Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's Houston Open Tips 2020

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Brian Gay at 200/1 landed the Bermuda Championship last week – if you were on him last week, I offer my very best congratulations! So that gives us a non-Major/Invitational status PGA Tour winner’s list since the new season started at the Safeway Open of Stewart Cink, Hudson Swafford, Sergio Garcia, Martin Laird and now Brian Gay at odds of 200/1, 200/1, 70/1, 275/1 and 200/1 respectively. You can throw Jason Kokrak in there as well who took the ‘Mini-Major’ at the CJ Cup at 100/1, beating 12/1 Xander Schauffele in a Sunday head-to-head.

This week we have the freshly sponsored Vivint Houston Open. 12 months ago this event was unsponsored and only featured 2 players from the OWGR top 50 in the field. The event was traditionally the standard curtain-raiser for The Masters in April, but 2019 saw it move to the wrap-around ‘Fall’ section of the PGA Tour. But in these strange times, the Houston Open yet again finds itself positioned the week before the first ever November Masters tournament and the tournament is being hosted on a new course – Memorial Park Golf Course.

Tournament organisers the Astros Foundation, led by Astros owner Jim Crane, have been rewarded with a strong field including World Number 1 Dustin Johnson, Tyrrell Hatton, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler and Sergio Garcia from the World’s top 40 ranked players all attending.

Before we talk the Vivint Houston Open, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing by the week, with The Masters the small matter of a week away. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: The Houston Open from 2003 through 2019 was played at Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone GC), on a Par 72 course which featured many Florida set-up traits. Winners there included Fred Couples, Vijay Singh (x2), Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim, Phil Mickelson, J.B. Holmes, Russell Henley and Ian Poulter, traditionally the week before The Masters. 2020 sees a move to Memorial Park Golf Course, which has received a $19 million renovation funded by Astros owner Jim Crane via the tournament-organising Astros Foundation. The course, crafted by Tom Doak, is said to be not your standard PGA Tour affair.

Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston, Texas: Designer: John Bredemus 1935, with Tom Doak renovation 2019; Course Type: Resort; Par: 70; Length: 7,432 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: 419 Bermudagrass; Rough: 419 Bermudagrass 2.5″; Greens: 7,000 sq.ft average featuring MiniVerde Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimpmeter 12-12.5ft.

Course Overview: First thing to point out is that Memorial Park Golf Course is a municipal golf course, which caters for 60,000 rounds per year. Previously a John Bredemus 1935 design, Tom Doak was brought in by tournament sponsor Jim Crane to completely renovate Memorial Park, so that it can host both the Houston Open each year and then cater for the amateur player for the other 51 weeks of the year. Doak, with some help from player consultant Brooks Koepka, delivered a 7,400+ yard design in just 10 months.

The routing of the course in general is the same as the old course, but Doak has added far more movement in both the fairways and especially around the greens, and his brief was to make Memorial Park an exciting venue for both PGA Tour and leisure golfers alike.

As to how the course plays, this statement from the Doak Design website is pretty revealing, “With our consultant, Brooks Koepka, we agreed that our priority should be not to defend par, but to provide opportunities for dramatic lead changes and excitement for both golfers and fans. The first test of its success will be in November, 2020.” In summary, expect eagles and birdies!

At 7,432 yards for a Par 70, the course is stretching in length. But it also shares a pretty quirky set-up, as the course features 5 par-3s and 3 par-5s in total. 2 par-5s are on the front 9, with a driveable par-4 – the 13th – on the back ,side with a further par-5.

Off the tee, Doak designs tend to feature very generous fairways and although these are tree-lined, those trees tend to be well back. Rough has been mentioned as penal, but as we know on the PGA Tour that means very little.

As part of Tom Doak’s brief, the course only features 19 bunkers on the basis that they are easy for Tour pros but difficult for amateurs. Instead there are lots of tight grass slopes, contours and green complex surround slopes which repel approach shots, then requiring a tight lie to an elevated green recovery shot. The 13th to 15th features a short par-4, short par-5 and short par-3. The 16th is a par-5 that’s reachable in 2, but has water on 3 sides of the green – so there’s absolutely no bail out for the host of players who go for it.

