Shell Houston Open Tips by Steve Bamford

To win or not to win, that is the question. The Shell Houston Open is a misleading tournament for a number of reasons and you can blow your stakes extremely easily if you fall into the trap. Firstly the course is set-up to play as close to Augusta as possible. 13.0 on it’s stimp bent mix greens are excruciatingly fast, as per Augusta. The greens, both in terms of size, contours, grass and speed play extremely similarly to the hallowed turf at Augusta. Secondly, players continually comment that the Shell Houston Open feels like a ‘major’ in terms of its organisation and professionalism. So you could be led quite easily into thinking that the very best players dominate around Redstone...

Well you’d be wrong and it’s for a very obvious reason. As a player if you seriously think you can contend at Augusta, you won’t destroy your chances for Georgia by contending here in Texas. Yes, Humble is a great warm up for The Masters, where players can hone their skills for the inevitable challenges of Augusta National. However if you want to contend next week you’ll content yourself here with a 35th place finish, like Phil Mickelson last season.

Ok last year’s victor Anthony Kim finished 3rd at The Masters but that was after a closing 65 brought him from the depths of the field. Paul Casey in 2009 is a far more accurate example. His game was in Augusta winning nick, so much so that he found himself in contention after 2 rounds 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 in Augusta. The exact same process can be said for Adam Scott in 2007.

So just who are we looking for? It’s extremely likely that one of the Top 100 in the world will triumph this week. We need players who are playing well and are hungry for a PGA Tour win when the opportunity presents itself. So I’ve gone for quality players who are in-form or finding form, who have great records on bent greens and who have a decent record around Rees Jones designed courses. They have GOT to be long off the tee as well as this course is and absolute drag strip. Its all about length, power bombing and low scoring as Humble’s usual defence mechanism i.e. the famous Texas winds don’t look like they are coming out to play this week. For my spread betting tips for this event click here.

Lucas Glover 1pt EW 80/1 with Ladbrokes Free Bet Get up a £10 matched bet via this link: Ladbrokes Free Bet

Glover ticks a lot of boxes this week and is priced at a juicy 80/1 with Ladbrokes. Has he been under-estimated? Well only time will tell, but Glover is not an early season man on the basis that Bent is his favourite putting surface by a country mile. That’s why a 64 and a Top 20 finish at Copperhead 2 weeks ago brought him to my attention. A form line of 20-51-29-51 is solid enough and now we hit Glover+ tracks. 1st at the Rees Jones designed Beth Page Black in 2009 when he clinched the US Open, S Carolina World No 88 Glover followed that up with 5th at Hazeltine…...another Rees Jones re design course. Lucas was also 2nd at Quail Hollow that year but backed that up with noteworthy results in what was an almost inevitable low-key 2010 campaign. The 54 hole lead at that bombers paradise of Kapalua plus his contending performance at Sedgefield highlight form in all the right places. 7 appearances at Humble have gleaned 7th, 14th and 21st plus only 1 MC. One thing is for sure, Glover won’t be thinking of winning at Augusta and if he’s in contention here he will go for the win. Like Marino who delivered EW last week he’s likely to fade, but at 80/1 EW that’s covered! RESULT: M/C

Jason Day 1pt EW 50/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet £50 In Free Bets, get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

Having-Texas based players on-board at Humble is a never a bad thing, especially when they are bent carpet specialists like Jason Day. We have a theory at Golf Betting System that Day has deliberately paced himself early in 2011. With all 4 majors on bent grass greens this year, the hugely talented Australian, who sits at a World Ranking of 38, has a real chance to “go global” and challenge for a President’s Cup spot. Major titles aren’t won prior to April, so a stroke-play form-line of 51-49-20-9 is encouraging. Added to that Day managed to qualify for a bracket semi-final in his first appearance at the WGC Matchplay at the bombers paradise of Dove Mountain in February. Next week will be Day’s first visit to Augusta (look out for him in a Martin Laird dominated debutant market) and I’m reckoning he will put his foot down on the accelerator and see what’s available around Augusta. His bent performances in 2010 were exemplary 1st TPC Four Seasons (Texas), 9th Aronimink, 5th Ridgwood (Bent Poa) and 2nd TPC Boston. 8th here on debut in 2008 suggests he could go very close and if in position he’ll go for his 2nd PGA Tour win. RESULT: M/C

J.B. Holmes 1pt EW 35/1 with Bet365 Get £200 in free bets via this link: Bet365

At a market leading price of 35/1 at Bet365, I’m thinking that the market makers have a handle on the danger that big J.B. presents this week. We all know that the Florida resident’s game is totally based around his huge driving game. A stroke play form line of 47-12-13-5-63 show that the Kentuckian is playing great golf in 2011 and the 5th at Phoenix was off the back of a -15 score. That’s the whole point with Holmes, who went double digit red numbers 5 times in 2010……he can go low and that’s exactly what’s needed at the Shell Houston Open. Holmes also has previous at Humble after losing in the 2009 play-off that saw Casey grab his first PGA Tour win. However there is another reason behind why I think Holmes has to be backed this week. Motivation. The 2 time PGA Tour winner is the highest World Ranked player (60th) not to be in the Masters and his only chance of driving down Magnolia Lane next week is to either win or go extremely close and grab a World Top 50 entry. RESULT: T42

Y.E. Yang 1pt EW 40/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

Humble has no problem when it comes to generating international champions. Take Casey (09), Scott (07), Appleby (06) and Singh (02 04 05)....even Robert Allenby won around here at the turn of the millennium! However all of these internationals had US bases i.e. Arizona, Arizona, Florida, Florida and Florida respectively. Therefore I’m plumping again for the inevitable value that Y.E. Yang generates this week. His 2nd place finish at PGA National behind my tip Sabbatini was notable and backed up a great bracket final appearance at the bombers paradise that’s Dove Mountain, at the World Match Play, not forgetting 8th at Phoenix. Let’s face it Yang is playing great golf. Doral proved a step too far, but we are sticking with the re-charged Texas based South Korean this week. Any errant drives won’t be overly punished at Humble and Yang has a history on Rees Jones courses and on fast bent greens. Like previous pick Lucas Glover, 8th at Augusta in 2010 was a beacon of light in a season that was disappointing after an incredible 2009. 2009 brought a win at PGA National, 11th at Quail Hollow (Bent), 8th in Canada (Bent Poa) , 5th at Warwick Hills (Bent Poa) and his greatest ever performance at the Rees Jones re-designed Hazeltine when over turning Tiger in the final round on 12 stimp Bent. In the Top 5 with Jason Day in this week’s Predictor Model as well. That leaves me with 3 speculative longer shots that I just have to cover off at great prices! RESULT: M/C

Robert Garrigus 0.5pts EW 150/1 with Totesport Free Bet £10 match bet, get it here: Totesport Free Bet

There is no doubting that Arizona-based Garrigus prefers Bermuda, but let’s face it he can go well on any course where power is key and 150/1 is worth half a point EW of anybody’s cash this week. Robert was 5th here in 2007 and his liking for the course can be seen in the fact that he’s generated 3 paid finishes from 4 appearances here. That’s consistent for Robert! 2nd at Kapalua in January followed his first PGA Tour win at Disney. That brought with it a cool combined income of $1,481,000 and the inevitable 3 MCs! However Garrigus has a history of decent results at long bent grass tracks like Reno-Tahoe, Turning Stone, TPC Summerlin and Westchester and the World Number 96 who came so close to a trip to Augusta when losing to Byrd in the aforementioned play off would love nothing more than a drive down Magnolia Lane next week. RESULT: T66

John Rollins 0.5pt EW 200/1 with Bet365 Get £200 in free bets via this link: Bet365

This Texas-based journeyman is truly like a stealth missile. He arrives with absolutely no warning, strikes with a decent contending week, pockets the dollars and then goes missing for a number of months! Tipping Rollins to a successful conclusion for a golf tipster like me is like finding Nirvana but I have a sneaky feeling that the missile is about to strike! All 3 of Rollins PGA Tour victories have been on bent or bent/poa carpet and he thrives on tracks where heavy scoring is key. He struck last year at the Ross designed Sedgefield where he finished 3rd. 2009 brought 2nd at the Rees Jones classic that is Torrey Pines, 2nd at PGA National and a win at Reno Tahoe (he finished 2nd at Reno in 2008). If I get this prediction right I expect a multitude of congratulatory messages at our Golf Betting System Facebook page! RESULT: T48

Ton Plus EW Tip: Matt Bettencourt 275/1 with Bet365 Get £200 in free bets via this link: Bet365

This is a truly awesome price on a decent player who has previous on bent carpet. I can see where the Bet 365 odds compiler is coming from as a MDF and MC is hardly outstanding from 2 previous appearances at Humble. However Bettencourt is a far better player now as his win at the +7,400 yard Par 72 at Montreaux has provided the confidence platform for a super start to 2011. 5th at the Sony Open and 6th at the Honda Classic on courses that before never suited Bettencourt’s power game are noteworthy. What do you think he could produce on a favourable course set-up with his favoured greens this week? Look back to 2009 and you’ll find the answers! 5th at Muirfield after having the 54 hole lead, plus 10th at Beth Page at the US Open and 11th at Congressional, both on Rees Jones re-designs shows that Bettencourt could well produce this week in Texas. RESULT: M/C

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:00BST 29.3.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

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