Power Rankings: Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
November 08, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
PGA TOUR – The CUT
Memorial Park Golf Course's recent renovation
Editor's Note: Defending champion Carlos Ortiz withdrew from the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open due to injury on Tuesday, November 9th.
After a three-week stint abroad, the PGA TOUR returns to U.S. soil for the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open. Memorial Park Golf Course is dressed up as the host. Carlos Ortiz is poised to defend a TOUR title for the first time.
As of Monday, 70 golfers in this week’s field of 132 competed in Memorial Park’s return to the PGA TOUR a year ago. That strong percentage is a reflection of the affinity for Tom Doak’s redesign. For a breakdown of the course, how the inaugural edition played out like a learning curve visible to the naked eye, and more, scroll past the projected contenders.
Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott and Jason Day will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
There’s an argument that even the golfers who will determine the outcome of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open don’t yet know what they have in Memorial Park, including those who are back for a second start. Statistically, it tested as a bomber’s backdrop in its return. (It previously hosted the tournament in 1947 and from 1951-1963.) The average distance of all drives was a stout 296.2 yards. However, like all worthy tracks, it demanded precision and finesse for excellence.
Memorial Park is a par 70 with five par 3s and three par 5s. It tips at 7,412 yards. That’s down 20 yards since last year, all as a result of a reduction on the 182-yard, par-3 ninth hole. In 2020, the course landed inside the top 10-most challenging in fairways hit (10th), proximity to the hole (10th), converting greens in regulation into par breakers (4th), scrambling (8th) and par-5 scoring (T1). The field averaged 11.16 GIR per round, 18th-lowest of the season.
The scoring average of 71.025 was second-highest of all par 70s in non-majors last season, and it was just a hair easier than perennially challenging PGA National (71.102), host of The Honda Classic and typically in breezy conditions. Unlike PGA National, Memorial Park relented on the weekend, and seriously so.
After opening with respective scoring averages of 72.303 and 71.318 in the first and second rounds, the field improved to average 70.279 in the third round and 68.735 in the finale. Conditions essentially were the same every day, so in conjunction with the golfers who were executing better (after surviving the cut at 3-over 143), there was a noticeable improvement in putting. Hole locations always influence scoring, but it was evidence of the comfort level achieved on the greens. Typically, this is realized year over year, and sometimes over three years, not round over round.
En route to his breakthrough victory by two strokes, Ortiz ranked T8 in GIR. He led the field in scrambling and par-5 scoring, which is a potent combination. Just as lethal is that also slotted fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained: Putting. He was perfect on 56 tries inside seven feet, 10 of which were outside three feet.
There won’t be a need for the returning participants to engage in a slow dance in this week’s opener, but they will have to adjust to a larger green and the potential of new front hole locations at the par-3 second hole. Also, along with its shorter maximum length from tee to green, the area left of the green on No. 9 has been redone. There’s only one bunker now.
Bermudagrass blankets the property. The longest rough is trimmed to 2¼ inches and 7,000-square foot putting surfaces will be running at 12 feet on the Stimpmeter.
The only plausible threat concerning the elements will be wind – it’s Texas – which could kick up to 15 mph on Thursday and Sunday. Daytime highs will land in the 70s, although it might not reach 70 degrees on Saturday.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday