Shell Houston Open: Walker value for home win

Jimmy Walker - another win looks on the horizon
Jimmy Walker - another win looks on the horizon

After 50/1 headline pick Tony Finau took victory in Puerto Rico last week, Dave Tindall brings us his analysis and tips for this week's PGA Tour event - the Shell Houston Open...

"So far this season he’s posted five top 13 finishes in seven strokeplay starts and that means he’s not far away. The 40/1 could look very generous"

Main bet: Back Jimmy Walker @ 41.040/1

Each-way terms: ¼ odds, 5 places

Main bet: Back Jimmy Walker e/w @ 40/1

There's a bunch of quality players at the front end of the market but there seems little value in any of them to be honest.

All have course form but the prices - 6s Jordan Spieth, 11s Rickie Fowler, 12s Henrik Stenson, 14s Dustin Johnson, 18s Phil Mickelson - more than reflect that.

There may be a little juice in Mickelson but I'd rather play him next week.

Beyond that, Patrick Reed is short at 20s and I wouldn't want to play the 22s about Louis Oosthuizen given his gruelling week in the Match Play.

So the one I like at the odds is 40/1 Jimmy Walker.

Last year, Walker pulled out of this event due to illness and was very apologetic - "The City of Houston and Tournament Director Steve Timms have always been very good to me throughout my career" - so there could certainly be an element of the American wanting to make amends.

Twelve months ago, Walker had just captured another of his home State tournaments, the Valero Texas Open, which obviously shows he can play well at this time of year and in his own backyard.

He went into that tournament on the back of form figures of 31st (WGC-Cadillac), 41st (Northern Trust) and 21st (Pebble Beach) so didn't exactly look in explosive form despite a win earlier that season in Hawaii.

This time he'll head home after a group exit in the WGC-Dell Match Play and a top six on his last strokeplay start at the Cadillac.

Interviewed there, Walker lamented that he'd been struggling on the greens - "I had a bunch of 3-putts at Riviera that cost me. I just don't do that"- but felt he had ironed out the problems after a few lengthy sessions.

If so, expect him to be a danger this week.

He hasn't always coped with expectations when playing in Texas but appears to have got it sussed it now. Reading backwards from last year's Byron Nelson his last seven strokeplay starts in the Lone Start State have produced results of: 2-65-1-10-37-24-16.

Okay, his best in Houston is only T24 but that did come on his latest start in 2014. It included a second-round 65 while he also opened with a 63 when T30 in 2011.

There's no doubt he can play this track so it's just a case of stringing rounds together.

So far this season he's posted five top 13 finishes in seven strokeplay starts and that means he's not far away.

The 40/1 could look very generous.

Outsider: Back Brendan Steele e/w @ 100/1

There's quite a few that look interesting at three-figure prices and one I like the look of is Brendan Steele.

At 7,441 yards with wide fairways and not much rough, it's an obvious policy to look towards the big hitters - especially with J.B. Holmes taking the title 12 months ago.

Steele ranks 22nd in Driving Distance this season (303.8) and his greens in regulation numbers are good too (31st).

He's also sixth in the All-Around so the Californian is far more than just a grip-it-and-rip-it merchant.

Steele's one victory on the PGA Tour so far came in this very State when he landed the 2011 Valero Texas Open and that's rather a favourite event of his as he's since posted fourth and eighth at the same venue.

The 32-year-old looked as if he might post a second PGA Tour victory when leading from first round to third in October's Open before faltering down the stretch while he was also the 54-hole leader at the CIMB Classic in November before finishing third.

This season, he's made six cuts out of six and two of his last four starts have been top 20s - T17 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and T14 in the Honda Classic. He was also in the top 10 at Bay Hill after two rounds.

Speaking at the Arnold Palmer, Steele said: "I've been feeling really good about my game. I've been adding pieces here and there and kind of waiting for it all to come together."

Maybe it might in Houston and, at 100/1, I'm happy to pay to find out.

The price is inflated due to some less than amazing course form. He's made three cuts out of five and only shot in the 60s four times but twos of those (R2 67 and R4 69) came last year when he posted his best finish so far of T25.

That could be the springboard for a big week so let's get involved.

A couple of others at big odds to look for are Ben Martin and Jonas Blixt.

Martin has found some form again with a T12 at Bay Hill and a T16 at the Northern Trust two starts before that and has played some good golf in Texas before.

Blixt already has a third and a sixth this year and in his latest two starts finished T22 (Valspar) and T27 (Arnold Palmer) on the Florida Swing.

He's also finished runner-up at The Masters so if you take the theory that this course is set up to be like Augusta and work backwards he could be a dark horse to watch. Blixt finished T25 last year and T29 in 2012.

Top 10: Back Charley Hoffman @ 11/2

Like Steele, Charley Hoffman is a California native who happens to have an excellent record in Texas.

Let's list his last 12 strokeplay finishes: 2-10-11-11-51-37-11-18-3-20-13.

That's nine top 20s in 11 starts. Although only three of have been top 10s, two have come on his last two starts and he's only been a shot away to adding others on several occasions

As for this event, Hoffman has made eight of nine cuts and finished in the top 25 nine times. His best was sixth in 2008 while he just failed to reward top 10 backers when T11 last year.

On current form, the top 10 market looks the logical way to play him; he's playing well but can't quite find 72-hole consistency.

On his last strokeplay start, he finished T11 at the Valspar while a week earlier he'd posted T17 in elite company at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

In recent interviews, the Hoff has said things like "hit it solid" and "everything is pretty good" so he's playing nicely without pulling up any trees. In other words, a good candidate for a top 10 bet.

The 66/1 on the outrights is a consideration of course and he was third going into the final round of the Valspar but given how many finishes he bunches around 10th I know which I prefer.

Also on the outrights at 66s, I was close to leaving some chips on the table and backing Tony Finau again after he landed this column a 50/1 win in Puerto Rico last week.

Finau shot three good rounds and a poor one last year (69-68-77-68) when T42 and his confidence will obviously be sky high. He was also T10 on his last start in Texas (2015 Byron Nelson).

A word too for Daniel Berger. I was impressed with his spirit and attitude at the WGC-Dell Match Play despite his group exit while before that he'd delivered a T11 in the Valspar.

Berger made his debut in this event last year and finished T25 while he cracked the top 10 in the Byron Nelson when teeing it up in Texas in May, 2015.

His odds of 80/1 could look big come Sunday.

Dave's 2016 P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £350
Returned: £579.5
P/L: +£229.5

(After Puerto Rico Open)

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles