Lowdown:
With one week to the year’s first Major, the PGA Tour heads for Texas and the Shell Houston Open. A world-class field, including defending champion Phil Mickelson, will tee it up at Redstone Golf Club as the players prepare for The Masters.
The Houston Open began life in 1924 and over the years it’s seen some notable winners including Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Roberto DeVicenzo. Last year Mickelson played two scintillating rounds of 63 and 65 over the weekend to win by three from Chris Kirk and Scott Verplank.
The tournament course at Redstone Golf Club was designed by Rees Jones with advice from David Toms, specifically to host a PGA Tour event. The track opened for play in 2005 and first hosted this event in 2006.
It’s set up similarly to Augusta National with a view to enticing some of the world’s best to complete their preparation work here. It’s long with an emphasis placed on finding greens and scrambling.
An extremely impressive field has assembled for this event including no less than 15 former Major champions. Europe is well represented with Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hanson, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke amongst those on the start list.
It’s last chance saloon for Ernie Els this week. The big South African has to win this event to earn a start at next week’s Masters.

Venue: Redstone GC Tournament Course, Humble, Texas
Date: Mar 29 – Apr 1
Course stats: par 72, 7,457 yards
Purse: $6,000,000 Winner: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson (-20)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 29 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 30 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 31 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 1 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Lee Westwood – The consistent Englishman has a good record in this event and, with the course set up to present a Major-style challenge, his game should be ideally suited to the test.

Ernie Els – He’ll have the bit between his teeth to make it to Augusta and he’s certainly on superb form. He should have made it into a playoff two weeks ago and contended again last week at Bay Hill.

Louis Oosthuizen – He’s been sneaking along under the radar but it’s about time he re-emerged. He was tied for 20th at the Transitions Championship and, in that event, he posted only one bogey in his last 54 holes.

Key hole: 18th. A tough par-4 of 488 yards, a lake borders the entire left hand side of the hole. From the tee the golfer must attempt to carry as much water as possible to reduce the length of the second shot. The approach is equally challenging, as anything straying to the left side will find a watery grave.

Skills required: Scrambling. This is a course that is increasingly being set up to resemble conditions at Augusta. As such, a premium is placed on the short game. The man who can get it up and down on a regular basis will have a great advantage here.

Where Next?
European Tour –
Sicilian Open preview