The week before The Masters, many of the world’s top players including Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson will complete their final preparations for the year’s first Major at the Golf Club of Houston.
The Shell Houston Open has traditionally been contested in the week prior to The Masters and the Rees Jones designed layout is always set up to replicate the sort of conditions the players will face at Augusta. The greens tend to be extremely quick – up to 13 on the stimpmeter.
As such, the event attracts a strong field as players complete their final Masters preparation. Jon Rahm makes his tournament debut following a superb runner’s-up finish in last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, 2015 runner-up Jordan Spieth will be looking to find his game for Augusta while Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Adam Scott will all start.
Related: Shell Houston Open betting tips
In 2008, Augusta National restored the Shell Houston Open’s automatic winner’s ticket for The Masters so this event provides a last chance for a player to make it to the year’s first Major. In the past Johnson Wagner (2008), D.A. Points (2013) Matt Jones (2014) and Jim Herman (last season) have taken advantage of that offer. Herman secured his first PGA Tour victory, winning by a shot from Henrik Stenson.
Stenson swing sequence:
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 weather forecast looks reasonable but unpredictable breezes could make scoring tricky.
Venue: Golf Club of Houston, Humble, Texas
Date: Mar 30 – Apr 2
Course stats: par 72, 7,441 yards
Purse: $3,000,000 Winner: $540,000
Defending Champion: Jim Herman (-15)
Thursday 31 – Sky Sports 4 from 9pm
Friday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 9pm
Saturday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 3 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Jon Rahm – It may be his first start in the event but he is on superb form. He was runner-up to DJ last week in Austin and has earned more than $3 million so far in his first full season. He’s riding the crest of a wave.
Phil Mickelson – He’s a former winner of this event and he has a great record in the tournament. He played superbly well in the group stages at the Match Play.
Charley Hoffman – Has never missed a cut in Houston (10 times played). He’s playing well with a tie for fourth in the Genesis and a tied second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
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.