With the Shell Houston Open comes the last opportunity for players to get into peak form for next week’s kind-of-a-big-deal tournament in Augusta. Among the field in Houston this week are 29 golfers who have already earned their shot at competing for a green jacket next weekend; the rest of the field will look to join them in Georgia with a victory this week.
Last year Jim Herman held off Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson for the victory, shooting -15 on the week. Herman was lights out with the putter last year finishing fourth in Strokes Gained: Putting having only missed three putts inside of 10 feet all week. He also managed to avoid big numbers by finishing fourth in Scrambling. As important as it is to score well and roll in birdies all week, staying away from the doubles and “others” this course has to offer is equally significant.
The Golf Club of Houston, formerly named Redstone Golf Club, will play host to this week’s Shell Houston Open. The 7,441 yard, par 72 course is often compared to Augusta National due to it’s length and the measures in which the grounds crew go to in order to prepare golfers for next week’s Masters. Fast greens, closely mown run-offs, and short rough are all designed to emulate the challenge golfers will face at Augusta.
Much like next week’s test, there is trouble to be found here in the form of large water hazards and tree-lined fairways. Accuracy is important to navigate around the Golf Club of Houston, but not in the ordinary sense that golfers must find the fairway. With the rough being almost non-existent players won’t be penalized by missing the fairways as long as they’re on the correct side of the hole for a clean approach shot. J.B. Holmes finished last in Driving Accuracy on his way to victory in 2015.
The most challenging hole on the entire course is the 488 yard par-4 18th. Last year’s scoring average of .391 strokes over par ranked the hole as the 17th most difficult on Tour.
Although the greens are made up of Bermudagrass, they’re overseeded with bent/rye causing a closer correlation with players who perform better on Bentgrass. At a 13 on the stimpmeter they’re quicker than Tour average, part of the Augusta-like setup. Where they differ from the storied Augusta greens is that they’re very flat in comparison.
- Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
- Birdie or Better %
- Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Always a somewhat “catch-all” stat, SG:T2G pinpoints the golfers who excel at ball positioning and ball striking. The top five in SG:T2G here last year all finished inside the top seven.
Birdie or Better %
With the winning score here averaging around -15, finding guys who can take advantage of the scorable par-5s and the shorter par-4s is pivotal.
If the Texas wind makes an appearance as it typically does, then the course should firm up bringing into play the closely mown run-offs on most of these greens. With the entire course playing just .115 under par, getting up and down and maintaining any strokes gained is hugely important. Herman finished T4 in Scrambling on his way to victory last year.
With firm fairways and short rough, guys who can mash the ball off the tee are going to find themselves closer to wedge range on the long par-4s. J.B. Holmes led the field in Driving Distance but finished last in Driving Accuracy on his way to the title in 2015.