Houston Open betting overview and market
It's a much stronger field than I expected at the Houston Open and seven of the top contenders for Augusta have chosen to get their competitive juices flowing in the lead up to the season's first major. The test at the Golf Club of Houston, as always, is set up very similarly to Augusta and I always think those that choose to play have an edge for The Masters. Rory McIlroy take note. This event has seen some lesser names take the trophy in recent years, with the likes of DA Points - who won in Puerto Rico last week - winning in 2013, while Matt Jones and defending champ Jim Herman have also prevailed since.
The market was originally led by golfing phenomenon Dustin Johnson, who has now won his last three events, including back-to-back WGC Championships, and he has all four WGC trophies under his belt - a feat not even Tiger has managed. Dustin is tired though and following an interview after his matchplay win where he was unsure if he'd commit to Houston, he has now officially withdrawn from the event. This leaves home man Jordan Spieth as the outstanding favourite at 7.00. Spieth lost a playoff here in 2015. Up and coming superstar and solid Masters contender Jon Rahm - 11.00 - may also be mentally tired after a long week that ended with a disappointing display against DJ in the matchplay final. Course specialist and former winner Phil Mickelson is always popular in the betting here.
The course - Golf Club Of Houston - Par 72, 7,441 yards
The Golf Club Of Houston incorporates large undulating greens with run offs that play fast and firm just like Augusta. Greens are usually prepped to around 13 on the stimp. Like Augusta, there's little rough along fairways and around the greens. Balls tend to run off the surfaces into hazards mainly in the shape of bunkers, so strong sand and short games are required - perhaps one of the reasons why Phil Mickelson - 23.00 - thrives here.
There's a lot of water in play in Houston, albeit fairways are generous. You have to miss on the right side from the markers as JB Holmes - 36.00 - did when winning in 2015 while close to the bottom of the driving accuracy stats. He carried many of the strategically placed fairway bunkers. Tony Finau - 41.00 - talks about liking the extra room in the landing areas. The premium though is on proximity to the hole with the irons and it's really a second shot course. Some pin positions are very tough on the tiered surfaces so pins can be hard to get close to with the dreaded short side lurking for the brave or stupid. 5-10' feet putts left for par are a theme in Houston, just as they will be next week at The Masters. There's a strong finish here from 16 through to the watery 18th so don't count your chickens.
Houston Open best bets
Adam Scott - 26.00 or 6.00 - jumps out here amongst the market leaders. Scotty has yet to reach top form this season and is a little under the radar but he actually closed 68 - 68 last time out at the WGC Mexico. The Golf club of Houston is one of Scott's favourite venues, despite not having teed it up here for a few years. Adam won the event back in 2007 and returned to shoot -9 (63) - which is still currently the joint course record - on day 1 the following year but then fell foul to illness. He was 14th on his only appearance since in 2010. On a predominantly second shot course, it's no coincidence Scott likes the track having led both strokes gained tee to green and stroked gained approach last season. He currently sits 15th in greens in regulation in 2017.
It's Charley Hoffman - 51.00 or 11.00 - who has shot the most rounds in the sixties at the Houston Open. Indeed Charley was the first round leader here last year off the back of an opening 64 and has never missed a 36-hole cut here. Hoffman comes to the event off a top 4 at Genesis and a 2nd place finish at Bay Hill. The American has a great record in Texas - possibly because of his ball striking skills (32nd in strokes gained tee to green) and control in Texas winds. He owns a win at the Valero last year, further 2nd and 3rd places there, a runner up at the Byron Nelson, and his form in Houston reads: 33 - 11 - 37 - 20 - MDF - 24 - DNS - 52 - 6 - 31 - 21. Last year Hoffman talked about the track fitting his eye and about the aforementioned importance of missing tee shots on the wrong side, so his course knowledge and management should stand him in good stead.
The man underneath the radar this week is another with some strong form in Texas. Cameron Tringale - 126.0 or 23.00 - is a fine wind exponent. He has some strong form at the Valero and in this event he owns two top 5s, a further top 10 and another top 20 in 6 appearances. I've been watching his progress since he recorded a top 10 at the Genesis Open, and he's been simmering over the last month or so. Last week shows a T44 in Puerto Rico but he threatened numerous times to take off. Tringale's game looks in good shape and about to hit first gear. He's been working on his wedges on the range with the help of some laser technology and his price is big in Houston for a course horse.