An ever-present fixture on the PGA TOUR since the end of the Second World War (it kicked off in style with Byron Nelson pushing Ben Hogan into second palce), the Houston Open has moved around the city from venue to venue for pretty much its entire history. Last year the tournament ventured to new home, Memorial Park Golf Course, and witnessed a first PGA TOUR success for Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. In recent years, the event has found landing a place in the schedule as tricky as finding a long term location. For a while it was a pre-Masters event, now it sits a little awkwardly in the Fall stage of the season. The field is therefore not top grade, but there’s plenty for gamers to sink their teeth into.
Memorial Park Golf Course
An original design of John Bredemus some 90 years ago, this week’s host venue has been updated in recent times by the somewhat unlikely combination of Tom Doak (a respected and rather high-brow architect) and Brooks Koepka (a fine golfer but one who often gives the impression he finds the sport something of an inconvenience).
The track is municipal and that drove the renovation project. On the one hand, Doak wanted to clear the high-density trees to permit a rather less claustrophobic route around the property. On the other hand, Koepka insisted that professionals are superb from sand and that amateurs rarely are; he suggested (and Doak agreed) that only 19 bunkers should remain. If you also factor in that water is in play on only four holes you might expect that the field gobbled it up last year.
As it happens, Oritz triumphed with a 72-hole total of 13-under 267 which represented the toughest winning score to par in a decade of the tournament’s life. The reasons for this were hinted at before the field has teed off.
Koepka himself said: “I know this golf course is quite difficult. It’s quite long. You’ll see some high numbers especially if the wind gets up. It kind of resembles a little bit of a U.S. Open.” Dustin Johnson backed him up, saying: “It’s going to play fairly difficult. It’s a long golf course, you hit a lot of mid to long irons. You don’t get many wedges in your hand out here.”
Once the players had a card in hand, they continued the theme. Adam Scott said: “The course is relentless. It’s just demanding off the tee. It requires something long and straight, and then you must hit the green in the right spot, too.” And Scottie Scheffler added: “The golf course kind of forces you into being patient just because you can’t really miss too many greens. Around the greens out here is very, very difficult to get up and down and you can get into some spots where you start playing ping pong across these greens, it’s brutal.”
The weather forecast for Houston, Texas is good if a little chilly. It could get blustery on Wednesday, but once the tournament starts the prediction is for nothing more than a 10mph breeze (be warned however, it is known as a windy venue so this could change). It will be sunny throughout with temperatures in the low 60s except for Saturday which is forecast to be in the mid 50s. There is very little chance of rain.
Past Champions of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
For the most part the tournament honors board shows plenty of American winners, but it has also been kind to South Africans and golfers who hail from Down Under – there have been many Aussie winners, a Kiwi too and Vijay Singh (Fiji) is a three-time winner. This might be explained by the common thought that the hard turf and blustery winds of Texas resemble golf in those parts of the world.
In addition to Ortiz’s win last year Paul Casey and Ian Poulter are two recent English winners with the American winners in the last ten years quite a mixture: the high class Phil Mickelson in 2011, Ryder Cup competitors Anthony Kim (2010), Hunter Mahan (2012) and J.B. Holmes (2015), the solid Russell Henley (2017), but also outsiders D.A. Points (2013), Jim Herman (2016) and Lanto Griffin (2019).
At Memorial Park it might be worth noting that major winners stacked up behind Ortiz. Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama were tied second, Koepka tied fifth, Jason Day tied seventh.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|B list||M. Leishman||$8,700|
|B list||C. Bezuidenhout||$8,600|
|C list||C. Hoffman||$7,300|
|C list||T. Pendrith||$7,200|
Sam Burns ($11,100) Top salary this week (and the bookmakers fear him too) but with all sorts of good reasons. First up? Form: He’s landed a finish of T–21 or better in nine of his last 10 starts. Secondly? Course form: He finished T–7 last year having led after 36 and 54 holes (he also ranked first for the Strokes Gained Tee to Green). Thirdly? He’s a more confident golfer since this time last year; then, and into early 2021, he was testing the water at the top of leaderboards. Now he has two wins. Finally? He loves Bermuda greens. His two wins have come on them, as did his play-off defeat in the WGC St Jude Invitational.
Marc Leishman ($8,700) Aussies are good in Texas, racking up a double figure total of wins in the 21st century (as it happens, non-Americans have won one in three events in Texas since January 2000). Leishman is worth following when he ventures to an event that is not marquee, or he has a strong record at, because he has a stats man he trusts to point him in the right direction. He’s also just very good in Texas: 34 starts, 28 cuts made, 13 top 20s, nine of them top 10s.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($8,600) The South African continues to plot his way around new courses, apparently playing four rounds of golf at will (he’s gone 13 months without missing a cut) and five of his last seven starts have been top 20s. I also like that he possesses a wonderful short game which has been highlighted (anecdotally at least) as important this week.
Charley Hoffman ($7,300) Another Texas specialist. In fact, Charley’s middle name is probably “cowboy”. He’s played in the state 58 times on the first and second tier, and he’s missed only seven cuts. But he has a top 10 in a quarter of those starts and a top five in one in six appearances. He was T–29 last year and has a pair of top three finishes in Texas in 2021 already.
Taylor Pendrith ($7,200) The Canuck has played three times in Texas, albeit all three on the Korn Ferry Tour, and impressed every time. Last year he was a two-time runner-up at TPC San Antonio, and this year he was outside the top 100 after 18 holes in the Veritex Bank Championship before racing home to land T–15. Since that result he has missed just two cuts in 20 starts.
Lee Westwood ($7,000) On fire early in 2021, when flirting with the lead at Bay Hill and Sawgrass while enjoying a bromance with Bryson DeChambeau, he has since then slumped in form. In fact, 13 strokeplay starts have failed to reap one top 20. His final round scores in 2021 are poor too: He’s broken 72 just three times in 16 tries and has needed 77 blows three times in his last eight Sundays.
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Here’s Another Alternate of Core Picks For The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
|B list||A. Scott||$9,600|
|B list||S. Lowry||$8,200|
|C list||G. Woodland||$7,600|
|C list||C. Ramey||$7,500|
Cameron Smith ($10,200) Another foreign raider and another Aussie. Smith has five top 20s in his last six starts, and 14 top 30 finishes in his 21 calendar year starts. He’s nuggetty, he has the patience for a tough track, will stick to a strategy, and plays well in wind. A simple formula, but one that works for him and could prove very useful this week.
Adam Scott ($9,600) And … repeat. Yup, another Aussie. He’s a major winner and his game (long, strong, good through the bag, smart with the short stick, improved with the putter recently) is a fine fit. He’s a four-time winner in Texas and impressed in three of four rounds when he played this track 12 months ago (finishing T–32).
Shane Lowry ($8,200) The Irishman is a major winner who knows how to play in wind. He also prefers a tougher test to a simple hit and giggle with birdies the one dimensional aim. He ranked fourth for SG Tee to Green when T–11 here last year. Has eight top 30s from his last 10 starts.
Gary Woodland ($7,600) Making his course debut, but he has nice Texas form. He was T–6 in the Texas Open and then T–14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge earlier this season, and his only visit to the state in 2020 reaped another top 10. He found lockdown difficult, lacking the capacity to surround himself with a big team. He’s tried to recreate that with a team based locally to him and it reaped T–9 at the CJ Cup.
Chad Ramey ($7,500) Happy to ride the Ramey wave. He missed the cut in his 2021/22 seasonal opener, but before that he went 38-for-39 on the Korn Ferry Tour to graduate, and since that slip-up he has played four rounds three times on the PGA TOUR. Moreover, he was T–14 when top three through the first 54 holes at the Shriners Children’s Open and then T–17 when top 10 most of the week in the Bermuda Championship. He’s consistent, good, and continues to be an attractive salary.
Emiliano Grillo ($7,300) The Argentinian was in his sweet spot last week. Not just a course he loves, but tight from the tee, by the sea, on grainy greens. And he missed the cut which is very unlike him. But he’s made just two top 25 in his last 40 starts and has broken 72 just twice in his last six laps. Steer clear for a bit.
Recall those words of description from Koepka, Johnson, Scott and Scheffler. They called for long hitting, solid iron (not just wedge) play, excellent short game, good strategy and patience. They are major championship contending qualities and the presence of four major winners in the top 10 (and another two, Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari, in the top 20) has to be worth considering. Also factor in Texas form: It backs up. Golfers frequently love playing in this state – and lots of them are Australian because they recognise the challenge as similar to back home.
Other Player Options For The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
• Talor Gooch continues to impress. He’s opened the 2021/22 season with four finishes of T–11 or better. Trouble is, the salary reflects that.
• Another big-salary-but-performing-like-it golfer is Sungjae Im who has made 11 straight cuts (not counting two non-cut events) and has a win and T–9 for the new season.
• He’s clearly a very fine golfer – and made the top five last week – but incredibly Texan Scottie Scheffler has played nine strokeplay events in Texas and is yet to finish better than T–20.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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