Power Rankings: Shell Houston Open

March 25, 2013

By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist

For the first time during the FedExCup era, the Shell Houston Open is not scheduled the week before the Masters. This is because of an agreement next week's Valero Texas Open has with the PGA TOUR not to finish on Easter Sunday, which is March 31. Despite this one-time wrinkle, Redstone Country Club's Tournament Course will be crafted to mimic the setup at Augusta National, host of the season's first major in two weeks.

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For most intents and purposes, the similarities will be seen and felt on and around the green complexes at Redstone. Undulating putting surfaces average 6,700 square feet and could exceed 13 on the Stimpmeter. Chipping areas are prevalent around many greens. In fact, this feature was expanded around the right side of the 18th green where the bunker was reduced. The fairway bunker at 18 was also minimized. Areas behind the greens at the final two holes were raised. All changes result in better viewing for those onsite.

The par-3 16th hole has been shaved by 16 yards on the scorecard. Now a 188-yard hole with a new player bridge from tee to green, Redstone's overall yardage of 7,441 is just six more than Augusta National. It's also the first time in its eight-year run as host that Redstone has experienced a modification in distance anywhere. This commitment went hand-in-hand with Shell's announced extension two years ago as title sponsor through 2017.

Redstone's scoring average last year was 71.45, lowest in its history at host. It ranked as the sixth-easiest course last year in greens in regulation, registering a clip of 71.77 percent. When guys missed GIR, they found comfort in a scrambling rate of 57.88 percent, the highest yield since the Tournament Course was first employed in 2006.

Any course advertising itself as a primer for Augusta National isn't without its challenges on one's irons and short game. During each of the last four seasons, Redstone has ranked as the most difficult track on TOUR in scrambling from the rough. Last year's clip of 41.20 percent is the highest of the span. Redstone also ranked fourth-most difficult in one-putt percentage at 35.07. This suggests that a strong combination of hitting it close and dialed-in putting will prove more valuable than it already is.

Its quartet of par 5s -- holes 4, 8, 13 and 15 -- serves as one of the more daunting sets of three-shot holes on the schedule. Collectively, they averaged 4.80 in 2012, ninth-highest on TOUR. Redstone also ranked as the sixth-easiest course in three-putt avoidance at 2.26 percent, but that could be an anomaly since it hadn't checked in lower than 3.27 percent in any of the first six editions.

Customarily breezy conditions are expected throughout the week while a gradually increasing threat of inclement weather enters the picture on the weekend. High temperatures in the upper 70s will help temper the impact of early-spring humidity.

NOTE: For similar characteristics among all winners at Redstone since 2006, please look for an entry in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.

Power Rankings: Shell Houston Open
Rank Player   Comment
Keegan BRADLEY Keegan BRADLEY His T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was his best finish since last year's PGA Championship (also a T3) and it was his third top five in nine starts this season. In his second appearance at Redstone, share fourth place last year.
Steve STRICKER Steve STRICKER Took the last two weeks off following a runner-up finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, his second solo second of the season. Also went 3-1 at the WGC-Accenture. Four top-11 finishes in six starts on Redstone's Tournament Course.
Hunter MAHAN Hunter MAHAN The defending champ preceded his victory at Redstone with four top 11s in six starts on the course. He's coming off his seventh straight top 25 this year -- a T21 at Bay Hill where he ranked ninth in GIR and 16th in strokes gained-putting.
Phil MICKELSON Phil MICKELSON The 2011 winner has an active streak of 10 consecutive rounds under par on the course. He co-led after one round last year en route to a share of fourth place. Ranks 43rd on TOUR in strokes gained-putting and 21st in adjusted scoring.
Rory McILROY Rory McILROY Now the No. 2 golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking, he hasn't competed since polishing off a share of eighth place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a bogey-free, 7-under 65. He's 1-for-2 at Redstone with a T19 in 2009.
Chris KIRK Chris KIRK Returns to Redstone after a one-year hiatus since sharing runner-up honors with four rounds in the 60s in 2011. Tied for 16th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week for his fourth top-25 among six cuts made in seven starts this year.
Jimmy WALKER Jimmy WALKER Still tearing it up. His latest of three top 10s occurred at Bay Hill where he tied for eighth despite a closing 74. Led the field in distance off the tee and ranked 19th in strokes gained-putting. Under par in 26 of 32 rounds this season.
Brandt SNEDEKER Brandt SNEDEKER In his return from a strained rib muscle, he signed for a pair of 76s at Bay Hill to miss the cut by five strokes, but he gave away eight strokes on the 17th and 18th holes alone. Tops on TOUR in greens hit and the all-around.
Brian STUARD Brian STUARD Shared 16th place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his fourth top-20 among eight cuts made in as many starts this year. Ranked T13 in GIR and 10th in proximity at Bay Hill. Sits ninth in the all-around ranking for the season.
Carl PETTERSSON Carl PETTERSSON Last year's runner-up at Redstone tied for 21st at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational to end a six-start drought in stroke-play events without a top 40. Ranked third in strokes gained-putting and fifth in scrambling at Bay Hill.
Josh TEATER Josh TEATER Recovered from an opening 75 to finish T27 at Bay Hill. Ranked T16 in total driving and fifth for the week in GIR. Continues to maintain superb splits across the board; sits 29th in the all-around. Top 20s in two of three starts at Redstone.
Henrik Stenson Henrik Stenson Arrives on the coattails of a T8 at Bay Hill, his first top-10 on the PGA TOUR in over a year. Co-led the field in fairways hit and ranked T2 in greens in regulation. In two starts at Redstone, he's placed T3 (2009) and T21 (2012).
Bryce MOLDER Bryce MOLDER Continues to go about a quiet 7-for-7 season with four top 25s. Sits fifth on TOUR in strokes gained-putting, 14th in par breakers and 34th in adjusted scoring. Two top 20s in his last three appearances at Redstone; T18 in 2012.
Lee WESTWOOD Lee WESTWOOD He's struggled as often as he's succeeded this season, with three top 25s in six starts. Meanwhile, he hasn't finished worse than T30 in any of the last four editions of this event where his personal best is a T8 in 2010.
John SENDEN John SENDEN The Aussie is 5-for-5 at Redstone with a career-best T18 last year. He's logged three top 25s. The famed ball-striker tied for 27th at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, finishing an impressive 12th in strokes gained-putting.