09.30 - April 5, 2015
I hardly saw any of yesterday's third round action at the Shell Houston Open. Feeling decidedly unwell, I took to my bed at around 19:00 and slept right through. When I left the action, one of my pre-event picks, Phil Mickelson, was tied for the lead and another, J.B Holmes, was bang in-contention. And two of my in-play picks, Luke Guthrie and Hunter Mahan, were right on the premises, yet I've woken up this morning feeling only slightly better to see all four now have no chance! I was hoping the third round leaderboard would provide some much needed cheer but it's quite the opposite. Here's the current leaderboard with prices to back at 09:20.
Jordan Spieth -14 2.245/4
Scott Piercy -13 9.617/2
Johnson Wagner -13 15.5
Austin Cook -13 22.021/1
Shawn Stefani -12 12.5
Paul Casey -11 18.5
Russell Henley-11 23.022/1
Charles Howell III -11 34.033/1
Kelvin Day -11 85.084/1
Patrick Reed -10 28.027/1
Keegan Bradley -10 40.039/1
-9 and 70.069/1 Bar
I looked at the leaderboard afresh this morning, before I looked at the market, and I would have had the leader, Jordan Spieth, quite a bit shorter than he is. In fact, I suspected he'd be a shade of odds-on.
That doesn't mean I'm going to pile in at 2.245/4 - feeling like I do, I'm going to give this one up as a bad job and move on. According to the market, Scott Piercy, who I backed after round one, is most likely to benefit from any Spieth slip-up but my glass is so half empty after last night's disaster, were Spieth to mess up, I fully expect it will be Johnson Wagner to capitalise. That's the same Johnson Wagner that I backed last week at 500.0499/1!
In all seriousness, I don't expect the leader to mess it up and I can't see an alternative to Spieth. Every winner at this venue has been inside the top-four places with a round to go and the only time they've been any further back than two strokes, the third round leader has crashed...
The once-wobbly Bubba Watson threw away a three shot lead here in 2007 when Adam Scott, who had began the final round in second, won and Matt Kuchar lost the event last year having led by four with a round to go.
Spieth has already shown himself to be a very capable closer and I don't expect him to mess this up from here - especially given the calibre of those right on his tail - and I suspect he'll be much closer to evens before he tees-off.
I plan to be back this evening with my Masters preview and I'll be back again tomorrow with my De-Brief.
09.10 - April 4, 2015
I wrote yesterday that the latter starters may just get the better of the weather at the Shell Houston Open yesterday and that seems to have been the case. Playing in the penultimate three-ball, 26 year-old Web.com Tour graduate, Andrew Putnam, finished his second round by birdying six of his last seven holes to lead the way at halfway and tied for second, alongside Phil Mickelson, is Monday qualifier, Austin Cook. He played in the group behind Putnam - the final three-ball to start at the 10th - and he birdied his last four holes.
Both men will be new to many so here's a very brief synopsis. Putnam made his PGA Tour debut in this event 12 months ago and is the younger brother of 31 year old Michael Putnam (currently tied for 12th on -8) and he has just one victory to his name. He won the 54-hole WNB Golf Classic on the Web.Com Tour in Texas last April and Cook is even less experienced...
The 24 year-old Arkansas graduate only turned pro last year and he only has conditional Web.com Tour status but he looks like one to keep an eye on. This is the second time he's Monday qualified for a tournament on the PGA Tour and he did more than OK the first time too when he finished 13th at the FedEx St Jude last year.
Playing alongside Phil Mickelson in the final three-ball is going to test the rookie pair to the absolute max today and it's going to be fascinating to see how they handle the intense pressure. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 09:00.