And finally the greens themselves, which at an average 7.000 sq.ft are large and feature MiniVerde UltraDwarf Bermudagrass green complexes. Other current PGA Tour stop-offs with MiniVerde include TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic of New Orleans) and East Lake (Tour Championship), plus the old Houston Open host course at the GC of Houston, also featured them – although they were overseeded in its April guise.

houston open tips

Winners: 2019: Lanto Griffin (-14); 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, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Si Woo Kim, Sungjae Im, Cameron Davis, Ollie Schniederjans and Aaron Wise.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Safeway Open and Portugal Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Tyler Duncan; 2) John Huh; 3) James Hahn; 4) Henrik Stenson; 5) Satoshi Kodaira; 6) Ryan Armour; 7) Tyrrell Hatton / Sungjae Im / Adam Long; 10) Bo Van Pelt; 11) Corey Conners / Andrew Landry / Denny McCarthy; 14) Dustin Johnson / Adam Scott; 16) Keegan Bradley / Padraig Harrington / Russell Henley / Henrik Norlander; 20) Scott Piercy / Scottie Scheffler; 22) Brian Harman / Michael Thompson; 24) Vaughn Taylor; 25) Viktor Hovland / Mark Hubbard.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Matthew NeSmith; 2) John Huh; 3) Tony Finau; 4) Russell Henley; 5) Viktor Hovland; 6) Sungjae Im; 7) Emiliano Grillo; 8) James Hahn / Zach Johnson / Russell Knox; 11) Martin Laird; 12) Patrick Rodgers; 13) Dustin Johnson / Lee Westwood; 15) Keegan Bradley; 16) Shane Lowry; 17) Lucas Glover; 18) Brooks Koepka / Doc Redman; 20) Camilo Villegas; 21) Kevin Streelman; 22) Henrik Stenson; 23) Corey Conners; 24) Tyrrell Hatton; 25) Stewart Cink / Lanto Griffin / Scottie Scheffler.
  • Scrambling: 1) Ollie Schniederjans; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Russell Henley; 4) Doc Redman; 5) Hideki Matsuyama; 6) Henrik Stenson; 7) Tyler Duncan / Andrew Landry; 9) Si Woo Kim / Brooks Koepka / Alex Noren; 12) Matt Jones / Scott Stallings; 14) Talor Gooch; 15) Padraig Harrington; 16) Jason Day / Adam Schenk; 18) Maverick McNealy; 19) Brian Harman; 20) Cameron Davis; 21) Tom Hoge; 22) Viktor Hovland / Adam Long; 24) Keegan Bradley / Denny McCarthy.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Adam Scott; 2) Tom Hoge; 3) Ollie Schniederjans; 4) Mackenzie Hughes; 5) Erik van Rooyen; 6) Tyrrell Hatton; 7) Tony Finau; 8) James Hahn; 9) Rory Sabbatini; 10) Harry Higgs; 11) Russell Henley / Brooks Koepka; 13) Andrew Landry; 14) Beau Hossler / Kristoffer Ventura; 16) Patton Kizzire / Satoshi Kodaira / Brandt Snedeker / Lee Westwood; 20) Hideki Matsuyama / Scottie Scheffler; 22) Cameron Davis / Jhonattan Vegas; 24) Corey Conners; 25) Lanto Griffin / Danny Lee.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Safeway Open and Portugal Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Sam Burns; 2) Padraig Harrington; 3) Viktor Hovland / Sungjae Im; 5) Sergio Garcia / Scottie Scheffler; 7) Harry Higgs; 8) Dustin Johnson / Luke List; 10) Dylan Frittelli / Tyrrell Hatton / Sepp Straka; 13) James Hahn; 14) Tony Finau; 15) Cameron Davis / Adam Scott / Lee Westwood; 18) Jason Day; 19) Corey Conners / Doc Redman / Carlos Ortiz; 22) Beau Hossler; 23) Patrick Rodgers; 24) Wyndham Clark / Grayson Murray / Kristoffer Ventura.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) John Huh / Dustin Johnson; 3) Tony Finau; 4) Russell Henley; 5) Brooks Koepka; 6) Chris Kirk; 7) James Hahn / Martin Laird; 9) Lee Westwood; 10) Zach Johnson; 11) Emiliano Grillo; 12) Viktor Hovland; 13) Lanto Griffin / Andrew Landry / Scott Stallings; 16) Sungjae Im; 17) Tom Hoge / Doc Redman; 19) Corey Conners / Mathew NeSmith; 21) Xin-Jun Zhang; 22) Keegan Bradley / J.T. Poston; 24) Hideki Matsuyama; 25) Henrik Stenson.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Brooks Koepka; 2) Adam Schenk; 3) John Huh; 4) Tony Finau; 5) Russell Henley / Si Woo Kim; 7) Viktor Hovland / Dustin Johnson; 9) Beau Hossler / Francesco Molinari / Camilo Villegas; 12) Stewart Cink / Bo Hoag / Phil Mickelson; 15) Wyndham Clark / Andrew Landry; 17) Padraig Harrington / Michael Kim / Kristoffer Ventura; 20) Keegan Bradley / Hideki Matsuyama / Robby Shelton / Michael Thompson; 24) Mackenzie Hughes; 25) Danny Willett.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) John Huh; 3) Russell Henley; 4) Tony Finau; 5) Viktor Hovland; 6) James Hahn; 7) Lee Westwood; 8) Padraig Harrington; 9) Doc Redman; 10) Brooks Koepka; 11) Zach Johnson; 12) Sungjae Im / Matthew NeSmith; 14) Keegan Bradley; 15) Austin Cook / Martin Laird; 17) Harold Varner III; 18) Dylan Frittelli; 19) Emiliano Grillo / Harry Higgs; 21) Andrew Landry / Hideki Matsuyama; 23) Tyrrell Hatton / Tom Hoge / Sepp Straka.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Kristoffer Ventura; 2) Denny McCarthy / Adam Scott; 4) Cameron Tringale; 5) Brian Harman; 6) Andrew Putnam; 7) Tyrrell Hatton; 8) Brice Garnett; 9) Zach Johnson / J.T. Poston; 11) Alex Noren; 12) Mackenzie Hughes; 13) Charles Schwartzel / Harold Varner III; 15) Tom Hoge / Danny Willett; 17) Corey Conners / Rory Sabbatini; 19) Stewart Cink / Kevin Streelman; 21) Harry Higgs / Patton Kizzire; 23) Brooks Koepka / Adam Long / Erik van Rooyen.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) James Hahn; 3) Tony Finau; 4) Russell Henley; 5) Zach Johnson; 6) John Huh / Lee Westwood; 8) Harold Varner III; 9) Viktor Hovland; 10) Kristoffer Ventura; 11) Brian Harman / Padraig Harrington / Brooks Koepka; 14) Sungjae Im; 15) Erik van Rooyen; 16) Emiliano Grillo / Harry Higgs / Tom Hoge / Kevin Streelman; 20) Corey Conners / Doc Redman / Sepp Straka; 23) Tyrrell Hatton / Hideki Matsuyama; 25) Cameron Davis / Si Woo Kim.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Griffin 60/1; 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 6 Renewals Average: 126/1. Average: 107/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind SSE 7-14 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Friday: Showers and isolated thunderstorms in the morning. High of 75. Mostly cloudy in the afternoon with temperatures in the low 50s. Wind NNW 15-20, with gusts to 30 mph. Due to darkness, the second round was suspended for the day at 6.56 p.m. C.T. with 59 players yet to complete the second round. Saturday: The second round resumed at 8 a.m. and was completed at 10:40 a.m. Mix of sun and clouds. High of 69. Wind NNE 10-15 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 78. Wind ENE 5-10 mph.
  • 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 Houston, Texas, is here. After the blustery and at times strong winds in Bermuda last week, Texas golf is synonymous with windy conditions. But this week in downtown Houston looks calm enough, with forecasts predicting nothing over 10 mph, Thursday and Friday, increasing to gusts of 15mph on the weekend.

October has been relatively dry in this part of the world and with no precipitation forecast, I’d expect firm enough turf conditions on the fairways, with the standard receptive greens – especially as this is a new course on the PGA Tour. Temperatures will be pleasant at with 25 to 29 degrees Celsius across tournament week.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 10 Houston Open winners:

  • 2019 – Lanto Griffin: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 17th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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 10 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Lanto Griffin: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2018 – Ian Poulter: Round 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:

  • Lanto Griffin: 18th Shriners/17th Safeway/11th Sanderson/13th Greenbrier.
  • 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.

  • 2019 – Cook/Gooch – Both AM -8/64 – 66/1 & 90/1.
  • 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 PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 7 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Brian Gay, Zach Johnson.
  • 3 – Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Camilo Villegas.
  • 2 – Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Russell Henley, Si Woo Kim, Chris Kirk, Scott Piercy, Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Keegan Bradley, Wesley Bryan, Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Branden Grace,  Lanto Griffin, Padraig Harrington, Tyrrell Hatton, Max Homa, Mackenzie Hughes, Sungjae Im, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Brooks Koepka, Martin Laird, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Francesco Molinari, Grayson Murray, Sean O’Hair, C.T. Pan, Pat Perez, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Michael Thompson, Jhonattan Vegas, Lee Westwood, Aaron Wise.

