Shell Houston Open: Lefty to double-up again
Phil Mickelson with the Shell Houston Open trophy after last year's win
“Sometimes a nice solid wager is staring you right in the face and you try your damndest to look elsewhere before returning to the downright obvious, and that’s what I did here for a while.”
Steve takes a look at this week's PGA Tour action from Texas, where he fancies Phil Mickelson could very well defend his title
This will be the 65th staging of the Shell Houston Open.
Redstone GC Tournament Course, Humble, Texas
Par 72, 7457 yards, stroke average in 2011 - 71.74
A Rees Jones design, Redstone was built to host this event and will be doing so for the seventh year in-a-row this time around. It's a long track, with water in play on ten holes. Greens are slightly larger than average and in an attempt to simulate conditions at Augusta National, home of next week's US Masters, they'll be playing very fast. Don't expect the event to be won with a final hole birdie. With water very much in play, the par 4 18th is the toughest on the course at 488 yards.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, 8.00pm on Thursday and Friday and 6.00pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Last Five Winners
2011 - Phil Mickelson -20
2010 - Anthony Kim -12 (playoff)
2009 - Paul Casey -11
2008 - Johnson Wagner -16
2007 - Adam Scott -17
Length isn't the be all and end all despite how long the track is. Although the last three winners were all ranked in the top-ten for Driving Distance for the week, two of the six champs here, Stuart Appleby and Johnson Wagner aren't renowned for their length off the tee. Driving Accuracy is absolutely irrelevant but hitting greens is imperative, as scrambling is tough here and a missed green often results in a bogey or worse.
Trading tip for the week
There will be some dramatic moves in the US Masters market this week as players perform well or flop here, and if you're nice and quick you can get yourself some nice positions ahead of the year's first major next week.
Lee Westwood heads the market at [13.0] but form figures of 30-8-11-56 here don't inspire me much. Westwood's biggest strength is his accurate driving so given it really doesn't matter where you hit your tee-shots, as long as they're long and dry, he's readily dismissed.
Second favourite, Phil Mickelson, is a selection so I've dealt with him below and there are a total of five players trading below [30.0], but none of them look anywhere close to good value to me.
Sometimes a nice solid wager is staring you right in the face and you try your damndest to look elsewhere before returning to the downright obvious, and that's what I did here for a while. I didn't back Phil Mickelson from the start last year, thinking he'd be in warm-up mode for the US Masters. I think he perhaps was to start with but he soon went from warm to scintillatingly red-hot and he could very easily defend his crown. I have a sneaky feeling he might now build a record here, like he's done at Riviera.
He bumbled along at the Northern Trust Open for eight years without showing much at all. He missed the cut four times and his best finish was a tie for 15th, then all of a sudden the penny dropped in 2007 and his form figures since read 2-1-1-45-35-2. In his first three visits to Redstone, tied 23rd on his first look was the best he could muster and then last year he opened up with two rounds of 70, then bang! Weekend rounds of 63 and 65 blew the opposition aside twelve months ago and what's to say he won't pick up where he left off?
He's won the International, the Bob Hope Classic, the Tour Championship, the Greater Hartford Open, the Crowne Plaza Invitational, the Mercedes Championships, the Phoenix Open and the Northern Trust Open twice. The Tucson Open, BellSouth Classic, Buick Invitational and US Masters, have been all been won three times, and he's conquered all at the AT & T Pebble Beach on four occasions. And he's defended a title successfully five times! Can he double-up here? You bet he can.
I've also backed Stuart Appleby, who has a great event record and I've detailed my reasoning behind my other selection, Graham DeLaet, in this week's Find Me a 100 Winner column.
Shell Houston Selections:
Phil Mickelson @ [14.5]
Graham DeLaet @ [230.0]
Stuart Appleby @ [250.0]
I'll be back on Friday with my In-Play Blog.
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