The Shell Houston Open returned to it's normal spot preceding the Masters last year and once again the players will have the ideal prep for Augusta next week. The Golf Club Of Houston, or Redstone GC if you prefer, will simulate and mimic expected Augusta conditions as always so there is no better preparation for The Masters than teeing it up here.
No surprise then that a large amount of marquee names have chosen to fine tune their games in Texas and a strong field is taking shape. Henrik Stenson has withdrawn so leading the market alongside Jordan Spieth - 10.00 - Is Jimmy Walker, fresh off the back of yet another PGA Tour victory and he trades at 12.00.
There is one more golden ticket to Augusta available for this week's winner provided he's not already exempt.
The course - Golf Club Of Houston
Playing a very similar 7,440 yards par 72 to Augusta, the first thing to note here is the extra room for manoeuvre off the tee. Tee shots are forgiving and bombers have strong pedigree here. The greens ala Augusta are very large, fast, firm and undulating. The premium is on proximity to the hole with the irons. Wide approaches leave tough up and downs or drop you in three putt territory. Par putts then from 5-10 ft are a factor here just as they are at Augusta. Water does feature at the Golf Club Of Houston for overly wayward drives but this is a course that can be over powered by the bombers.
Three from the pack
Step up JB Holmes - 26.00. JB has his old physique and his old game back after health problems. Holmes this year has reduced extremely tough courses such as Doral and Torrey Pines South to timid tracks with his absolute brute power off the tee. JB ranks third in driving distance (all drives) and 5th in birdies in 2015. Looking at a form line here of 12-8-42-2, I expect it may be more of the same this week for big hitting Holmes.
Jason Kokrak - 46.00 - is another in the mould of JB Holmes, ranking 12th in driving distance on tour this year. Jason isn't half bad in the short game department either, lying 30th in scrambling and he's been somewhere between simmering and coming to the boil the last two weeks. Mediocre putting at key times cost him a run at victory at both Bay Hill and TPC San Antonio so it's all about the flat stick for him at the Shell. Kokrak also has happy memories of Redstone as he was bang in contion in 2013 when -4 through nine holes in his final round. Jason is a birdie machine sitting 2nd in total birdies made and should be a factor here.
Rookie Dan Berger - 67.00 - sits 11th in total driving and makes birdies in bunches. He is a very aggressive young streaky player who could thrive at Redstone. Also 11th in ball striking, and 5th in total birdies made, Berger came oh so close to that coveted maiden win in his fledgling career at the Honda. Berger hasn't let that loss get to him as he's been hanging around and posted a T13 at Bay Hill. Horses for courses and Dan looks a fit this week.
DA Points - 251.00 - has been sneaking into form of late with a top 30 at Riviera and a top 20 at Bay Hill. A disaster in round one hurricane winds at the Valero can be written off and indeed he managed to bounce back with a 68 in R2. Points was the winner here in 2015 eclipsing Stenson and he opened with a 64 to take the first round lead in the process.