Pre-Major tournaments always have a slightly strange feel to them and the week prior to The Masters is perennially difficult to read. But let’s take 2020 so far. The WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational preceded the PGA Championship and this was won by Justin Thomas at 12/1. Hardly surprising that a top player took out a WGC. And we also had the Safeway Open the week before the U.S. Open, a tournament which featured none of the leading players, who all took the week off prior to Winged Foot. For the record Stewart Cink won at Silverado at 300/1. As far as leads go, we’re not exactly learning a lot.

This week at the Houston Open sees a real mix when it comes to the field. World Number 1 Dustin Johnson heads a field which contains course consultant Brooks Koepka, Tyrrell Hatton, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Jason Day, Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Augusta National specialist Jordon Spieth. Many of these undoubtedly have a great chance next week.

Most of the field though are ignoring Augusta on the basis that they haven’t qualified and in this instance cannot qualify. As standard we are talking about April as opposed to November, but 7 of the past 8 winners of the Masters warm-up event weren’t already in the field for the following week’s main event. Corey Conners (2019), Ian Poulter (2018), Russell Henley (2017) and Jim Herman (2016) fall into this category. The exception was J.B. Holmes in 2015 who had finished 2nd at Torrey Pines and the WGC at Doral, prior to taking the Houston Open at 28/1.

My selections are as follows:

Scottie Scheffler 2pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Winners of pre-Major events tend to be obvious top 5 in the world players or the undercard. Dustin Johnson has won the week before a Major twice in the past 5 years, as has Justin Thomas including this year at the WGC-St Jude Invitational. Jordan Spieth was the World Number 2 when he won the 2015 John Deere Classic and last year Rory McIlroy won the RBC Canadian Open, Ranked World Number 4 the week before the U.S. Open hosted at Pebble Beach. So the prices about both Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are more than fair. Clearly I have Covid concerns about the World Number 1 and course design consultant Brooks Koepka will desperately want to play well to boost his confidence the week before The Masters. He needs to sort out his number 1 weapon though – the driver.

My first thought on Memorial Park was that it will suit the bomber. 3 par-5s, and a driveable par-4 make this course very attackable for those with power. The same could be said 2 weeks ago at Sherwood Country Club where Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm and my selection Justin Thomas fought it out for the title, scoring a combined -36 across their 60 looks at the par-5s. I’m also a believer in ‘Strokes Gained Motivated’ and always feel that a vast majority of the elite a week before a Major are tuning up their games, plain and simple.

So first up for me is Scottie Scheffler – the World Number 30 is into his second season on Tour after a stellar rookie season which saw him land 8 top-10 finishes which included 4th at the PGA Championship, 5th at the Tour Championship (he was 2nd in 72 hole scores) and a 59 at the Northern Trust. He’s a Texan, so winning in the Lone Star State will mean a lot to him, and more importantly he’s still a maiden on the PGA Tour – a win this week would mean the world to him. 33rd for Driving Distance, 30th for Driving Accuracy, 31st for Greens in Regulation and 9th for Ball Striking across the embryonic weeks of this season, Scheffler was also 7th for Birdie Average, 2nd for Total Birdies and 12th for Scoring Average across the whole of 2019/20, where he ranked 3rd for par-4 Birdie or Better and 28th for par-5 Birdie or Better conversion.

As a Dallas, Texas man, Scottie will undoubtedly be motivated to go well this week at the Houston Open and his 8-week tracker numbers in this field rank him 20th for Driving Accuracy, 25th for Greens in Regulation and 20th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR). He’s undoubtedly got the traditional statistics surrounded! 1st for Strokes Gained Off the Tee last time out at the ZOZO Championship, his approach play is rounding towards what we saw in August, where he was one of the best players on the planet. 67-65 across the opening 36 holes at the ZOZO had him in 4th spot at halfway, but to this point both of his PGA Tour leads have been at the Bermuda Championship (36 hole) and the American Express (54 hole), which both feature Bermudagrass greens.  If the approach play continues to improve, expect a contending performance from the University of Texas graduate. RESULT: T32

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Si Woo Kim 1.5pts EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Memorial Park Golf Course offers-up Bermudagrass greens, so it’s almost an automatic that I like the look of Si Woo Kim this week. I tipped him up recently at the Sanderson Farms where he finished 37th, but my reasoning is still sound in my view. He plays Augusta National next week, but as he sits 88th in the OWGR he sits outside looking in at 2020 WGCs and Majors. And his game is undoubtedly on the rise over the last 4 months. 11th at the Travelers Championship, 18th at the Memorial Tournament, 13th at the PGA Championship and 3rd at the Wyndham Championship, Si Woo through hard work and some good play made it to the FedEx Cup PlayOffs. And in the new season he’s made 3 of 3 non-Major cuts, with his last 2 outings delivering 8th at TPC Summerlin and 17th at Shadow Creek.

Short golf courses featuring Bermudagrass or Paspalum greens are the South Korean’s domain and that is easy to see with a CV which includes 4th at the Sony Open, (Waialae 2016), 9th at the CareerBuilder Challenge (PGA West 2016), 2nd at the Barbasol Championship (Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail 2016), 3rd at the OHL Classic (El Camaleon 2017), 1st at The Players Championship (TPC Sawgrass 2017) and 2nd at the RBC Heritage (Harbour Town 2018). His record at the Wyndham Championship played at Sedgefield Country Club is also stellar with 1st in 2016, 5th in 2019 and 3rd this year, when leading after 54 holes.

So his recent 8th and 17th on Bentgrass greens is interesting. At the Shriners Open a Saturday 63 was scintillating and delivered him into the top 10 where he remained for the rest of the tournament. He then moved onto Shadow Creek and the CJ Cup where he ranked 18th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 5th for Approach and 6th for Tee to Green in what was an absolutely stellar field. But Bermudagrass is Si Woo’s undoubted groove, indeed he ranks Number 2 in this field for Bermudagrass finishes across the past 5 years, behind only Dustin Johnson. RESULT: MC

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Corey Conners 1.5pts EW 55/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Corey Conners has been playing some nice golf of late and I always look closely at him when we get to Bermudagrass greens.

3rd (2019) and 12th (2020) at Waialae, 16th (2018) at Copperhead, 2nd (2018) and 17th (2020) at the CC of Jackson, plus with a win at TPC San Antonio here in Texas last year on Champion Bermudagrass base greens which were overseeded with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis. A player with top-level driving and approach play, it’s Conners’ short game and putting which is his weakness, but rare positive Strokes Gained Putting performances more often than not crop up on Bermudagrass greens, with both of his best putting numbers arriving on the TifDwarf  variety at Waialae Country Club.

Since 2 straight missed cuts at the U.S Open and Corales to start season 2020/21, Corey has chipped in with 17th at the Sanderson Farms (he was 11th after 54 holes), 61st at the CJ Cup and 8th last time out at the ZOZO Championship, where he closed with a final round 66 – tied-4th best final round, which landed him a back door top 10 in what was a loaded, no-cut event. And he could do with another strong finish this week in Houston as despite being in the field for The Masters next week, his 69th OWGR ranking places him outside of the 2021 Majors and WGCs.

From an 8-week tracker perspective Conners is also attractive this week, ranking in this field 11th for Driving Accuracy, 23rd for Greens in Regulation and 24th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR). That translates to a Strokes Gained angle as 19th Off the Tee, 19th on Approach, 17th for Putting and 20th for SG Total. RESULT: T24

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J.T. Poston 1pt EW 90/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

A quick glimpse of J.T. Poston’s Official World Golf Ranking highlights a few crystal clear truths about the 27 year-old who lives on St Simons Island, Georgia. His biggest haul of OWGR points (44) came with his 2019 Wyndham Championship win where he won at -22/262 on a Par 70.  Last month he landed his second biggest points haul (12) by finishing 4th at the Sanderson Farms Championship, played on a similar length Par 72 not a million miles away from Houston, at the CC of Jackson in Mississippi. The 2019 and 2020 RBC Heritage (Harbour Town) renewals, the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge (Colonial), the 2017 Shriners Open (TPC Summerlin) and the 2019 Desert Classic (PGA West) round out Poston’s top 7 career-grossing events. Now all of those courses feature Bermudagrass fairways and rough with Sedgefield, Jackson, Harbour Town and PGA West all featuring Bermudagrass greens as well.

J.T. undoubtedly likes a birdie-fest and I think that he can take to Memorial Park like a duck to water. Not the straightest off the tee, the wide fairways on this Doak design should appeal greatly. Poston certainly carries enough pop off the tee, and then it’s clear that he excels with his approach play and short game, which I think is the ideal mix here.

22nd for Strokes Gained Approach and 9th for SG Putting across my 8-week skill trackers, Poston was the 54-hole leader at the Sanderson Farms and 19th after 54 holes at the Shriners Open, where he eventually finished 27th. I’m not fussed about 51st at the CJ Cup last time out on a golf course that didn’t suit, but instead I think Memorial Park will be more to his liking from both an agronomy and temperature perspective. Incentive-wise at a career high 60th in the World Rankings, a top-5 finish this week, in a decent field, will see J.T. into the coveted top 50 the week before his Masters debut. Win/Win. RESULT: T20

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 07:20GMT 3.11.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.