favorites at +1000 - both skipped last week's Match Play, which might actually help. Rose has finished Top 10 in three of his past four PGA Tour events overall. He was 15th here last year. Fowler was last 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has three Top 10s here since 2014, including T3 last year.
Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth and Mickelson are all +1200. Lefty won here at 20 under in 2011. He has finished Top 10 in his past four stroke-play events on Tour this year. Spieth lost in a three-way playoff here in 2015 but then went on to win at Augusta. He missed the cut last year in Houston. Stenson also took last week off and has three Top 3 finishes here since 2009 but hasn't won it yet and did MC last year.
Golf Odds: Houston Open Picks
For a Top 10, I like Stenson (even), Daniel Berger (+225), who has been fifth here two years in a row, and Luke List (+225), who has improved here every year to a third in 2017. For top American, I'll go with Berger at +2000. Top continental European, I like Rafa Cabrera-Bello at +260.
He's also my winning choice at +3000 barely over Berger. RCB did play last week but was eliminated in group play so got the weekend off. Cabrera-Bello was fourth here back in 2016 and was third in his last stroke-play event in Mexico.
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