The Houston Open is very comfortable being the warm-up event for the Masters. The course already looked fairly like Augusta when it was completed in 2005, but the organisers made it even more similar in 2007 when the Houston Open was given the pre-Masters billing. Wide fairways, run-off areas around the greens and trimmed rough will await the players at both the Golf Club of Houston and at Augusta National.
Given that many of the big names in the field have historically used the event to get into form before the Masters, there have been some winners of this event at long odds in recent years. Matt Jones and DA Points, the last two winners of this tournament, did so by outscoring more illustrious names. Don’t be surprised if something similar happens this year.
Who, then, to put your money on? Well for starters, look to Shawn Stefani. He has very good memories of this golf course. Last year the sponsors gave him an exemption which came with big pressure. Due to injury he was very close to losing his position on the PGA Tour but managed to claw his way to a fifth place finish, guaranteeing himself a tour card for the rest of the season. Like many players, Stefani enjoys playing golf close to home so the Texan is good value at 60/1 with Coral. He has finished in the top 30 of each of his last three tournaments and like many of the so-called lesser players in the field, would love to upset the odds.
Another big-priced player who can return a profit from an each-way bet is Scott Piercy. The 36-year-old started 2015 brilliantly with a second placed finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Since then he has missed a couple of cuts and placed 30th at best. Piercy made the cut in each of his four outings at the Houston Open with his best finish coming last year when he placed 21st. None of his four rounds were in the 60s so you feel just one good round – hopefully early on in the tournament – will propel him to a top five finish and profit for all who back him each-way at odds of 125/1 with Coral.
The final pick for this week is a player with a much better winning record than the first two. Sergio Garcia has had a three week break since finishing 31st at the WGC event at Doral. He did a similar thing last year when he used the Houston Open as a warm-up for the Masters. That did not stop him playing well though as rounds of 67 and 65 set him up very well and he eventually finished third.
He has looked good so far this year and only a few silly mistakes have cost him even better results. He knows what it takes to shoot a low score around here and his ball striking is good enough to put himself exactly where he needs to be. Sergio has been priced at 25/1 with almost every bookie and it’s also worth considering backing him at 33/1 with Ladbrokes to be the first round leader.