Houston Open: Scheffler fancied to make it three in-a-row

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler after his Players Championship win at Sawgrass

The PGA Tour pitches up in the Lone Star State for the first of two events in Texas prior to the US Masters. Read Steve Rawlings' Houston Open preview here...

  • World number one bids to win in his home state

  • Hot putting the key in Houston

  • Read my Indian Open preview here


  • Tournament History

    George Bowden and Peter O'Hara tied a tournament called the Houston Professional Golf event way back in 1922 and there was a tournament of sorts sporadically held annually in the Houston area up until 1938.

    Nothing happened during the war years but 1946 saw the first official staging of the Houston Open, and the tournament started with a bang, with Byron Nelson getting the better of Ben Hogan by two strokes.

    There was no event in 1948 or 1969 and after a rejig to the PGA Schedule, the Houston Open dropped of the schedule last year but it's been an ever-present on the PGA Tour otherwise.

    After victories in Florida at Bay Hill and Sawgrass, Texan, Scottie Scheffler, is the short-priced favourite to win his third event in-a-row.


    Venue

    Memorial Park Golf Course, Houston, Texas


    Course Details

    Par 70, 7412

    Stroke Average in 2022 - 70.56

    Originally designed by John Bredemus, Memorial Park, a municipal parkland course, was completely reworked in 2019 by Tom Doak, who was assisted by Brooks Koepka.

    On Koepka's advice, bunkers were reduced from 54 to 20 and many were replaced by steep slopes covered in short grass. Runoff or collection areas if you prefer. The idea behind the move was to allow handicap golfers to putt up on to the green, rather than play from the sand, and to test the pros a bit more. The majority of recreational golfers struggle playing out of bunkers but none of the pros do so it was a clever and logical move.

    MEMORIAL PARK HOUSTON 2022 2.jpg

    The course is entirely Bermuda and the large MiniVerde Bermuda greens and they're usually set to at least 12 on the stimpmeter.

    This is the fourth time in-a-row that Memorial Park has hosted the event.


    Weather Forecast


    TV Coverage

    Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:30 (UK time) on Thursday


    Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices

    • 2023 - No Tournament
    • 2022 - Tony Finau -16 18.017/1
    • 2021 - Jason Kokrak -10 55.054/1
    • 2020 - Carlos Ortiz -13 200.0199/1
    • 2019 - Lanto Griffin -14 65.064/1
    • 2018 - Ian Poulter -19 150.0149/1
    • 2017 - Russell Henley -20 60.059/1
    • 2016 - Jim Herman -15 800.0799/1
    • 2015 - J.B Holmes -16 38.037/1

    What Will it Take to Win the Houston Open?

    With only three renewals to look back on, how much credence we can give the stats is debatable.

    Distance off the tee had been marginally more important than accuracy in the first two renewals here but Tony Finau ranked first for Driving Accuracy two years ago.

    Tony Finau wins the Houston Open.jpg

    All three course winners have ranked highly for Greens In Regulation - Carlos Ortiz ranked eighth in 2020, Jason Kokrak ranked third a year later and Finau topped the GIR Stats two years ago.

    Holing putts is almost always the key to victory and that's certainly been the case here. Ortiz ranked fifth for Strokes Gained: Putting, Kokrak ranked third and Finau second.


    Is There an Angle In?

    It's very hard to draw too many conclusions from just three renewals but it looks like we have a strong course correlation emerging and form at Riviera looks well worth considering.

    Sam Burns led this event through rounds two and three before he imploded on Sunday in 2020 and he was five strokes clear at halfway in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in 2021.

    Dustin Johnson, who tied second in 2020, was a standing dish around Riviera before he switched to the Liv Golf circuit (won there twice), and the man that finished alongside him here, Hideki Matsuyama, won at Riviera earlier this year.

    The 2021 winner here, Kokrak, traded at a low of 1.645/8 before he finished second at Riviera in 2016 and the 2022 champ, Finau, has twice finished second at Riviera.


    Is There an Identikit Winner?

    Although Finau was well-fancied (backed down from 26.025/1 to 18.017/1), this has been a decent tournament for outsiders over the years and Ortiz was a 200.0199/1 chance in 2020.

    In the last 12 years, we've seen longshots, Ortiz, D.A Points, Matt Jones, Ian Poulter and Jim Herman all take the title.


    Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

    • 2022 - Tony Finau - led by four strokes 1.162/13
    • 2021 - Jason Kokrak - tied seventh, trailing by two 14.013/1
    • 2020 - Carlos Ortiz - tied second, trailing by one 7.413/2
    • 2019 - Lanto Griffin - led by one stroke 4.03/1
    • 2018 - Ian Poulter - tied for the lead 4.77/2
    • 2017 - Russell Henley - third and trailing by four 6.611/2
    • 2016 - Jim Herman - tied for the lead 11.521/2
    • 2015 - J.B Holmes tied 18th - trailing by six 160.0159/1

    In-Play Tactics

    Finau won wire-to wire in the last edition of the event but Memorial Park is somewhere where winning form off the pace is perfectly possible.

    Ortiz sat second after rounds one, two and three in 2020 but DJ trailed by seven after round one and by five after 36 holes, and four of the eventual top-ten trailed by at least seven strokes at halfway. Koepka, who finished tied fifth, and Mackenzie Hughes, who finished tied ninth, both trailed the halfway leader, Burns, by nine strokes!

    Carlos Ortiz wins Houston.jpg

    The 2021 winner, Kokrak, failed to finish his second round on Friday thanks to a weather delay on Thursday morning. He returned to the course early on Saturday trailing by two with still seven holes of round two to play and he was at the head of the market at 5.95/1 but he must have got out of the wrong side of the bed as he played the seven holes in seven-over-par!

    Kokrak drifted right out to 400.0399/1 after that but he bounced back brilliantly, shooting the second best third round of the day to claw his way back to within two of the lead through 54 holes.

    All three winners have been on the premises with a round to go but Kokrak's shown us that you can come form off the pace to win here.

    The opening hole is a long and tough par four but the back nine is harder than the front nine with five of the toughest seven holes all encountered after the turn.

    Scheffler a very fair price

    The world's best player playing well in spells is nothing new.

    Jon Rahm won four of the five events he played in in-between October 2022 and January 2023, and he went on to win the Genesis Invitational and the US Masters soon after that.

    Dustin Johnson had won three top-drawer events in-a-row before he had to withdraw on the eve of the 2017 US Masters, after he fell down the stairs of his rental property. After winning both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship, Scottie Scheffler is on one such run.

    The questions now are how long will the run last? And is he value to keep the run going this week at just 3/14.00?

    I've no idea on the answer to the first question but yes is the answer to the second.

    I can fully understand people turning their nose up at his price this week. PGA Tour events are very difficult to win but there's something about Scheffler's form that's reminiscent of Tiger Woods' in his pomp.

    Woods had numerous spells when he won more often than he didn't. From the end of May 1999 to 2003, he played in 34 tournaments, and he won 18 of them. He would regularly win three in-row and, between July 2006 and February 2007, he put up a run of stroke play form figures reading 2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-2-1-3.

    Shaun Micheel knocked hm out of the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth after his fifth win-in-a-row during that stretch but even so, that's a remarkable run.

    Many will have thought we'd never see form like that ever again, and maybe we won't, but now that he's sorted out his putting woes, Scheffler is capable of something close to that.

    One could argue that the fields are stronger than when Tiger was at his best but, with so many of the game's elite having switched to LIV, it's not one that stands up.

    At the start of the year Scheffler put up form figures reading 5-17-6-3-10 with Strokes Gained: Putting rankings of 45th, 51st, 32nd, 44th and 51st.

    That's a truly remarkable bit of form given how bad his putting was and there's obviously a chance that his putting could regress again. But if it holds up, he will win.

    He's now only 5/16.00 to win the US Masters on the Exchange, a price that isn't too short given the level he's currently playing at, so in what is a weak event at a venue he's already shown he likes (course form figures of 32-2-9), anything above 3/14.00 is more than fair.

    Wyndham Clark, who has finished second to Scheffler in each of his last two wins, has course form figures reading MC-41-16, and he'll have his supporters. Dave Tindall is keen on the chances of Sahith Theegala, but it's all about Scheffler for me.

    I was happy to take the 4.67/2 when the market first opened and I'm on board at the average price of 4.3100/30, although the 4.1 available now is still more than fair.

    Back Scottie Scheffler @ 4.1

    Bet here

    Read my Indian Open Preview here


    *You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


New customers can get £20 in free bets!

New customers can earn £20 in free bets when they place a £5 bet on the Sportsbook after signing up. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.

Discover the latest articles