Andrew Putnam -12 34.033/1
Phil Mickelson -11 5.49/2
Austin Cook -11 44.043/1
Graham DeLaet -10 16.015/1
Luke Guthrie -10 32.031/1
Jordan Spieth -9 6.611/2
J.B Holmes -9 13.5
Hunter Mahan -9 18.017/1
Shawn Stefani -9 22.021/1
Victor Dubuisson -9 27.026/1
Mark Wilson -9 100.099/1
Keegan Bradley -8 27.026/1
-8 and 44.043/1 Bar
With Lefty the only PGA Tour winner inside the top-five and with the weather forecast suggesting those starting earlier in the day will struggle to make up ground, the 2011 winner looks a decent price at around 5.59/2 but two things put me off topping up...
Mickelson hasn't been in-contention like this on the PGA Tour since he came up a shot shy at the USPGA Championship last year and the distraction of the two pups alongside him could be a negative too but the real reason why punters need to think twice before piling in on Phil is the quality of the group of players tied for 6th and just two strokes behind him.
I'm delighted to have J.B Holmes onside from the start and I'm very pleased I added Hunter Mahan to the portfolio yesterday but the big danger has to be Jordan Spieth - who claimed before the off that the course didn't suit him!
Given the forecast suggests that the worst of the weather will be between late morning and early afternoon today, making it really hard for those off the pace to move forward on moving day, and that Mickelson is the only winner in nine previous stagings here to be outside the top-11 at halfway (he was tied for 21st and five back in 2011), I can't see beyond the front 11 within three of the lead.
With the benefit of hindsight, what I should have done is layed back some of my Lefty wager last night when he was trading at just a shade over 4.03/1 before he bogeyed the 17th and before Spieth holed out for birdie on the 18th from off the green. I'm still tempted to lay some back and recycle the stakes on Spieth, who looks a reasonable price at 6.611/2, but I'm going to wait until they start now.
I'll be back tomorrow with one last look before the fourth and final round and I'll publish my US Masters Preview late tomorrow night, once this event has finished.
09:20 - April 3, 2015
Those not already in next week's US Masters are drinking in the last chance saloon in Texas and Scott Piercy has given himself a chance to get to Augusta National. He leads after day one of the Shell Houston Open after opening up with a course record equalling nine-under-par 63 but with a host of quality players on his tail he's got his work cut out to stay there.
One of my three pre-event picks, J.B Holmes, is tied with Alex Cejka in second, two behind Piercy, and another of my three, Phil Mickelson, is tied for fourth, three shots off the pace. Lefty's six-under-par 66 is his best round of the year so far so he could just be finding form at the right time ahead of the year's first major and being up with the pace looks a good thing here too.
Three of the nine winners at this venue have been in front after round one and Mickelson, who trailed by seven after day one when he won in 2011, is the only winner here to be more than four strokes off the pace after the first round. That would suggest we should be concentrating on the top-14 on the leaderboard but with the weather forecast suggesting conditions will be slightly better in the afternoon today maybe we can narrow it down even further?
With both Holmes and Lefty in-the-mix, maybe I should have waited to see what today brought but I've added three of the later starters, albeit modestly.
Given the excellent record of day one leaders, I thought Piercy was worth a small punt at 12.5. He's the third player to open up with a 63 here and the first two fared very differently. Johnson Wagner went on to win in 2008 but three years later, Jimmy Walker, now a prolific converter of chances, slumped to 30th with rounds of 74, 72 and 73. How times have changed for Jimmy.
Of the numerous class-acts hovering on -5, the 2012 winner, Hunter Mahan, looks the best value at 32.031/1, and finally, I thought Luke Guthrie looked big enough at 80.079/1 to take a very small chance on. He's yet to win on the PGA Tour but this is quite a good event for first time winners and the first of his two Web.com Tour wins was in Texas.
I'll be back tomorrow with a look a the state of play at halfway.
You can read my preview before the tournament here
J.B Holmes @ 38.037/1
Phil Mickelson @ 42.041/1
Matt Jones @ 50.049/1
Scott Piercy @ 12.5
Hunter Mahan @ 32.031/1
Luke Guthrie @ 80.079/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter