Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Houston Open Tips 2019

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It was a case of total polar opposites last week in Las Vegas, as Kevin Na and Patrick Cantlay played it out in a Sunday shoot-out for the Shriners Open title. Both previous winners at TPC Summerlin, Na topped Strokes Gained Putting and Cantlay was ranked second for Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green in regulation play. Eventually the hot putter won out on the second play-off hole, so congratulations if you backed Na at anything up to 70/1. Adam Hadwin landed a full each-way payout for this column at 45/1 as we now move to Texas.

The unsponsored Houston Open has moved from its pre-Masters position in April to the wrap-around ‘Fall’ section of the PGA Tour. Played on an unspectacular, 7,400 yard, Par 72 track in Humble, Texas, the field is made of pretty sparse quality, with only Henrik Stenson and Keegan Bradley featuring amongst the OWGR top 50. As ever though a life changing PGA Tour victory, 2-year Tour exemption and invite to The Masters is up for grabs.

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Course Guide: The Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston is a 7,441 yard, Par 72. An original Rees Jones design, the course has gone through a transformation over recent years with key features being minimal rough and fast MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens which are large at an average 6,950 sq.ft. The green complexes themselves are surrounded by shaved grass areas, designed to capture errant approach shots and send them into collection areas and it’s noticeable that 4 of the past 9 winners here have ranked in the top 5 for scrambling the week they captured the title. That’s no mean feat on a course which continually ranks in the top-3 hardest courses on the PGA Tour for scrambling from the rough.

Champions Course, Golf Club of Houston, Redstone, Texas: Designer: Rees Jones 2005; Course Type: Texas, Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,441 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 9; TifSport Bermuda with Perennial Rye; Rough: TifSport Bermuda with Perennial Rye 1.5″; Greens: 6,950 sq.ft average MiniVerde Bermuda; Tournament Stimp: 12.5-13.0 ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.45 (-0.55), Difficulty Rank 34 of 49 courses. 2013: 71.87 (-0.13), Difficulty Rank 25 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.25 (+0.25), Rank 23 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.86 (-1.14), Rank 41 of 52 courses. 2016: 71.89 (-0.11), Rank 23 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.98 (-0.02), Rank 24 of 50 courses. 2018: 70.60 (-1.40), Rank 42 of 51 courses.

GC of Houston Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Golf Club of Houston course and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on the PGA Tour:

  • Golf Club of Houston: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:25; 350:27.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Old White TPC: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:35; 350:32.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:22.
  • Medinah No 3: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:29; 350:27.
  • Liberty National: 250 yards from tee: 36 yards wide; 275:33; 300:30 325:31; 350:26.
  • Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Rees Jones re-designs include:

  • Torrey Pines South Course – Farmers Insurance Open + 2008 U.S. Open (re-design)
  • Aronimink GC – 2010 & 2011 A&T National + 2018 BMW Championship (re-design)
  • Blue Course, Congressional CC – 2011 U.S. Open + 2012-2014 & 2016 National (re-design)
  • Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC – 2014 RBC Canadian Open (re-design)
  • Hazeltine – 2009 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club – 2011 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Baltusrol – 2016 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Bethpage Black – 2009 U.S Open + 2012/2016 The Barclays (re-design)
  • Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC – 2009,2010,2011 BMW Championship (re-design)
  • Bellerive CC – 2018 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Medinah Number 3 – 2006 PGA Championship + 2019 BMW Championship (re-design)
  • East Lake – Tour Championship (re-design)

Course Overview: The Houston Open traditionally was played in April, so this will be the first time that we will see the course in ‘Fall’ guise. The most noticeable difference will be that the greens will feature no overseed, so we’ll see MiniVerde UltraDwarf Bermudagrass green complexes for the very first time here. Other current PGA Tour stop-offs with MiniVerde include TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic of New Orleans) and East Lake (Tour Championship). Course Superintendent Brian Bucker informed me that the target stimp will be 12′.

The Tournament Course is Rees Jones’ first ever original golf course design (he’s famous for high profile re-designs of Major-hosting classical golf courses) is an interesting test to classify. Ultimately winning totals with Ian Poulter (-19), Russell Henley (-20), Jim Herman (-15), J.B. Holmes (-16), Matt Jones (-15), D.A. Points (-16) and Hunter Mahan (-16) highlight a course which is more than attackable if the famous Texas wind isn’t too strong. Organisers attempt to get the Tournament Course to play as firm and fast as possible so there’s certainly bite for those who struggle to hit greens. The course features tight fairways at 325 yards (so the longest players tend to throttle back off the tee), large green complexes and water hazards in play on nine of the holes. Scrambling from the rough, or from over 30 yards is tough here and naturally, as we’re in Texas, wind tends to be a feature. To me the course has definite Florida-type connotations, with the combination of water, wind and Bermudagrass – something we see across the Florida Swing.

A couple of key angles jump from the course statistics when we talk about the Golf Club of Houston. The large putting surfaces here allow even the short game specialists a good look at plenty of putts – indeed you would hardly call J.B. Holmes and Matt Jones Greens in Regulation specialists. However it’s also very difficult to get the ball close to the pin, so winners here always feature a hotter than standard putter. Also look for those who have a proven record on these gnarly, grainy green surfaces. Collectively the par-5s here always play on the difficult side and that makes sense on a course where Going for the Green has ranked in the top-10 most difficult across the past 8 renewals.

Winners: 2018: Ian Poulter (-19); 2017: Russell Henley (-20); 2016: Jim Herman (-15); 2015: J.B. Holmes (-16); 2014: Matt Jones (-15); 2013: D.A. Points (-16); 2012: Hunter Mahan (-16); 2011: Phil Mickelson (-20); 2010: Anthony Kim (-12).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Russell Henley, Henrik Stenson, Pat Perez, Brian Harman, Zac Blair, Daniel Berger, Harris English, Cameron Tringale, Luke List and Russell Knox.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the BMW Championship, Czech Masters and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational, across the PGA Tour, European Tour and Korn Ferry Playoff events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Boo Weekley; 2) Henrik Stenson; 3) Chris Baker / Andrew Landry; 5) Tyler Duncan / Doc Redman; 7) Brendon Todd; 8) Harris English; 9) Henrik Norlander; 10) David Hearn; 11) Vince Covello; 12) David Lingmerth / Harry Higgs; 14) Johnson Wagner; 15) Keegan Bradley; 16) Robby Shelton; 17) Roberto Castro; 18) Alex Cejka / Nick Taylor / Kyle Stanley.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Pat Perez; 2) David Hearn; 3) Doc Redman; 4) Henrik Stenson; 5) Harris English / Russell Henley; 7) Martin Laird; 8) Sebastian Munoz / Scottie Scheffler; 10) Denny McCarthy; 11) Bo Hoag / Matthew NeSmith; 13) Doug Ghim; 14) Henrik Norlander; 15) Carlos Ortiz; 16) Stewart Cink / Scott Harrington; 18) Brice Garnett; 19) Talor Gooch; 20) Russell Knox.
  • Top 20 Scrambling: 1) Brian Gay; 2) Carlos Ortiz; 3) Brian Harman; 4) Richy Werenski; 5) Peter Uihlein; 6) Bronson Burgoon; 7) Roger Sloan; 8) Cameron Tringale; 9) Austin Cook / Lanto Griffin; 11) Aaron Baddeley / Roberto Castro / Brice Garnett; 14) Kramer Hickok; 15) Scottie Scheffler; 16) Daniel Berger / Mark Hubbard; 18) Ben Crane / Bill Haas / Sebastian Munoz.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Richy Werenski; 2) Daniel Berger / Henrik Stenson; 4) Nick Watney; 5) Dominic Bozzelli; 6) Brian Harman; 7) Robert Streb; 8) Tom Hoge; 9) Denny McCarthy; 10) Aaron Baddeley; 11) Lanto Griffin; 12) Sebastian Munoz / Scott Stallings; 14) Nick Taylor; 15) Beau Hossler; 16) Grayson Murray; 17) Bronson Burgoon; 18) Maverick McNealy; 19) Michael Gellerman / Mark Hubbard.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the BMW Championship and Czech Masters, which includes both PGA and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Cameron Champ; 2) Harris English; 3) Robby Shelton; 4) Daniel Berger / Zack Sucher; 6) Scottie Scheffler; 7) Harry Higgs; 8) Jason Dufner; 9) D.J. Trahan; 10) Boo Weekley; 11) Kevin Chappell / Doc Redman; 13) Martin Laird; 14) Brian Harman; 15) Chris Baker / Sebastian Munoz / Carlos Ortiz; 18) Brice Garnett / Henrik Stenson; 20) Scott Harrington.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Brian Harman; 2) Harris English; 3) James Hahn; 4) Henrik Stenson; 5) Doc Redman; 6) Matt Every / Xin-Jun Zhang; 8) Bronson Burgoon; 9) Tom Hoge; 10) Aaron Baddeley / Dominic Bozzelli / Cameron Tringale; 13) Jonathan Byrd; 14) Mark Anderson / Ben Crane; 16) Sebastian Munoz / Zack Sucher; 18) Brian Gay / Russell Henley; 20) Ben Taylor.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Aaron Baddeley; 2) Peter Uihlein; 3) Carlos Ortiz; 4) Henrik Stenson; 5) Richy Werenski; 6) Scott Stallings; 7) Cameron Tringale; 8) Henrik Stenson; 9) Keegan Bradley / Roberto Castro / Matthew NeSmith; 12) Rafael Campos; 13) Sebastian Cappelen / Bill Haas / Mackenzie Hughes; 16) Nick Watney; 17) Roger Sloan; 18) Daniel Berger; 19) Alex Cejka; 20) Lanto Griffin / John Huh.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Zack Sucher; 2) Harris English; 3) Henrik Stenson; 4) Brian Harman; 5) Doc Redman; 6) Carlos Ortiz / Cameron Tringale; 8) Aaron Baddeley; 9) Richy Werenski; 10) D.J. Trahan; 11) Xin-Jun Zhang; 12) Cameron Champ; 13) Lanto Griffin / Sebastian Munoz; 15) Boo Weekley; 16) Tom Hoge; 17) Scott Harrington / Scott Stallings; 19) Robby Shelton; 20) Kyle Stanley.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Denny McCarthy; 2) Richy Werenski; 3) Kevin Chappell; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Lanto Griffin; 6) Brian Harman / Chase Seiffert; 8) Peter Malnati / Henrik Stenson; 10) Nick Taylor; 11) Sebastian Munoz / Kristoffer Ventura; 13) Jon Huh / Patrick Rodgers; 15) Harris English; 16) Bronson Burgoon; 17) Brian Gay / Pat Perez; 19) Maverick McNealy; 20) Rhein Gibson / Tom Lewis / Andres Romero.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Henrik Stenson; 2) Richy Werenski; 3) Brian Harman; 4) Harris English; 5) Lanto Griffin; 6) Denny McCarthy; 7) Daniel Berger / Zack Sucher; 9) Sebastian Munoz; 10) Tom Hoge; 11) Cameron Tringale; 12) Aaron Baddeley; 13) Robby Shelton; 14) Bronson Burgoon; 15) Carlos Ortiz / Doc Redman; 17) Kevin Chappell / Brice Garnett; 19) D.J. Trahan; 20) Scott Stallings / Nick Taylor.

Winners & Prices: 2018: Poulter 100/1; 2017: Henley 40/1; 2016: Herman 400/1; 2015: Holmes 28/1; 2014: Jones 125/1; 2013: Points 250/1; 2012: Mahan 22/1; 2011: Mickelson 18/1; 2010: Kim 25/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 139/1. Average: 112/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2018: Thursday: Due to heavy thunderstorms overnight into Thursday, which produced 2.3 inches of rain, the start to round one was delayed two hours and began at 9:20 a.m. CT. Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Due to darkness, play was suspended for the day at 7:40 p.m., with 33 players remaining on the course. Friday: Round one resumed at 7:20 a.m. and concluded at 8:47 a.m. Round two began as scheduled at 7:20 a.m. Sunny. High of 79. Wind NE 8-16 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 81. Wind SE 10-20 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 83. Wind SE 10-20 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high of 80. Wind WNW 8-16 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 86. Wind SSE 10-20 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy and breezy with a high of 82. Wind SE 15-25 mph. Sunday: Scattered showers with a high of 79. Wind SSE 15-25 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 83 degrees. Wind WNW 6-12 mph. Friday: Cloudy, with thunderstorms in the morning. High of 65 degrees. Wind SSE 15-25 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 71 degrees. Wind NNW 10-18 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 74 degrees. Wind S 5-10 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 82. Wind S at 15-20, with gusts to 25 mph. Friday: Overcast, with a high of 83. Wind WSW at 10-20 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 68. Wind NNW at 10-20 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 77. Wind SSE at 8-16 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Humble, Texas, is here. Expect perfect turf conditions and lush golf course conditions at Houston Golf Club this week. September saw over 400mm of rain fall on Humble, but the past 2 weeks have been relatively dry, so the course should be in excellent condition. Warm on Thursday, with up to 15 mph of breeze, the weather looks set to change from that point on. Friday could feature some strong winds – up to 25 mph – with both Friday and Saturday featuring northern European temperatures. Sunday looks to be a great day for scoring.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the GC of Houston winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018, Ian Poulter (-19). 281 yards (62nd), 80.4% fairways (3rd), 83.3% greens in regulation (4th), 33″8″ proximity to hole (23rd), 75.0% scrambling (14th), 1.70 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2017, Russell Henley (-20). 290 yards (29th), 75.0% fairways (4th), 79.2% greens in regulation (4th), 36’4″ proximity to hole (28th), 60.0 % scrambling (43rd), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2016, Jim Herman (-15). 290 yards (41st), 69.6% fairways (16th), 73.6% greens in regulation (10th), 31’8″ proximity to hole (1st), 78.9 % scrambling (4th), 1.66 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2015, J.B. Holmes (-16). 312 yards (1st), 44.6% fairways (71st), 79.2% greens in regulation (10th), 38’1″ proximity to hole (45th), 60.0 % scrambling (36th), 1.63 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2014, Matt Jones (-15). 301 yards (21st), 64.3% fairways (25th), 80.6% greens in regulation (2nd), 41’0″ proximity to hole (54th), 64.3 % scrambling (28th), 1.64 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2013, D.A. Points (-16). 284 yards (64th), 64.3% fairways (31st), 79.2% greens in regulation (10th), 37’5″ proximity to hole (33rd), 80.0% scrambling (5th), 1.72 putts per GIR (20th)
  • 2012, Hunter Mahan (-16). 280 yards (50th), 67.9% fairways (33rd), 86.1% greens in regulation (1st), 33’0″ proximity to hole (21st), 80.0% scrambling (2nd), 1.73 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2011, Phil Mickelson (-20). 315 yards (6th), 53.6% fairways (67th), 77.8% greens in regulation (11th), 42’9″ proximity to hole (67th), 50.0% scrambling (36th), 1.64 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2010, Anthony Kim (-12). 306 yards (8th), 41.1% fairways (72nd), 68.1% greens in regulation (50th), 34’6″ proximity to hole (12th), 69.6% scrambling (4th), 1.71 putts per GIR (7th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 31st, Driving Accuracy: 35th, Greens in Regulation: 10th, Proximity to Hole: 32nd, Scrambling: 19th, Putting Average 8th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2018, Ian Poulter (-19). SG Off the Tee: 23rd, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 47th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 15th.
  • 2017, Russell Henley (-20). SG Off the Tee: 7th, SG Approach: 24th, SG Around the Green: 26th, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2016, Jim Herman (-15). SG Off the Tee: 38th, SG Approach: 8th, SG Around the Green: 10th, SG Tee to Green: 8th, SG Putting: 4th.
  • 2015, J.B. Holmes (-16). SG Off the Tee: 13th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 50th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 11th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 20th, SG Approach: 10th, SG Around the Green: 33rd, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 8th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how the Tournament Course at the GC of Houston sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Ian Poulter (2019): I’ll be honest, I can’t really remember how it played in 2014. Got here late Tuesday night. I only played nine holes in practice on Wednesday in the pro-am, didn’t see the other nine. It’s a course which is in incredible condition considering the rain we had, is drying out nicely. Yeah, I mean, it’s in great shape. I can see why guys would want to play this before Augusta.

