March 28, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Henrik Stenson, ranked No. 3 in the world, will tee it up at the Golf Club of Houston. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
• COURSE: Golf Club of Houston (Tournament), 7,441 yards, par 72. New name, same Rees Jones design that earns praise for its ability to replicate Augusta National’s setup. The former Redstone GC changed hands last spring as new owners Escalante Golf snapped up four Houston-area clubs. What hasn’t changed are the shaved banks, collection areas around the greens and a Stimpmeter reading of 13 or more. The 488-yard 18th, with water running along the entire left side, consistently ranks among the PGA TOUR’s toughest closing holes.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: The Houston Golf Association, which has funded $860,000 in college scholarships each year since 1996. Other proceeds support the HGA’s junior golf program and The First Tee of Greater Houston, with total fundraising surpassing $59 million since 1974.
• FIELD WATCH: World No. 3 Henrik Stenson, runner-up to D.A. Points a year ago, and 2011 SHO champion Phil Mickelson headline a field that features 11 of the top 20 in this week’s world rankings. … Other top-10 entrants are No. 7 Rory McIlroy, No. 8 Sergio Garcia and No. 9 Dustin Johnson, as well as FedExCup points leader Jimmy Walker. … International players include Italy’s Matteo Manassero and South Africa’s Branden Grace.
• 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).
• LAST YEAR: Points waited out a three-hour rain delay before securing a late Masters invitation, finishing off a 6-under-par 66 with four pars to hold off Stenson and Billy Horschel by a shot. Points arrived in Houston having not broken 70 in his previous nine rounds, but found some magic in his mother’s old putter on the way to an opening 64. He stayed in the hunt through two more rounds before his Sunday heroics. Horschel and Stenson also closed with 66s, but found themselves short when Points salvaged tough pars at Nos. 17 and 18.
• STORYLINES: Back in its accustomed spot a week before the Masters, some will be seeking a last-gasp berth by winning. It’s happened twice – Johnson Wagner (2008) and Points last year. … Mickelson finds himself running out of time to kick his game into gear. The Hall of Famer has just one top-10 finish in 2014 – a runner-up in Abu Dhabi – and was not near the top of the leaderboard at the Valero Texas Open entering the weekend. … Steve Stricker makes just his third start this year and first anywhere without a WGC attached to the event. He lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and placed 57th at Trump Doral.
• SHORT CHIPS: Jeff Maggert, fresh off a victory in Mississippi that made him the 17th man to win his Champions Tour debut, will match John Mahaffey’s record by teeing it up in his 26th Shell Houston Open. Maggert has been runner-up three times (1994, ’96, ’98). … The SHO has gone to a playoff 21 times to decide a winner, trailing only the U.S. Open. Two winners were decided in extra holes since the event moved to GCH – Paul Casey (2009) and Anthony Kim (2010). … Though the event dates back to 1922, it has seen just one back-to-back winner – Vijay Singh in 2004-05.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 4-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC).
• RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).