Lowdown:
The PGA Tour heads to Texas this week for the Shell Houston Open. Hunter Mahan defends the title and a strong field has assembled as the players prepare for The Masters in two weeks time.

This is the first time in a number of years that this event has not taken place the week before the year’s first Major. An agreement between the PGA Tour and the Valero Texas Open regarding an Easter Sunday finish is the reason for that. However, tournament playing conditions in the Shell Houston Open will still resemble those at Augusta.

As the set-up is configured in this way, the tournament always attracts a number of the world’s best. Rory McIlroy will tee it up, now number 2 on the Official World Golf Ranking following Tiger’s victory at Bay Hill. Keegan Bradley is on the start sheet, as are Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood.

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.

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.

Since then winners include Adam Scott, Paul Casey and Phil Mickelson. Last year Hunter Mahan took the title by a single stroke from Carl Pettersson.

The weather forecast is looking sketchy so don’t be surprised if the event is interrupted by thunderstorm delays.

Venue:
Redstone GC Tournament Course, Humble, Texas
Date: Mar 28-31
Course stats: par 72, 7,457 yards
Purse: $6,200,000 Winner: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Hunter Mahan (-16)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 28 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 29 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 30 – Sky Sports 3 from 5pm
Sunday 31 – Sky Sports 3 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Louis Oosthuizen – The South African was third in this event last year and should have won had it not been for a poor closing round. He’s not played particularly well on the PGA Tour so far this season but has enjoyed success on the European circuit.

Bill Haas – He was tied eighth at Bay Hill – his fourth top-10 finish of the season. He played brilliantly in the first two rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational before fading on the weekend. If he can put four together, he could contend.

Ben Kohles – The 23-year-old is showing potential. He was tied seventh in Tampa Bay and tied 14th last week. He’s on a mini-run and will look to keep it up this week.

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 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 –
Trophee Hassan II preview