18 is a tough golf hole. Friday with an into wind, I was driver, 3-wood. So to go driver, 3-wood, you know, was a bit of a shock. Today again the wind’s completely different. So it’s tough, it’s a tough tee shot.”

Russell Henley (2017): “I feel like the greens, don’t break a ton in most cases, so if I can just hit the ball in the fat side of the hole and not play a lot of break, it has a good chance of going in. I felt that frees me up a little bit, too, knowing it’s not going to break and all I got to do is take it straight back and through. I do love the greens. I feel comfortable with a lot of these shots off the tee. There’s a lot of room. I feel when I miss it, I know it. I don’t make a lot of bogies and roll a couple extra putts in. Yeah, I really love the greens and I just feel like I can hit most of them and I’m pretty confident.

Jim Herman (2016): “I was able to keep it in the fairway, and that way you can get a good look at some of these pins that were tucked. I was able to put it in the right spot, able to get some good uphill putts, and able to make a few. It’s very tricky. It seemed like every hole just seemed to be into the wind. You play a hole into the wind and turn around and it’s still in the wind. So, lot of guessing out there where Matt and I did a really good job of picking some good clubs to hit and just picking the correct line. Not being too aggressive when we have mid irons or long irons, but when we have a chance to hit wedges, we’re looking to cash in.

Matt Jones (2014): “We’re used to firm and fast, bump and runs, not a lot of flop shots. So that’s why, I mean, Adam winning Texas, Adam, Colonial, firm and fast is usually what we play here. I’m sure San Antonio blows every day there, 20 to 30. So that place is going to be firm and fast as well. I’d say that would definitely be the most common factor between the two countries, why we play Texas so well. We’re used to playing in the wind, too. Especially in Sydney. We get winds in Queensland as well.

Jordan Spieth: “This is known as one of the best manicured courses all year. Lot of run-off areas and the grass being mowed into the grain, it’s similar to next week. This is a course where there are big greens, so I have a lot of speed putting. But if you do miss the greens, it’s very difficult to get up and down here. So, it’s going to be a true test. And the way the run-off areas are, there’s not much rough and the grain is mowed into us. The next two weeks are going to be very similar conditions.

J.B. Holmes: “You know, it’s always well manicured. It’s not a whole lot of rough. That’s different for the Tour. Usually we have quite a bit of rough. But, you know, this course usually gets pretty windy. It’s nice to be able to hit it in a few places and still be able to come out. The greens are in great shape. I just like it. I think this course in general can favour long hitters. It’s pretty long out there, it gets windy, and some of those holes could be difficult. I would say it would favour the long hitters.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 9 Houston Open winners:

  • 2018 – Ian Poulter: Round 1: 123rd, Round 2: 23rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Russell Henley: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2016 – Jim Herman: Round 1: 32nd, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – J.B. Holmes: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 18th.
  • 2014 – Matt Jones: Round 1: 18th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2013 – D.A. Points: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2012 – Hunter Mahan: Round 1: 27th, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2011 – Phil Mickelson: Round 1: 33rd, Round 2: 21st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Anthony Kim: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2 4th, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 9 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2018 – Ian Poulter: Round 1: 1 9 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2017 – Russell Henley: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2016 – Jim Herman: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2015 – J.B. Holmes: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 6 back.
  • 2014 – Matt Jones: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 6 back.
  • 2013 – D.A. Points: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2012 – Hunter Mahan: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2011 – Phil Mickelson: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2010 – Anthony Kim: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: level.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Ian Poulter: QF WMP/41st Bay Hill/MC Copperhead/MC PGA National.
  • Russell Henley: 45th Bay Hill/9th Copperhead/43rd PGA National/16th TPC Scottsdale.
  • Jim Herman: 63rd Bay Hill/MC Copperhead/MC PGA National/17th Pebble/MC TPC Scottsdale.
  • J.B. Holmes: MC Bay Hill/2nd Doral/22nd Riviera/10th Pebble/2nd Torrey Pines.
  • Matt Jones: 14th Bay Hill/MC Puerto Rico/MC PGA National/59th Riviera/45th Pebble.
  • D.A. Points: MC Bay Hill/MC Copperhead/MC Puerto Rico/68th PGA National.
  • Hunter Mahan: 42nd Bay Hill/24th Doral/1st WMP/24th Riviera/13th Pebble.
  • Phil Mickelson: 24th Bay Hill/55th Doral/17th WMP/35th Riviera/9th Pebble.
  • Anthony Kim: 22nd Doral/2nd PGA National/24th TPC Scottsdale/52nd Riviera.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave (where applicable) and winning score since 2010. For full first round leader stats click here.

  • 2018 – Dunne – PM -8/64  – 90/1
  • 2017 – Fowler – AM  -8/64 – 25/1
  • 2016 – Hoffman – PM -8/64.
  • 2015 – Piercy – AM -9/63.
  • 2014 – Haas/Hoffman – Both PM -7/65.
  • 2013 – Points – AM -8/64.
  • 2012 – Cabrera / Mickelson / Pettersson – 2AM/1PM Split -7/65.
  • 2011 – Walker – PM -9/63.
  • 2010 – Percy / Stadler – AM/PM Split -5/67.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 4 – Bill Haas.
  • 3 – Brian Gay, Henrik Stenson.
  • 2 – Daniel Berger, Ben Crane, Jason Dufner, Matt Every, Russell Henley, Nick Watney.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Aaron Baddeley, Keegan Bradley, Jonathan Byrd, Cameron Champ, Austin Cook, Harris English, Robert Garrigus, James Hahn, Mackenzie Hughes, Patton Kizzire, Martin Laird, Peter Malnati, Grayson Murray, Sebastian Munoz, Pat Perez, Andres Romero, John Senden, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, D.J. Trahan, Jhonattan Vegas, Johnson Wagner, Boo Weekley.

The Tournament Course itself is scoreable, but ultimately winners here need to hit a high number of greens in regulation and that’s possible with above average green sizes. Wind-positive players could be an advantage this week, but for me the golf course rewards high quality driving and ball-striking.

Naturally this is the first time we’ll have seen the Tournament Course at Houston GC in October. The huge difference will be that the green complexes will play as MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermudagrass putting surfaces, with no Velvet Bentgrass overseed. That Bermudagrass base cements my view that despite being in Texas, design-wise, this course is very much a Florida-style golf course. With water in play and a flat, treeless set-up, I’m looking for players with a decent record in the Sunshine State.

My selections are as follows:

Russell Henley 2.5pts EW 25/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

As we saw last week with Kevin Na, sometimes golf betting is as simple as ‘horses for courses’. Na had captured his first PGA Tour title at TPC Summerlin in 2011 and went close again in 2015 when a shot behind Smylie Kaufman (how golf fortunes change). When it comes to the Tournament Course at the Houston Golf Club, nobody plays it better than Russell Henley. A course Scoring Average of 69.08 – you can see the whole field’s scoring average here – places him at the top of the tree for players who made more than a single appearance here and his finishing record here in Humble is first rate: 7th in 2014, 4th in 2015, 5th in 2016, 1st in 2017 and 8th when defending last year. And in Henley we have a player who has 3 PGA Tour victories to his credit, and critically who prefers Bermudagrass putting surfaces to any other.

Henley’s season has started reasonably well with 3 pay cheques across Old White TPC (57th), CC of Jackson (54th) and TPC Summerlin (35th) and a -5/66 on Saturday in Las Vegas highlighted a player whose confidence is on the rise, arriving at his favourite golf course. 3rd last week for Strokes Gained Approach, Russell also sits 5th in my 8-week Greens in Regulation tracker. If the putter warms – as it tends to here in Houston – I think Henley will again be a real factor here at the Houston Open. Result: T61

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Harris English 1.5pts EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

It’s good to see Harris English back in the mix of late after a troubled period. The 2013 FedEx St Jude Classic and OHL Classic champion, the Georgia product has certainly found form at the start of the 2019/20 PGA Tour season. 4th at Old White TPC, 6th at CC of Jackson and 33rd at Silverado has been an excellent haul across September and he’s been striping the ball beautifully whatever way you look at it. 8th and 5th for Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation across my 8-week tracker, Harris also sits 2nd for SG Off the Tee, 2nd for SG on Approach, 2nd for SG Tee to Green and 15th for SG Putting.

The 30 year-old also has a strong record in the Lone Star State. 2nd at Midland Country Club in 2011 on his Korn Ferry Tour graduation season, English has also finished 5th (2012), 2nd (2016) and 20th at Colonial Country Club, supported by 17th at TPC Four Seasons (2013). 5 appearances here have gleaned 4 paycheques, the best of which was 17th on debut in 2012, although he was also 8th here after 36 holes in 2016. Whilst his Total Driving and Ball Striking remain at their current elevated level, I think he’s one to follow this week on Bermudagrass greens which can only play to his strength. Result: T4

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Brice Garnett 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

In a tight market, value is lacking. Xin-Jun Zhang has been playing some outstanding stuff, but I’m siding with Brice Garnett who has been playing some good stuff of late. Let’s be straight here, the quality of field on offer this week is little better than an alternate event and a player like Brice can certainly mix it at these levels.

Garnett’s first ever top 10 on the PGA Tour came here in 2014 when he was 7th, but I like the Missouri man on the basis that he tends to come to the fore at these weaker events, especially in the Fall. 6th, 7th and 5th (2014, 2015, 2018) at El Camaleon and 9th at CC of Jackson (2015) have all come in the autumn, and lets not forget that Garnett won the Corales Championship, on a long, exposed Par 72 at Corales in 2018.

In fact where resort scoring is vital, Garnett tends to show up. Nothing typifies that more than at the Wyndham Championship at the start of August, where Garnett was in a tie for 2nd spot with Webb Simpson going into the final round, before finishing 6th. 23rd last time out at Silverado, where he closed with a final round -4/68, Garnett comes to the fore on scoreable Par 72s like the Tournament Course. He’s hitting greens and his 4th spot in partnership with Chesson Hadley at the 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans played at TPC Louisiana, again highlights a player who is more than comfortable on Bermudagrass MiniVerde putting surfaces. Result: T42

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:25BST 7.10.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.