2015 Shell Houston Open picks + predictions, plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #SHOTime

After the rugged, windblown bogey-fest that was the Valero Texas Open, the PGA Tour leaves behind those rocky pastures and refreshingly welcomes in The Golf Club of Houston, site of this week’s Shell Houston Open. 

With the season’s first major next week already (let me repeat that- THE MASTERS IS NEXT WEEK!!  Cue me some David Loggins asap!), the SHO organizers again have annually prepared the course to emulate conditions that players will see at Augusta next week—tightly cut, shaved banks instead of deep rough around the greens allow for crafty bump-and-runs to be played onto the firm and fast greens.  The rough in general is cut more than half of standard PGA Tour length, as that is how the green jackets at Augusta like to keep it.  Overall, the Rees Jones design is a par 72 that measures 7,441 yards, which will provide a stern test to all of those teeing it up this week.

There are a number of big names in the field this week working on eleventh hour tune-ups for Augusta, including Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and many others.

Last week my scorching streak of picking Hosel-Rocket BUSTs came to a screeching halt at the Valero Texas Open, as Jordan Spieth and his Thursday post-windstorm pm tee time finished in 2nd place.  My other picks were solid, as my Semi-Flier Daniel Summerhays finished solo 4th, and Lockzillas Brendan Steele (t-8th) and Zach Johnson (t-20th) also posted solid finishes.

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Zach t-20th, Steele t-8th)

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood
– As many of my readers already know, I’m not a Lee Westwood fan.  The guy flat-out doesn’t know how to win golf tournaments, but damnit, he is one helluva solid ball-striker and is an absolute ATM out on Tour as he consistently makes cuts and notches top 25 finishes galore.  Lee has teed it up at SHO every year since ’09 and his worst finish in that stretch- I repeat, his worst finish- is a t-30th with an average finish of 14th in that six year span.  He hasn’t missed a cut on this side of the pond since last year’s U.S. Open and in his last two starts finished t-12th at Doral and t-17th at the Valspar, so he’s building some solid momentum with his game.  Lock and load you some Lee this week.

Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar
– Straight chalk here, as last year’s 72nd hole bogey and eventual playoff loss to Matt Jones’ incredible hole-out surely leave a thirst to take home the trophy this year.  Kuch battled through the high winds early on Thursday last week en route to a 72 and early wave clubhouse lead, then wavered a bit Friday and Saturday before posting a stout 68 on Sunday to finish t-15th.  In addition to solid current form and his near-miss here last year, a look back at his SHO history shows that he also finished t-8th here in both ’10 and ’11, meaning that he surely has a high level of comfort at the Rees Jones track.  Kuch is the safest, most sure-fire play on the board this week.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Summerhays 4th)

Hudson Swafford

Hudson Swafford– I had Hudson as my Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week last week and despite a rough opening round of 77, he fought back to an eventual t-35th place finish. Everything I said about him in my write-up last week holds true again this week, the guy has a huge level of talent and will make a splash in a big way sooner than later.  Buy your shares low now while you can.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last week: Spieth 2nd)

Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker
– Well, my sizzlin’ streak of picking Hosel-Rocket BUSTs finally came to a crashing halt last week with Jordan Spieth and his Thursday pm tee time, which just means that it’s time to start a new streak right here and now.  Yep, I know what you’re all thinking- Jimmy Walker is one of the best players walking planet Earth right now, so how can he possibly be a BUST of the week?!  That first statement is undoubtedly true, the man is uber-talented.  But, I’ll also warn you that winning does funny things to players not named Tiger Woods.  Players who tee it up the following week after winning almost always suffer from the inevitable letdown mode, and Jimmy Walker is not exempt from that.  Especially on a course here at the SHO where he has no past success (last year’s t-24th was his best ever career finish here in 10 tries) and given that last week’s win was extra special in that it was in his home state he’s extra due for a letdown.  He’s looking forward to Augusta, understandably and I’d wager that if he wasn’t originally from Texas that he wouldn’t even be playing this week.  Steer clear of the Walker train this week.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: Swafford t-35th)

Shawn Stefani
Shawn Stefani
– Last year coming off of a pinched nerve in his neck, in his first start in nearly 3 months Stefani parlayed his SHO sponsor’s exemption into a solo 5th finish and met the terms of his minor medical exemption.  Unquestionably ever-grateful to the SHO he will be for the sponsor’s invite, which allowed him to keep his playing privileges on Tour last year, and that’s what a great tourney like the SHO does for locals, as Stefani is from nearby Baytown, TX.  So, great vibes from last year, hometown event and oh yeah, how about the fact that he’s quietly notched six top 25s in his past 10 PGA Tour events, including a great rally back at Valero last week where he was on the tough side of the draw and shot 79 in the first round, only to close out the tourney 70-72-70 and finish t-26th overall.  Absolutely love me some Stefani this week.

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

Comments

  1. I know it is a week away, but I sure hope Tiger doesn’t play in the Masters. Otherwise TV will hardly show anyone else. Or… Will the Masters people tell CBS that it isn’t all about Toger?

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