by Aaron "1-iron" Garry
For those of you who were able to watch the entire final round of the MCI Heritage Classic, I applaud the effort. I'll admit, I even threw back a cocktail of Pepto and Maalox to make it through.
While the epic Clarke versus Lonard dual won't qualify as an ESPN Instant Classic (although I've watched the "Olazabal whiff" over and over again), it will certainly go down in the history books as one of the more entertaining final rounds in recent history. In your best John Facenda voice - "Clarke versus Lonard on the treacherous Harbour Town Golf Links......." If your name is Billy Andrade, Davis Love III, or Jim Furyk - how excited was it watching Darren Clarke's 18th hole meltdown bring you into second place money? I guess it all spends the same.
For all of us who loaded up on Rod Pampling after his fifth place Masters finish, "Ouch." Talk about blowing a very, very hefty payday - for him and us.
Rowdy Rod started Sunday at -6, yes, that's one off the number that proceeded to win the golf tournament. After a birdie at 4, our man bounced up and down like a yo-yo until his 37 on the back nine left him in a tie for sixth, well out of Peter Lonard's tax bracket.
This week we travel to beautiful Houston for the Shell Houston Open.
Last year, a few weeks after making his controversial remarks about Annika Sorenstam, newly minted Hall of Famer Vijay Singh took care of Scott Hoch and the age-less John Huston during a Monday finish to win the $900,000 first prize, and his second Shell Houston Open. After taking last week off to hit 342,000 range balls, the big, bad Fijian is back to defend his title.
So it should come as no surprise that I'm picking Vijay again for the repeat in the Shell Houston Open. With no Tiger, Phil, Ernie, or Retief in the field - this is the first real slam dunk of the year. As Vijay looks for his 3rd Shell Houston Open title, let's look at the picks for the week -
18 Shots for the Shell Houston Open:6 Who Will (Give these guys a hard look for the Win):
1. Vijay Singh - This is 2nd mortgage territory!
2. Jeff Maggert - Lives in Houston (ala Fred Funk at the Players), and consistently finishes high here.
3. Stephen Ames - T4 here last year. T6 at MCI. AND - don't forget about the 11 Top 10's last year.
4. Joe Ogilvie - Nobody's played better without winning this year. Two second place finishes and a solid final round at Harbour Town.
5. Billy Andrade - Where did he come from? Don't worry about it - just ride the hot hand. Four Top 25's in 05.
6. Chad Campbell - Another Texan. Coming off T17 at the Masters. It's time to compete.
6 Who Can (Intriguing):
7. Charles Howell III: Best player nobody's talking about. Fading after the T3 and T2 in Hawaii and SD respectively.
8. Kevin Sutherland: Never count him out. Poor outing at the BellSouth has us wondering.
9. J.L. Lewis: T8 at the Players and we have to take the big hitter seriously.
10. Daniel Chopra: Indian name, from Sweden, lives in Florida with his Australian wife. High finish if he puts it all together.
11. Pat Perez: What a good player. They can't put the camera or microphone on him, but a T4 at the Honda could be a springboard.
12. David Toms: Ranks sixth on the tour in putting, but can't miss the cut at Augusta or shoot 82 (Final Round - Players) and hope to be a force.
6 Who Won't (Steer Clear):
13. Rory Sabbatini: Did someone say Fools Gold? Missed five of his last six cuts.
14. Hal Sutton: Great move putting Phil and Tiger together at the Ryder Cup - Twice. I still haven't forgotten.
15. Kevin Na: WD last week at the MCI with lingering effects from the early season car wreck.
16. Darren Clarke: After a meltdown like last week, I can't see him returning to form until....say....the next conclave.
17. Brad Faxon: six missed cuts and only $280,000 in earnings. He constantly disappoints.
18. Scott Hoch: Plays well at the Shell, but hasn't finished higher then 32nd this year. Time to turn the Tabasco bottle upside down.