From The Range To The Rough: Houston Open

The pga tour fall season continues to wind down with two tournaments left. People may not think they are all important but a win gets you into next years Masters. In addition the top 50 players in the world ranking after these two tour tournaments earn the invite. We have another solid field of 132, probably slightly weaker than last week, but still very good for this time of the year.

The Houston Open is a staple fall swing tournament played at Memorial Park Golf Course. This will be the second tournament held at this venue. Keep that in mind if your looking at course history. The course played tough last year with a winning score of -13. Only three players shot better than -10 while 19 eclipsed -5 or better.

The course lays out as a long par 70 playing at around 7,430 yards. This isn’t your conventional par 70 as it features 3 par 5’s and 5 par 3’s. It would be amiss to not mention the 5 par 4’s that play between 490-523 yards with three over 500 yards. It shouldn’t be to your surprise that 4 of those 5 holes were the toughest on the course.

Player will be up against wall to wall bermuda. The rough is gnarly making it a priority to hit the fairway. The larger than average greens are difficult to hit and not  your traditional round type shape as several are skinny in depth and long in width. These greens are quite contoured and if missed feature plenty of roll off areas making it tough to get up and down.

If looking for player prototype based off last years leaderboard the majority was one type of player. Long off the tee and sharp with irons. All players who finished T10 averaged 300+ off the tee. They were also strong ball strikers for the most part. Finally, most of those ten were predominantly solid putters.

We are in Texas spots always worthy to keep an eye on the weather as the week progresses. Early look doesn’t show anything dramatic. Winds in the 5-10mph range. What needs to be watched is the gusts as some days show around 20mph. This is a similar forecast to last year which tells you the weather didn’t impact scoring.

Stats To Focus On
Tough week for stats since we only have one year of data to go off of. Last year showed some weirdness. SG around the green was huge while despite the length of the course strokes gained off the tee were meaningless. Strokes gained on approach was around average verse the typical tournament. Putting was slightly below the average tournament but all the players in the T10 gained strokes on the green significantly verse the field.

I am going to keep it simple and focus on the following when factoring in stats. Strokes gained tee to green along with approach, distance off the tee, par 4 scoring 450+ yards, 200+ yards proximity and bogey avoidance. 

When bermuda is predominant Sungjae Im is always a top play. He has been playing well during the fall capped off by a win at the Shriners. His tee to green game has been exceptional along with his around the green portion of his game. He isn’t the longest off the tee, average length, but he typically finds the short stuff. The difference maker for Sungjae will likely be his iron play. He is a solid striker but this part of the game has been up and down.

Cam Smith is on the verge of taking his game to the next level. Over the past year he elevated his play but he still has work to do. He is very good on the green and around. He is a grinder who’s style should set up well for the course. During his solid run the iron play improved drastically and he can be sneaky long off the tee.

Upper Tier Roster Fillers
I have interest in several top tier players and will be playing them with one of the two expensive players in my core. My two core plays will be my highest exposed but I can’t ignore some of these other top notch plays. Scottie Scheffler continue his rise in the game and is on verge of that elusive win. He is strong tee to green, with the irons and his short game hasn’t been bad. He is long and accurate for his distance. What I like most is he plays well in tough conditions, strong major record in early part of career.

Tony Finau hasn’t been at his best but this course sets up well for him. He is long and the short game has been solid. Finau can be a grinder as shown by some of his US Open play and played well here last year. With his price and recent play he could be a lower owned pivot play up top.

I was on Tyrell Hatton last week and will be going back. Hatton was solid last week but not spectacular. He is a great ball striker who can be solid around the green. Hatton typically plays better on tougher courses. I also like that he improved each round last year while finishing well.

All fall I have been riding Aaron Wise and he is yet to disappoint. His tee to green game has been great. The irons are solid and a huge part of his great play. Surprisingly his around the green game has been good. The biggest question mark with Wise is the putter and will his improved putter show up or fade away like last week.

Lower Priced Roster Fillers
The fall season has been a mixed bag for Dylan Fritelli making a cut and then missing    over his 5 tournaments. Fritelli is long off the tee and solid around the green. What intrigues me is Dylan has had some of his better results on tough courses. He missed the cut last year here on the number .

Texas players typically play well in their home state and that’s what I am banking on with Davis Riley. His fall season has been up and down but trending positive and with a home game he should be ready to capitalize. Davis is fairly long off the tee and has a solid around the green game. He should be comfortable in Houston and excited to play.

I don’t mind taking a few shots on Sepp Straka who plays well when in Texas. He played well here last year and is coming in with similar form to last year. Stats wise he has been horrible. This is strictly a gut play based on Straka playing well in Texas.

When thinking of Texas golf Ryan Palmer has shown to play well in his home state. Palmer played very good during the early part of last season but faded as the year moved on. He is long and can shine tee to green. The putter is his nemesis but he should be up and geared to go. The course has very few hazards which is another plus as Palmer has a tendency to break down around water.

This should be a very good setup for Jhonnatan Vegas who comes in playing very good golf the past couple months. Vegas excels on the longer courses and his length will be an asset. In the end his week will likely be determined by his putter which can be erratic. He played well here last year but the putter was his downfall.

When you think of players who play the tougher courses well Erik Van Rooyen comes to mind. EVR has been playing some of his best golf since the FedEx playoffs and will look to improve upon his 20th place finish last year here. He can be a grinder which works well on tougher courses. His putter has been solid recently and he prefers bentgrass greens. During his run of solid play his off the tee game has been solid to.

That’s all for the Houston Open. Let’s continue moving forward with the fall swing season results prior to the 6 week break from golf while Running Pure!


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