Golf Rankings for Houston Open
The Shell Houston Open boasts a near-elite field as the lead in to the Masters. Yahoo! enters the Spring portion of their game which runs from this week through the U.S. Open in mid-June. Thank goodness for a single event this week as we have more than three choices in Group A.
Group A has five heavy hitters and then a mix of veterans and newly minted PGA Tour winner Tony Finau. In Group B offers a couple of my favorite options this week so I will probably be chalky here as well with one wild card option. Group C is chock full of international options, but I'm going to fade the bigger names in Group C to try to make up some ground in my pools.
The Shell Houston Open has been held at the Golf Club of Houston since 2006 on the Tournament Course. The Humble, Texas course sits just outside of Houston and measures 7,441 yards with a par 72 scorecard. If a golfer wins the SHO this week and hasn't yet qualified for the Masters, he's in! So, there are many golfers playing for that prize as well as the win.
The course is intended to mirror the Masters and the staff at the Golf Club of Houston ensure that is does. However, success at the SHO does not necessarily portend success at the Masters. Just two winners from the Shell Houston Open have finished in the top 15 at the Masters since 2006. Perhaps the difference in greens (bermudagrass here; bent grass at August) leads to that difference.
Let's get to the stats to focus on this week.
Driving Distance (DD): Length off the tee has been useful in the past especially where the rough is less than punitive.
Par 5 Scoring (P5SA): In general on par-72 courses, par 5 scoring becomes important if only because there are more of them. In this instance, some of the tougher holes (especially 18) are par 4s and the par 5s offer a chance to recover from issues on par 4s.
Greens in Regulation (GIR): As we look back over years of data, we see that getting onto the green with a chance to score correlates highly with success at this course.
Par 4 Scoring (P4SA): We'll use par 4 scoring as the tiebreaker as our review of the data shows the winner can take advantage of the scoring opportunities on the tougher par 4s.
I'm focused on 2016 stats now and I'll use 2015 stats as a reference point.
And of course, we examine Strokes Gained: Putting and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green each week.
Finally, a quick look at the weather. This weekend it looks like the weather will be calm which is odd for a tournament held in Texas. There's a slight chance of rain on Thursday, but nothing after that. The wind also looks to be manageable with sustained winds no higher than 10-12 mph during the week.
Henrik Stenson [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #7
Stenson’s streak of made cuts sits at 33 – an incredible streak. He has three top six finishes in five 2016 starts including a T3 at the Arnold Palmer in his last start. He skipped the Match Play last week due to its place on the schedule as Stenson continues to work his way back from knee surgery in early December 2015. The Swede has made the cut in all four starts at the SHO with two top 10 finishes. I expect the week off to serve Stenson well.
Phil Mickelson [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #24
Lefty has five straight top 10 finishes at the SHO a streak he initiated with a win in 2011. Mickelson has finished in the top 30 in five of seven events in 2016 and comes in third in my statistical analysis for the week.
Patrick Reed [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #17
Reed's familiarity with Texas (born there and lives there) and the Southwest in general will be useful this week. Reed put up a T17 last year in only his second trip to the SHO. His profile works outside of his current struggles with the putter (135th in SG:P). He finished last year at 19th in SG:P so I do not see him continuing to fritter strokes away on the greens.
Brooks Koepka [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #10
Koepka looks tailor-made for this course. Having cut his teeth on the European Tour he won’t be concerned about a little wind. The American is ninth in driving distance this year which will allow him to take advantage of the course in his debut here this week.
Sergio Garcia [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #5
Garcia’s profile fits though his putter (168th in SG:P this year) has been worse than normal. He finished solo third two years ago at the SHO, but stumbled to a T37 last year. The tiebreaker for the week shows Sergio in third place in par 4 scoring for a little extra incentive to roster him.
Rickie Fowler [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #9
Fowler rates as the best fit for the course based on his 2016 statistical profile. The OSU grad’s sixth place finish here in 2014 seems out of place surrounded by three other finishes at 63rd or worse. Fowler has finished in the top 10 in five of his seven starts in 2016.
Jordan Spieth [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #6
The Texan looked like he’d found part of his game last week at the Match Play, but it is not all there yet. Spieth says he’s improving, but I want more from him before I use one of 10 starts on him. I could see starting him on the bench this week to have the option to use him if he rounds into form.
Dustin Johnson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #1
DJ is second in my statistical ranking this week, but his record at this course (T4 in 2013, withdrawal in 2014 and two other missed cuts in four starts) makes me hesitate from fully recommending him.
J.B. Holmes [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #50
The defending champ rode an odd four days to a playoff victory last year. He finished first in driving distance, but last in driving accuracy. If his Friday and Saturday rounds (70-73) were his Thursday-Friday rounds, he wouldn’t have made the cut. It was his bookend rounds of 65 on Thursday and 64 on Sunday that allowed him to secure his fourth PGA Tour victory.
Charley Hoffman [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #49
For all of the success Hoffman has had in Texas, he should be named an honorary Texan. Last year, his worst finish at the four Texas events was T11. Charley had back to back top 20 finishes before the Match Play last week where he didn’t make it out of the first round. He’s made nine of nine cuts at the SHO with three top 20 finishes.
Charl Schwartzel [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #19
If you want a chalky South African, then Charl is your man. His profile is slightly better than fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen and he’s made five of six cuts at the SHO with two top 20s. As I noted in the open, I'll probably fade the chalk here in Group C.
Charles Howell III [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #70
CH-III has three top 20s in his last four starts at the SHO. Howell’s profile for the 2016 Tour season fits as he is currently 59th in SG:T2G, 65th in SG:P, 24th in driving distance, 60th in GIR, 30th in par 5 scoring and 34th in par 4 scoring.He makes cuts – it’s what he does. He’s made 19 of his last 20 cuts.