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March 27 2013

5:41 PM

The Stats Suggest: Shell Houston

Adam Scott celebrates his win at Redstone in 2007. (Cox/Getty Images)

By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider

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The next time champions of the Shell Houston Open have something in common, it will be the first time. OK, that's not entirely accurate, it only seems that way.

Redstone's Tournament Course has served up a formidable mixed bag of winners in its first seven years as host. Even strokes gained-putting, which has rapidly risen as a highly respected measuring stick for success, doesn't quite live up to its billing. Five of the seven winners finished inside the top 10 in the stat but none cracked the top three and two placed well back -- Adam Scott (17th, 2007) and Phil Mickelson (20th, 2011).

This isn't to say that putting isn't important, of course, but despite a Hall of Famer, Ryder Cuppers and Presidents Cuppers hoisting the hardware, it's one of the many angles that pushes a theory that the Shell Houston Open is, well, wide open.

When comparing the seven champions in driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, strokes gained-putting and scrambling, several seemingly random facts are revealed involving those that finished inside the top 10 in those categories. To wit:

None ranked higher than Stuart Appleby in fairways hit in 2006, and he was just T25. The poster boy for getting away with wayward tee shots is Anthony Kim in 2010. He ranked last of 72 en route to the title.

Kim also ranked T50 in greens in regulation during his victory but still placed T5 in par breakers and T5 in bogey avoidance. Talk about a yeoman's job of maximizing on one's opportunities.

Of the four that cracked the top 10 in distance, none shared another top 10 across the board. Mickelson, who ranked sixth in distance in 2011, finished outside the top 10 in all of the other main stats, yet rode a red-hot second half of the tournament, rolling in 18 birdies on his last 36 holes to win by three and record a tournament-record, 20-under 268.

None of the seven winners ranked inside the top 10 in proximity to the hole, a fact in and of itself that isn't earth-shattering in any given week, but four placed outside the top 40 during their victories on a course that annually ranks among the most difficult in one-putt percentage. The spin here is that guys are rewarded for getting aggressive but they are penalized accordingly when they miss. Sound familiar? Redstone makes no secret that it wants to set up like Augusta National and this helps prove it.

When you boil it down, Redstone favors going low, and that introduces a number of styles of play. Contrary to the introduction above, all seven winners have done just this. Until Mickelson checked in at T10 in par breakers last year, all of the winners had finished inside the top five in par breakers.

But despite Redstone's par of 72 that includes the usual set of four par 5s, the par 4s play easier than the par 3s and par 5s every year. All but Mickelson (T23) finished inside the top 10 in par-4 scoring average while only four champions placed inside the top 10 in par-5 scoring average.

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