Steve Bamford's Tips for the 2012 Shell Houston Open. Follow Us On Twitter @Golfbetting
It was great to snare Tiger last week at 8/1 - Watson (30/1) and Wagner (125/1) also delivered reduced EW payouts although Johnson could have made it oh so much better! Our PGA Tour Golf Predictor Model also delivered its 3rd winner in a row with 8/1 following up 12/1 and 55/1 coups. Click Here to see this week's Houston Open top 5. I highlighted last week that short prices dominate at this stage of the season and, sure enough, Tiger followed that pattern. The Shell Houston Open in the past 3 years has seen Mickelson, Kim and Casey win at 18/1, 25/1 and 40/1 respectively. For me though, these pre-Major tournaments are all about picking out those quality players who will actually go for the win because it's fact that winners at Redstone the week prior to Augusta National destroy their chances of capturing the Green Jacket. You can ask Phil, Anthony, Paul and Adam if you don't believe me!
To win or not to win, that is the question at Redstone. Lefty's win here last year is a red herring in my book on the basis that it was more out of desperation than anything, on the basis that he had his worst start to a season for years. Sure enough, his price for winning The Masters was halved on Sunday night and he went on to finish 27th at Augusta. 2010 Houston victor Anthony Kim finished 3rd at The Masters the following week, but that was after a closing 65 brought him from the depths of the field. Paul Casey in 2009 is another far more accurate example. His game was in Augusta-winning nick, so much so that he found himself in contention after 2 rounds here and mentally placed himself in a position where his first PGA Tour victory became the priority. Sure enough he triumphed in Humble and then failed at Augusta. The exact same process can be said for Adam Scott in 2007...
It's true that Humble is the perfect warm up for The Masters, where players can hone their skills for the inevitable challenges of Augusta National. The similarities between the setup of the Tournament Course and Augusta National are well-documented. For example, at 7,457 yards, Redstone measures only 32 yards longer than the Masters venue. Both are par 72s with premiums on hitting greens in regulation, scrambling and scoring on the par 5s. We also need to place special attention on the fact that this Rees Jones design is the first PGA Tour tournament to be played on Bent grass greens after nigh on 3 months of Bermuda, Poa Annua, Bent/Poa and Seashore Paspalum. These aren't ordinary Bent greens either as they feature a mix of different grasses, but essentially they play almost as lightening fast as those we will see in Georgia next week. In my view, expect different names atop the leaderboard this week. To back this up Schwartzel finished 30th here before capturing his green jacket last year, Mickelson finished 35th in 2010 and Cabrera typically Missed the Cut in 2009.
So of the favourites, I'm staying clear of Mickelson, Schwartzel, Mahan and G-Mac all of whom, in my mind, will think they have a great shot next week. Youthful exuberance will dictate Bradley will go for the win this week, although I doubt he can get the job done on this Par 72 format and Westwood………who really knows? He won at TPC Southwind in 2010 and ruined his chances the following week at the Pebble Beach-hosted US Open, but you'd hope that he's got his head around the fact that if he really believes he can win a Major he needs to use these events as the warm-up. I'm not touching him at 12/1. So the key for me is to select quality players who will forego their chances next week (or who don't truly believe they can actually capture The Masters) for a win in Texas. We should also pay close attention to players who can only drive down Magnolia Lane if they win this week at Redstone, which is exactly what Johnson Wagner achieved in 2008.
He shouldn't go for the win this week, but I'm covering off Steve Stricker on the basis I'm not sure he can actually 'throttle down' on a course that could have been made for the Wisconsin World Number 5. Looking at the bigger picture, Thursday and Friday will actually tell us whether Stricker thinks he has a chance at ANGC next week. If he simply uses Redstone as acclimatisation for The Masters it's certainly worthy of note because don't believe the hype – he has a serious shot at winning the Green Jacket this year. Fact is, Stricker is a machine on Bent grass greens and he can also drive it 330 yards around Redstone as he did last year. Wins at Cog Hill (96), Deere Run (09,10,11), TPC Boston (09), Colonial (09) and Muirfield (11) tell you everything you need to know about his chances at both Redstone and Augusta. His win at Kapalua in January also blew away the idea that Stricker couldn't win on long formats plus it was his first ever win on Bermuda greens. Stricker doesn't get involved in the Florida swing so his 8th last time out at Doral tells us everything we need to know about his game right now. RESULT: T36
Little Louis has a two rather large points to prove. 1) His 2010 Open Championship wasn't a total fluke 2) He can actually contend and ultimately win on the PGA Tour. For me the Florida-domiciled South African, who sits at 38 in the World Golf Rankings, is a perfect fit for victory this week at Redstone. Bermuda has never been Oosthuizen's favourite surface so the fact that he finished 20th on an 'alien track' and importantly started to hit greens (+70%) and make putts registered. Unlike his compatriot Schwartzel, I classify Oostie as a Bent green specialist as he comes alive on the truer running surface. Indeed it's well worth remembering he won the Africa Open this January by shooting -27 at East London GC, so the resort nature of Redstone will suit. His recent Euro/PGA form has been excellent as well reading 7(Fancourt)-1(East London)-6(Earth Course)-8(Johor)-3(Singapore)-7(Sheshan)-4(Seaside)-5(St Andrews). Hardly shouts 66/1 to me. After a difficult start to life in the US, he started to settle towards the end of 2011 and it's no coincidence to me that in a poor 1st PGA Tour campaign his best results were at longer tracks Doral (18th), Redstone (16th) and Congressional (9th) plus naturally on the coast at Seaside (4th). Louis fits well this week in Texas. RESULT: T3
I tipped Padraig at Riviera back in February and my basic rationale hasn't changed one iota. It's worth noting that in Ryder Cup year Harrington knows he has to deliver to get in the team. Contending at Augusta next week is far from the Dubliner's mind. "It's going to just come down to me winning tournaments, I have a quantum leap to get into the team. Whether I win in the U.S. or win in Europe, it will come down to just winning.'', he said recently. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Harrington is close to seriously contending for a victory and his opening round 61 at Copperhead last time out highlights a game that is in the ascendancy. His new Pete Cowen swing is finally bedding in, and it's clear to see in comparing key PGA Tour skill categories 2012 vs 2011. Scoring Average: 16th vs 88th, Birdie Conversion: 35th vs 120th, Total Driving: 22nd vs 165th, Scrambling: 25th vs 49th. Harrington has always favoured Bent grass greens so if he can continue to hit more fairways and most importantly greens this week he'll convert more chances. On top of that, Padraig has always played well on longer formats with a little width off the tee or classical tracks which can be seen by 10th(11) & 3rd(10) at Doral, 9th(11) & 7th(10) at Quail Hollow, 9th(10) & 2nd (09) Firestone, 4th(09) & 7th (05) at East Lake. 20th last time out at Copperhead allied to 7th at Pebble and 10th at Fancourt in tandem with 8 straight cuts made, highlight to me that Harrington, who we all know is world-class, is bubbling under nicely going into Redstone. RESULT: MDF
The resurgent Aaron Baddeley is next on my Redstone team this week on a track where non-US players have had great success. The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Aussie is long off the tee, if a little wide at times, but that won't be overly punished this week on the Tournament Course. As we all know, the World Number 39 (up 7 places in 2012) who plays Augusta next week, thrives in and around the greens and 2012 is no different as he currently sits 4th in Strokes Gained Putting, 7th in Birdie Average, 4th in Sand Saves, 9th in Bounce Back plus 3rd in Par 4 and 8th in Par 5 Birdie or Better categories. Let's get this straight, Aaron has the tools at his disposal to take apart Redstone. However the Achilles heel of 3-time PGA Tour winner Baddeley (Hilton Head, TPC Scottsdale and last year at Riviera) has traditionally been hitting enough greens. But in his last outing at Doral a solid 12th place finish came from 68% GIR – which placed Aaron in the Top 12 across the entire field. A recent form line of 12(Doral)-11(Riviera)-4(Pebble) is excellent and 7 appearances at the Shell Open have produced 4th (11) and 14th (08). His resume also contains Top 5 finishes at key tracks like East Lake 3rd (11), Cog Hill 2nd (07), TPC Boston 5th(07), Montreaux 4th (05), Pebble 4th (12) and Riviera 1st (11). RESULT: M/C
After tipping the moustached assassin Johnson Wagner last week, I'm strangely drawn towards Charley Hoffman this week and no it's not because of his amazing blonde locks. Instead it's because he offers serious value for a Top 6 finish this week with Bodog. Hoffman had an amazing end to 2010 when he went crazy with 7th at Deere Run, 4th at St Georges, 27th at Ridgewood and then won at TPC Boston. Those eagle-eyed amongst you will note that these, apart from Ridgewood (Bent Poa), were Bent greened courses. Indeed Hoffman's win in Boston is worthy of an additional mention on the basis he shot -22 around the 7,300 yard Par 71 track where recent Redstone champions Lefty and Scott have both won. Hoffman's other PGA Tour victory was at PGA West where he shot -17 on his way to securing his first Tour victory at the Bob Hope Classic. His record in Texas is also first class. He finished 2nd to Brendan Steele at TPC San Antonio last season (his only Top 5 of 2011) and also finished 8th and 9th at La Cantera in 06/09. Add a 7th and 8th at Four Seasons in 06/08 plus a 6th here at Redstone in 2008 and you start to see a player who thrives in the Lone Star State. If the putter warms this week 150/1 will look huge over the weekend. RESULT: MDF
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!