THE FIRST LOOK
Holmes set to defend title at Shell Houston Open
March 25, 2016
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- J.B. Holmes defeated Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner in a playoff last year at GC of Houston. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
• FIELD: Click here for the full field.
• COURSE: Golf Club of Houston (Tournament), 7,441 yards, par 72. The 2005 Rees Jones design, with David Toms consulting, celebrates its 10th year as the lead-in venue for the Masters and earns praise for its ability to replicate Augusta National’s setup. Built across a wooded landscape in Houston’s suburbs, Jones took care to preserve the natural lakes and wetlands throughout the layout. For this event, though, club officials have done well to deliver shaved banks, collection areas around the greens and a Stimpmeter reading of 13 or more.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: The Houston Golf Association, which has funded $1.12 million in college scholarships since 1996, with another $140,000 earmarked this year. Other funds support the HGA’s junior golf program and The First Tee of Greater Houston, with total proceeds surpassing $64 million since 1974.
• FIELD WATCH: World No. 1 Jordan Spieth, who parlayed a playoff loss in Houston into a green jacket last year, and fellow Texan Patrick Reed top a lineup that includes five of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking and 12 of the top 25. … No. 5 Rickie Fowler, No. 7 Henrik Stenson and No. 9 Dustin Johnson are the other top-10 players coming to Houston. … Cory Whitsett, a Houston native and winner of the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur, is in the field on a sponsor exemption.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 266, Curtis Strange and Lee Trevino (1980 at Woodlands CC), Vijay Singh (2002 at TPC Woodlands). GCH record: 268, Phil Mickelson (2011).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Ron Streck (3rd round, 1981 at Woodlands CC), Fred Funk (3rd round, 1992 at TPC Woodlands). GCH record: 63, Johnson Wagner (1st round, 2008), Adam Scott (1st round, 2008), Jimmy Walker (1st round, 2011), Phil Mickelson (3rd round, 2011), Scott Piercy (1st round, 2015).
• LAST YEAR: J.B. Holmes forced his way into a playoff with a sizzling Sunday 64, eventually prevailing on the second extra hole over Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner. Holmes had officials on 59 alert early in his final round with nine birdies in his first 12 holes, though he cooled off to finish one shy of the GCH 18-hole record. A 2 ½-hour wait followed to see if anyone would beat his total of 16-under 272. Spieth matched it with a closing 70, needing an 11-foot par save at the final hole. Johnson, playing on a sponsor exemption, forced his way in with a 25-foot birdie at No. 18. Spieth couldn’t save par from a greenside bunker on the first extra hole, and Wagner missed a 5-foot par save at the next to give Holmes victory.
• STORYLINES: Spieth, whose game has cooled since winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, hopes Houston will again help him build momentum heading to Augusta. He arrived at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play without a top-15 finish anywhere since late January. … Phil Mickelson, the 2011 champion, hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since, though just once has been in the top 10. He came to the Match Play with three top-10 finishes in six starts in 2016. … A last-gasp Masters berth awaits the winner if he isn’t already in the field, an outlet used three times in eight years since Augusta National restored the automatic PGA TOUR winners’ invitation in 2008. Matt Jones took advantage two years ago, preceded by D.A. Points (2013) and Wagner (2008).
• SHORT CHIPS: Despite GCH’s high marks in replicating Augusta National, just two winners have placed among the top 15 at the Masters since it became a lead-in event. Anthony Kim took third in 2010; Hunter Mahan tied for 12th two years later. … Last year’s playoff was the 23rd in Houston Open history, trailing only the U.S. Open (33). Four have been at GCH, with Holmes following Jones (2014), Kim (2010) and Paul Casey (2009).
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. ET (Featured Groups), 3-6 p.m. (Featured Holes).
• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 1-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM).