2018 Houston Open Golf Betting Odds & Picks

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The appetizer before the main course is this week’s Houston Open at Golf Club of Houston on the outskirts of Humble, Texas. This Rees Jones design has drawn a lot of praise for its ability to recreate a lot of the elements in play next week at Augusta National for the Masters, so quite a few big names are on hand to smooth out the rough edges of their games in advance of the first major of the season.

Only six of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are taking the opportunity to play this course in anticipation for next week, but we still have a quality field on hand. The winner of this tournament will have a berth in the Masters if he does not already have one, so that is on the line for those that still need to qualify. Also, this is a standard FedEx Cup points event, so a good chunk of change and some important standings points are on hand.

The Tournament Course at Golf Club of Houston measures 7,440 yards and is a par 72 with a lot of natural lakes and wetlands, which help to imitate some of the features of Augusta. This obviously isn’t Augusta, as Russell Henley won last year at 20-under, a score that has never been posted in the Masters, but Henley’s 20-under was the first since Phil Mickelson back in 2011. A lot of the fairways are lined by water and errant approach shots are going to find bunkers on a lot of the holes. This is the second straight event with a lot of big putting surfaces, so that merits watching.

This is usually a tightly-contested affair. Per Jeff Shain of PGATour.com, this event has gone to a playoff 23 times in 72 editions. The fact that we tend to get drama on Sunday will be helpful for ratings because Jordan Spieth is the only one of the Big Four in play. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm are out. Tiger Woods is also sitting this one out. Still, we have a quality field as we look ahead to this weekend’s Houston Open, the first not to be sponsored by Shell since 1991.

Co-favorites top the odds board this week at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler both come in at +1000. Neither player has won here before. After skipping the 2016 version, Rose finished 15th last year at 7-under. He opened with a 67, which was three shots off of the Round 1 lead, but Rose shot 71-73-70 the rest of the way. He has been in terrific form this season. He was third at the Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill a couple weeks ago and fifth at the Valspar the week prior. He did not play last week’s WGC-Dell Match Play event.

Rickie Fowler was also idle last week. Fowler’s disappointing 74 finish at Bay Hill that pushed him out of the top 10 is a memory he’d certainly like to forget in short order. Fowler has missed the cut in two of his last five events and doesn’t have a top-10 in that span, so he is not in the best form. He does, however, have three top-10 finishes in his last four starts in the Houston Open. He shot 69-69 to open the 2015 event, but shot 76-77 to finish last among those that made the cut. So he has played some excellent rounds here and is looking to get back on track. If you’re picking between the favorites, you have to decide between recent form and course form, which is a tough call.

Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth are both +1100 on the board. Mickelson went 2-1 in the Match Play event, but didn’t qualify for the final 16. That meant that he was done on Friday, but got his work in and played well. He had a run of top-20 finishes at GC of Houston stopped last year when he finished tied for 55th, but Phil is certainly in different form right now than we have seen recently. With that win in his back pocket at the WGC-Mexico, that pressure is off to end the very long drought. He can play free and easy now.

Spieth also went 2-1 last week at Austin Country Club, but failed to make the Round of 16. But, he played fairly well and is a solid player to back this week despite last year’s MC. Spieth was the runner-up here in 2015 when he lost to JB Holmes in a playoff. We know how well Spieth plays at Augusta, with a win and two runner-up finishes. The Dallas native would certainly love to get another one of these Texas events, with the Dean & DeLuca as his only title in his home state.

Henrik Stenson seems to be a popular play at +1200 this week. There is a big drop after Stenson to Daniel Berger and Luke List, both at 25/1. Reigning champion Russell Henley is 28/1. Some longer shots have won this event, like Henley last year, Jim Herman in 2016, JB Holmes in 2015, Matt Jones in 2014, DA Points in 2013, and Hunter Mahan in 2012. In fact, four of the last five winners at the Houston Open did not have a spot secured at Augusta National for the Masters the following week.

With that in mind, looking down the board a little bit may be the way to go. Somebody like Bud Cauley at +7000, who is not in the Augusta field as of yet. Corey Conners, who played well again in Punta Cana at the Corales Championship, is +12500 and one of the Tour’s top drivers so far this season. Amazingly, Brandt Snedeker doesn’t have a spot at Augusta, so his +7000 price tag is rather interesting. He’s had some good rounds this year, but hasn’t put it all together. Keegan Bradley has a couple of top-15 finishes recently in the Houston Open and is another guy without a spot in the Masters. He is +5000.

Coverage of the Houston Open will be on Golf Channel and NBC this week.

