After last week’s match-play interlude in Austin, normal service is resumed on the PGA Tour with this week’s Shell Houston Open, Phil Casey writes.
The Golf Club of Houston is set up to try to resemble conditions at Augusta National and means the likes of Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose are using the event to finalising their Masters preparations.
And with the winner securing the last place available in the year’s first major, big names who are not currently exempt like Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Shane Lowry, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood are hoping for a last-minute reprieve.
At the top of the market, Rickie Fowler is a tempting option at 12/1 given his opening 64 last year and eventual tie for third, but the preference is for a man who finished two shots behind and is available at twice the price.
Daniel Berger has yet to record a top-10 finish this season and lost all three group matches in Austin, but before then had recorded four top-15 finishes in his last six strokeplay events.
Berger’s form figures in Houston also read 25-5-5 with a scoring average of 69.33 and he can be backed in the each-way market at 25/1.
Former US PGA champion Keegan Bradley is among those needing victory in Houston to avoid missing the Masters for the second year running, but could represent good each-way value at 50/1.
Bradley was fifth in 2015 and 15th last year, while he has missed just one cut in 2018 and was an impressive fifth in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Also available at 50/1 each-way is our third selection Charles Howell, who has made the cut in eight of his 10 appearances in Houston, with top-10 finishes in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Howell was 14th at Bay Hill and won all three of his group games in the match play before losing in the last 16. Without a win since 2007, Howell could also be an option in the top-10 finish market at 9/2.
And finally, Sung Kang can be backed each-way at 125/1 as he returns to the scene of his runners-up finish 12 months ago, when opening rounds of 63 and 65 gave him a six-shot halfway lead.
Kang shot 71, 72 over the weekend to finish three behind winner Russell Henley and his form this year is nothing sensational, but that is reflected in what could prove a generous price.
Houston Open tips
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