PGA Tour Preview: Last Chance Before the Masters

Last Week

In the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Bubba Watson rolled through 6 of his 7 matches, including a 7 and 6 win over Kevin Kisner in the final. He also defeated Justin Thomas in the semifinals, keeping the defending FedEx Cup champion from rising to No. 1 in the world. Watson's win was his second of the season after a difficult 2016-2017 where he failed to win or even challenge for a title.

The course was an entertaining one for match play, which resulted in a final between the 32nd- and 35th-seeded players. As I indicated in the preview piece for the tournament, match play produces unpredictable results as evidenced by a round of 16 with only two of the top 10 seeds in action. Top seed Dustin Johnson and third seed Jon Rahm failed to win a match in the group stage that consisted of three matches for each player. The performance by Watson and the semifinal appearance by Thomas put them into the short list of favorites to win at Augusta next week.

This Week

The Houston Open Humble, Texas
Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone Golf Glub), Tournament Course - Par 72

History

The Houston Open began in 1946 and was played at a number of locations until 2003 when it arrived at Redstone Golf Club, renamed the Golf Club of Houston in late 2013. Since 2007, the tournament has been the last chance for players still not eligible for the Masters to gain entry to Augusta by winning the Houston Open. That, combined with it being the last chance for those already in the Masters to tune up for the season's first major, contribute to a generally strong field.

In recent years, the tournament has produced winners that have included Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes, and Russell Henley. The player with the most wins at the Houston Open is Curtis Strange, a three-time winner of the event. Other major champions with wins in Houston include Byron Nelson, Cary Middlecoff, Jack Burke, Jr., Arnold Palmer, Bobby Nichols, Hubert Green, Gary Player, David Graham, Raymond Floyd, Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, and Adam Scott.

What to Look For

The strength of the field and the urgency to win to gain entry to the Masters will most likely create a very competitive environment. Ricky Fowler and Henrik Stenson, who skipped last week's match play event, will be joined by Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Luke List, and Alex Noren to give us quite a prequel to next week's first major. Some players like to play their way into the majors, while others, particularly Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, choose to prepare in a different way.

Watching Alex Noren, who was two or three made putts from getting to the final last week, I have to like his chances this week in Houston. Rose has been as consistently strong as anyone this season, Mickelson is resurgent at age 47, and it's the time of year for Spieth to round into form. For a seemingly forgotten spot on the PGA Tour schedule, this tournament has the potential to be one of the more compelling stories of the year, especially with players like Steve Stricker and Ian Poulter attempting to play their way into the Masters.

Kevin Krest is the author of the entertaining PK Frazier series of sports suspense novels and the co-host of the weekly "The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports" broadcast. His books can be found on Amazon.com.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site