Our golf expert brings you his preview and predictions for this week's golf, the Houston Open.
Houston Open - Winner
Memorial Park is host for the second year running for the Houston Open which again takes place in the wraparound part of the season instead of it's traditional slot the week before the Masters. The move to Memorial Park last year was a success and provided for an excellent event with the course playing tougher than anticipated. At 7400 yards + it is a long par 70 which tests the players sternly from tee to green. Three of the top 7 last year which included the winner and runner up Ortiz and Johnson, finished inside the top 5 in SG tee to green. Big hitters played their part towards the top of the leaderboard but ultimately it was their Greens In Reg that catapulted them towards the top and approach play was key. Being able to approach from shorter yardages is an advantage as getting up and down around these greens proved tough last year.
Tony Finau at 25/1 (8 Places)
During the CJ Cup Tony Finau was firing on all but one cylinders and should he arrive in the same nick here then he must hold a huge chance of landing another win. He putted very poorly at the CJ Cup and that single handedly played him out of contention. 45th last week in Mexico is no crisis and he should be much more suited by this test in Texas. His tee to green game is perfect for this track and a lukewarm putter would be enough to give him a huge chance. At 25/1 he sits 6th in the betting despite being the highest ranked golfer in the field only 5 starts out from winning an event of much greater quality than the field assembled this week. Trawl the major markets and you'll find Finau a general 28-33/1 shot for most of them with all 11 ahead of him in the world rankings teeing it up in those events. This is a fair chance for Finau to land his second win of the year.
2pts each-way T.Finau 25/1 (1/5 8)
Shane Lowry at 60/1 (5 Places)
Shane Lowry missed the cut in Mexico by a shot last week which is no disaster when considering Mayakoba is not the best fit for the Irishman. Previous to that a poor week off the tee resulted in him finishing far down in the order at the CJ Cup. 8th at Sawgrass, 9th at the Heritage, 21st Masters, 4th PGA, 6th memorial, 12th Open are all signs that Lowry has produced some of his best golf this year on the tougher tracks. Memorial Park looked perfect for him last year ranking high in all stats bar the most important, on the greens. Lowry was one of the worst putters in the field in 2020 when finishing in a tie for 11th. He ranks 3rd in Bogey avoidance in the field over the last 50 rounds and should enjoy the return to this track. He'll be aware of not managing a victory since his Open win and a win towards the end of the year will put everything right in the world.
1pt each-way S.Lowry 60/1 (1/4 5)
Gary Woodland at 90/1 (8 Places)
Gary Woodland was another who missed the cut in Mexico last week and with no stats to go on we have little evidence why. However he missed it on the number shooting 67-72 over the two days so I believe there is little to worry about with that weekend missed. Instead it will have hopefully given him the chance to prepare a shade easier for this event in Houston. The Texas resident should relish the return back home having finished 9th in the CJ Cup prior to his trip to Mexico. The 2019 US Open Champion has a tee to green game to rival the best on his day and it certainly does appear that he is finding some form late on in the year. 80/1 is a tempting mark to risk for someone who relishes a tougher test.
1pt each-way G.Woodland 90/1 (1/5 8)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout at 55/1 (8 Places)
Bezuidenhout may be handicapped by a lack of length off the tee this week but three of the top 5 at this event last year were outside the top 25 in Driving Distance. It can be done and the South African's approach game should be a huge asset at a track like Memorial Park. 15th last week in Mexico suggests he is in fair enough form and it is no surprise he made hay there given his tendency to avoid trouble. He has a decent CV on the tougher tracks with a four shot victory at Leopard Creek, a 6 shot victory at Valderrama and two top 5 finishes at Wentworth. The slight worry is the length of the track here this week and if we were looking at shorter yardage I'd be all over him for big stakes. As it stands the 50/1 is still extremely fair.
1pt each-way C.Bezuidenhout 55/1 (1/5 8)