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

I always find it interesting how some top players- notably Phil Mickelson + Rory McIlroy- historically compete the week before majors in order to tune their games into tournament shape, while others- Tiger Woods of course- always take the weeks before majors off from tourney play.  The good news for us is that the former appears to be the more popular option, as big names like Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Keegan Bradley, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and others are teeing it up in the Shell Houston Open this week.

Kudos to the Shell Houston Open organizers and the grounds crew at The Golf Club of Houston, as they annually prepare the course to emulate conditions that players will see at Augusta next week—shaved banks instead of deep rough around greens, allowing for crafty bump and runs to be played, as well as firm and fast greens.  Overall, the Rees Jones design is a traditional par 72 that measures 7,441 yards, which will no doubt challenge all of those in the field this week.

A choppy week for my picks last week, as J.B. Holmes, Cameron Tringale and Brendan Steele all made me feel about as good as a Mets fan; however, my LOCKZILLA Freddie Jacobson had a solid t-16th finish and I spot on nailed Phil Mickelon’s bumpy week as my BUST pick of the week.

Time to build some momentum this week just in time for the season’s first major, so let’s hop into some picks:

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Jacobson t-16th, Holmes t-64th)

Keegan Bradley
Keegan Bradley
– Keegan is the perfect fit for beefy Rees Jones courses such as this, with proof being his t-4th in ’12 and t-10th last year.  Finished solo 2nd at Bay Hill two weeks ago, his eighth top 20 of this PGA Tour wrap around season thingy.  Without question, Keegan is my top play of the week.

Jason Kokrak
Jason Kokrak
– Ride the hot hand until she bucks, which is exactly what I’m doing with Jason Kokrak again this week.  Still finished t-31st at the Valero last week despite a 3rd round 77.  Has four top 20s since early February and WILL break through into the winner’s circle before season’s end.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson
– Yep, a bonus 3rd LOCKZILLA this week, as I’m staying true to my word from last week where I had him as my Hosel-Rocket BUST pick of the week for the Valero, but had already called him as a LOCKZILLA for the SHO.  Pulled muscle, ha, not so much.  More like, this-TPC-San-Antonio-course-sucks-I’m-not-in-contention-anyway-so-I’ll-just-WD-since-that’s-what-Tiger-does…or something like that.  Anyway, he loves this track and will be very highly under-picked this week.  I flat out guarantee a top 10 by Phil this week.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Tringale t-46th)

Aaron Baddeley
Aaron Baddeley
– Badds faded, ahem, Badddddeley on the weekend at the Valero last week (79,76), to finish t-67th, which followed Bay Hill where he ballooned to a 77 on Sunday after three straight rounds of 70.  Badds is too damn talented to not put four rounds together sometime soon, and on a course where he has some past success (t-4th here in ’11), I like for him to sneakily contend this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last Week: Phil WD)

Webb Simpson
Webb Simpson
– Following a solid start to the season, Webb has ballooned to a t-70th at Riviera, a t-47th at Doral and a MC at the Valspar Championship in his past three stroke play starts.  Historically, Webb has cleaned up in events with non-star-packed fields, which is not the case this week with some big names in the field.  Stay away from the Webb-ster until further notice.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: Steele MC)

Graham DeLaet
Graham DeLaet
– The best player yet to win on Tour, with so many big names teeing it up, Graham is my favorite slightly under-the-radar pick this week.  His resiliency was on full display in his past two events, as after ugly opening rounds—78 at Doral and 75 at the Valspar—he rebounded nicely to finish t-34th at Doral and t-8th at the Valspar.  His ability to be able to charge on Sundays is evident in his sub-70 (69.7) final round scoring average so far this season.  Finished t-3rd here in ’10 and has five top 8s already this wraparound PGA Tour season, Graham DeLaet is my Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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