Once the dust settles from the ebb and flow of the first three months of the calendar year, the Shell Houston Open emerges as an appointment competition for those headed to the Masters. As of midday Monday, 29 in this week's field of 144 at the Golf Club of Houston's Tournament Course are exempt into the season's first major.
POWER RANKINGS: Shell Houston Open
1 Jon Rahm 2 Jordan Spieth 3 Rickie Fowler 4 Phil Mickelson 5 Henrik Stenson 6 Justin Rose 7 Rafa Cabrera Bello 8 Adam Scott 9 Charles Howell III 10 Charley Hoffman 11 J.B. Holmes 12 Russell Henley 13 Patrick Reed 14 Billy Horschel 15 Lucas Glover
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include Puerto Rico Open champion D.A. Points, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Cantlay among other notables.
Understanding its place on the schedule and prepping itself as a Masters tuneup, the Golf Club of Houston (in Humble) not only attracts Masters qualifiers to attend and compete but it also plants seeds in future Masters competitors who can hone their game on a layout that isn't shy about serving as a practice field of sorts on the eve of the annual trip to Augusta National. In fact, it's hard to envision a fortnight that didn't line up like this.
The similarities between the two tracks are noticeable. Neither requires accuracy off the tee to excel. There's no intermediate rough. (The primary rough at the Golf Club of Houston is limited to just over an inch in height.) Hitting greens in regulation is the premium, but converting on the chances is just as vital. Tuesday's Comfort Zone will dive into more detail into the areas in which recent winners of the Shell Houston Open have prevailed, as well as identify specific skills that project success.
Greens are severe and undulating in places. This is realized in the fact that the setup baselines the Stimpmeter reading at 12 feet. The same isn't released publicly at Augusta National, but given the other dots connected, anecdotal evidence has encouraged tournament organizers to turn up the dial.
From the standpoint of scoring, last year's field in Texas averaged 71.885 on the par 36-36=72 that can stretch 7,441 yards. That's a correction of one stroke from the tournament low in 2015 when the field averaged more than 13 greens in regulation per round. Last year's clip just eclipsed 12 per.
Since this is springtime in Texas, Mother Nature cannot be ruled out to throw a curveball on a 3-1 count. It's happened before in this tournament, particularly as it concerns what the wind will do and when. This week's forecast includes moderate breezes at best, but day-to-day monitoring could be critical. There is a threat of rain and storms throughout, but it intensifies significantly on Sunday. Daytimes highs will hover around 80 degrees.
ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Comfort Zone, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Expert Picks (PGA TOUR Champions), Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.