Odds as of March 26, 8 p.m. ET:

Justin Rose +1000

Rickie Fowler +1000

Phil Mickelson +1100

Jordan Spieth +1100

Henrik Stenson +1200

Daniel Berger +2500

Luke List +2500

Russell Henley +2800

Rafa Cabrera-Bello +3000

Tony Finau +3300

Matt Kuchar +3300

Byeong Hun An +4000

Steve Stricker +4000

Charles Howell III +4500

Jason Dufner +5000

Emiliano Grillo +5000

Keegan Bradley +5000

Thomas Pieters +5000

Jamie Lovemark +5500

Jason Kokrak +6000

J.B. Holmes +6600

Chez Reavie +6600

Bill Haas +6600

Brandt Snedeker +7000

Chris Kirk +7000

Bud Cauley +7000

Patrick Rodgers +7000

Sean O’Hair +7000

Shubhankar Sharma +7000

Russell Knox +7000

Ryan Palmer +8000

Ian Poulter +8000

James Hahn +8000

Kelly Kraft +8000

Harris English +8000

Scott Piercy +8500

Brice Garnett +9000

Jhonattan Vegas +9500

Lucas Glover +10000

Martin Kaymer +10000

Rory Sabbatini +10000

Peter Uihlein +10000

Seungsu Han +10000

William McGirt +10000

Kevin Streelman +11000

Lee Westwood +12500

John Huh +12500

Nick Watney +12500

Grayson Murray +12500

Chesson Hadley +12500

Corey Conners +12500

Brandon Harkins +12500

Aaron Wise +12500

Scott Stallings +12500

Shane Lowry +12500

Seamus Power +15000

Sam Saunders +15000

Sung Kang +15000

Tom Lovelady +15000

Aaron Baddeley +15000

C.T. Pan +15000

Beau Hossler +15000

Dominic Bozzelli +15000

Matt Jones +15000

Keith Mitchell +15000

Kevin Tway +17500

Michael Kim +17500

Michael Thompson +18000

Martin Flores +20000

Johnson Wagner +20000

K.J. Choi +20000

Chad Campbell +20000

Chris Stroud +20000

Hunter Mahan +20000

Cameron Tringale +20000

Abraham Ancer +20000

Adam Schenk +20000

Troy Merritt +20000

Talor Gooch +20000

Ryan Armour +20000

Ryan Blaum +20000

Tyrone Van Aswegen +20000

Robert Garrigus +22000

Retief Goosen +22500

Ben Crane +22500

Andrew Putnam +22500

Blayne Barber +22500

Harold Varner III +22500

Jonas Blixt +22500

Nate Lashley +25000

Derek Fathauer +25000

Nick Taylor +25000

Tom Hoge +25000

Scott Brown +25000

Shawn Stefani +25000

Xinjun Zhang +25000

Yuta Ikeda +27500

Bronson Burgoon +27500

Geoff Ogilvy +27500

Joel Dahmen +27500

Padraig Harrington +27500

Jonathan Byrd +27500

Lanto Griffin +27500

Camilo Villegas +27500

Alex Cejka +27500

Brian Stuard +30000

Ben Silverman +30000

Mackenzie Hughes +30000

Matt Every +30000

Ernie Els +30000

Danny Lee +30000

Rod Pampling +30000

Rob Oppenheim +32000

Stephan Jaeger +33000

Bob Estes +33000

Fabian Gomez +35000

Martin Piller +35000

Nicholas Lindheim +35000

Jonathan Randolph +35000

Tyler Duncan +35000

Richy Werenski +35000

Robert Streb +35000

Roberto Diaz +35000

Whee Kim +35000

J.J. Henry +45000

Ethan Tracy +50000

Greg Chalmers +50000

D.A. Points +50000

Cody Gribble +50000

Jon Curran +50000

Peter Malnati +50000

Brett Stegmaier +50000

Andrew Loupe +55000

Smylie Kaufman +55000

J.J. Wood +65000

Bobby Gates +75000

 

 

-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-

 

Players have different motivations this week at the Shell Houston Open. Clearly everybody in the field wants to win to some degree, but the Golf Club of Houston is the lead-in event to Masters, which is nice because there are some similarities to the course at Augusta National. That means some players could go with a little bit of a trial and error approach to see what works for them.

Because of the similarities to Augusta, we’ve got a pretty strong field this week. Dustin Johnson pulled out of the event after a long run last week at the WGC-Dell Match Play event. Jason Day is still with his sick mother in her battle against cancer. Rory McIlroy is out. But, even with some of those big names missing, including Hideki Matsuyama, this field doesn’t lack star power. Native Texan Jordan Spieth tops the odds board, with Jon Rahm, fresh off of a stellar performance in the Match Play, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, and a host of others ready to tee it up at the Golf Club of Houston. This is the final year that Shell will sponsor the event, which has been played under their logo since 1992.

This is a really tough course for a lot of different reasons. For starters, it is a long course at 7,441 yards with a par of 72. For another, the course winds through lakes and wetlands, so there are a lot of water hazards to contend with that will swallow up errant tee shots. This course features a lot of hills and valleys on the fairways, so players may have some really difficult lies to deal with as well. Accuracy off the tee is essential with the hazards and a lot of holes that have some dogleg bend to the fairways. Players tend to shoot pretty well here overall, as the winning scores over the last five years are either 15-under or 16-under, but this is definitely the right type of challenge heading into Augusta next week for golf’s most iconic event in the United States.

I mentioned motivations right away in this article. That’s because one of the big motivations is that the players that do not have a spot at Augusta can win one this week. Reigning champion Jim Herman did exactly that last year. Matt Jones and DA Points did the exact same thing in 2015 and 2014, respectively. It might be wise to take a stab on somebody that hasn’t gained entry to the Masters as of yet.

The favorite this week from 5Dimes Sportsbook is Jordan Spieth at +625. Spieth was the runner-up in this tournament back in 2015 when JB Holmes navigated his way through a playoff that also featured Johnson Wagner. Spieth has kept a low profile this month. He was 12th at the WGC-Mexico Championship, his only stroke play event in March. He was bounced from last week’s Dell Match Play early, which is probably a good thing given the upcoming schedule. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year to culminate a little streak of top-10 finishes. He tied for 13th last year at Golf Club of Houston and missed the cut in 2014. As the most recognizable name in the field and a native Texan, it isn’t a big surprise to see him at the top of the board this week.

Jon Rahm is a tough guy to take this week. We saw Rafael Cabrera-Bello go on a Rahm-like run last year in the Dell Match Play and he carried it right on over to the Shell Houston Open with a fourth-place finish. At a price point like +1000, the value is definitely not there, but Rahm’s talent is undeniable. Like Cabrera-Bello, this will be Rahm’s first start at GCH, so the stage if set for Rahm to follow a similar path. Unlike Cabrera-Bello, though, Rahm already had a Masters berth locked up heading into the Match Play event because he won the Farmers Insurance Open. RCB needed that Match Play run to get in. Nevertheless, Rahm now has three top-five finishes in his last three events and four in his last five. The 22-year-old is definitely a force to be reckoned with the rest of the season.

Henrik Stenson has played extremely well at the Shell Houston Open in his career. The standout Swede finished second last year, one shot behind winner Jim Herman, and second in 2013, one shot behind DA Points. He didn’t play this event in 2015 and was tied for 54th in 2014, but Stenson has been strong for the most part. Stenson missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer just a week after grabbing a top-10 at the Valspar. He pulled out of the WGC event in Mexico with a stomach bug, which was something that seemed to plague a few players during that event. Stenson did not play the Match Play event last week, which can be pretty grueling for the players. He’s a guy to watch this week at +1200.

Could this be the week for Phil Mickelson? We’ve been waiting for that big win from Lefty and he was locked in last week at the Match Play event. He didn’t play the 16th hole until the fourth day of the event because he was crushing his opponents in group play. Mickelson won here back in 2011 and has three straight top-20 finishes. The +2000 price point is a little bit inflated off of what he did last week and his history here, but you know the course form and the recent form are there.

There are a few guys down the board that are pretty interesting options this week. The first is Matt Kuchar at +4800. Kuchar generally plays very well at Augusta and finished second in a playoff to Matt Jones back in 2014 at the Shell Houston Open. Kuchar played well until the final round in 2015 when he shot a 78 on Sunday and finished even par. He was 6-under over his first three rounds. Kuchar has not played all that well recently, with no top-10 finishes since the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but he hasn’t played poorly either. Aside from a missed cut at Pebble Beach, Kuchar does have three straight top-25 finishes at the Valspar, WGC Mexico, and Genesis Open. He got his work in last week at the Match Play, but went 1-1-1 and didn’t advance out of group play. Again, that can be a blessing in disguise so that guys aren’t playing 36 holes per day over the weekend.

Another guy in that price range to consider is Jimmy Walker. Walker has a couple of top-25 finishes in his last two starts at the Shell Houston Open. Those came in 2016 and 2014. Last weekend, he was 1-2 in the Match Play event, but had to play Martin Kaymer, Webb Simpson, and eventual winner Dustin Johnson. That was a tough draw for Walker, who has three straight top-25 finishes in stroke play events. At +5000, there’s some value on this price point for a guy that played his collegiate golf at Baylor.

For those looking for a real long shot pick, consider Si Woo Kim at +31000. Kim teed it up in Houston for the first time last year and shot 69-71-69-71 on a new course. Kim beat Daniel Berger in match play last week, halved with JB Holmes, and ran into the Phil Mickelson buzz saw. Kim had a lot of Web.com Tour success and seems to be an up-and-comer in the expanding Asian market for professional golf, so he’s a player to keep a close eye on as we move forward this season. Kim has a spot in the Masters, so he doesn’t have to play with the extra pressure that others guys face.

Coverage of this week’s Shell Houston Open will be on Golf Channel and NBC.

 

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