A lot of the world’s best head to H-Town to get their final reps in before the other event next week that we may or may not be kind of excited about. There’s also a golf tournament here as well for those that aren’t already in the field at Augusta, where those outside the top 50 in the world make their final dash for that Houston Oil. Speaking of which…
The field is actually sneaky good this week, but you can’t help but get the feeling that the Houston Oil is used more to grease the kinks in the swings of the world’s elite, rather than Daniel Plainview drinking your milkshake “There Will Be Blood” style.
The Golf Club of Houston
Formerly known as Redstone Golf Club, the course was purchased last April by Escalante Golf, Inc. and renamed The Golf Club of Houston. This is like that girl Betsy from high school who went off to college, dyed her hair and got bangs, got with a new female-friendly physio and now goes by “Bets.” It’s still the same shitty track, it just goes by a different name. I’m guessing some glasses of chardonnay were clinked when the track didn’t make the dubious “10 Worst Tour Courses” (it came in at 11th). The Golf Club of Houston implies a lot of history, but there is very little. Developed in 2003, the course has played host to this event since then. When your course has three sentences on its Wikipedia page, you quickly see why this event is seen as simply a warmup for Augusta. This is like that scrimmage a couple weeks before the season opener.
The course is similar to Augusta in that they are both green. Other than that, any other comparisons exaggerations at best. Tournament organizers do get the greens running at a 14 stimp, and with shaved banks and firm and fast fairways, they at least advertise the track as a place to prepare for Augusta. However, playing Augusta National on Tiger Woods ’14 is closer to the real Augusta than The Golf Club of Houston is. I’m inclined to think the fact they were able to field 10 of top 20 in the world has more with reps. This tournament is the equivalent of a Spring Game – the PGA Tour’s answer to the weight room.
There are some great NLU style holes coming home, including the driveable par 4 12th, and some long par 5’s that play shorter than the card says. I remember last year watching guys bombing it onto the 15th green from 300+ yards, and Jason Kokrak getting on with an iron from 290. Plenty of chances for these guys to hit drivers this week, which they will need next week.
One word: Sprawl. Houston noses Atlanta and LA as ‘Home of the Highway’ (only because ATL is primarily known as the home of FreakNik and LA has too many other things that call it home). Take one look at this map below, and you can see Houston takes the interstate (and state road) system next level. The Golf Club of Houston is located up in that Northwest corner of the map below – just east of George Bush’s airport.
That’s not a dreamcatcher, it’s urban planning!
With urban planners insisting that citizens rely solely on their automobiles to get around a maze of multi-lane, elevated highways, coupled with the fact that everyone I’ve ever met from Texas drives a vehicle over two metric tons, no wonder Houston’s PGA stop is really just a Big Oil Fiesta. H-Town and nearby Galveston Bay are the port of call for BIG off-shore oil operations, and Shell just happens to slap its name on the tournament to close funding on a couple new DeepWater Horizon rigs later this year. Houston is a celebration of the SUV, dickheads like Roger Clemens, global warming, special purpose entities, and the old adage: Things are bigger in the LoneStar State. Welcome!
Sneaky good leaderboard Big Swede/Billy/DJ right there at the finish.
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Horses for Courses
- Keegan Bradley (20/1) – T10 and T4 the last two years. Runner up two weeks ago at Bay Hill, and is due for a win.
- Hunter Mahan (33/1) – We’ll look past the MC here last year and remind you that he won the 2012 Houston Open, and he’s notched 4 top 10’s this year in 7 events. Two other top 10’s here (2011 and 2009) as well.
- Louis Oosthuizen (50/1) – This is one of the most preposterous lines I’ve ever seen! I was expecting him to be in the 15/1 to 20/1 range. Sure his 2014 has been spotty, but he’s finished T10, 3, and T16 the last three years at this event. Incredible value here. Health a concern, but he’s a stripe show so we’ll take our chances.
- Chris Kirk (50/1) – Hasn’t missed a cut this season, will be fresh coming off last week. 22nd here last year, skipped in ’12, T2 in ’11. Hasn’t quite reached the point where he can focus solely on Augusta – will be focused here.
- Chucky TripleSticks (66/1) – Peep his form this year – sneaky good. He’s obviously motivated to get into Augusta (who isn’t? but Howell REALLY gets off to the Masters). Solid track record here.
- Lee Westwood (66/1) – Another line that made my jaw drop. Rocky 2014, but a solid history here in an event he plays every year. There top 11’s over the last five years, including a T10 last year.
- Cam Tringale (80/1) – T16 and T8 the last two years, and a sneaky four top 25’s in his last seven starts. The guy is going to break through at some point.
- Brian Davis (100/1) – T6 and T4 his last two runs here. He hasn’t had the strongest 2014 campaign, but at 100/1, he’s worth a flier on the track record here alone. Hung around last week in San Antonio for a decent showing.
As we suggested last weekend, this is your last chance to earn some goodwill before next weekend. You have a duty to be on your couch the entire weekend, so put in the quality time with the kids and the significant other. If you do tune in, here’s what to watch for:
- A swig of beer every time the Masters and/or Augusta is mentioned.
- A shot every time it’s mentioned that “so and so” is “not in the Masters yet” as they climb up the leaderboard.
- A drink every time pace of play is mentioned.
- This event is a homecoming of sorts for University of Houston alum Freddie Couples. Unfortunately he’s not playing this year due to back problems (shocking). His 2008 & 2009 performances were ridiculous considering his age and stature on tour. In ’08 he shot 67-66 on the weekend to grab a share of 4th. BoomBoom returned in ’09 and should’ve won the damn thing – he showed up on Sunday tied for the lead at -11 with Geoff Ogilvy, Paul Casey, and Ryan Moore. He bogeyed the last three holes, posting a 74 and finishing two shots out of a playoff between Casey and J.B. Holmes. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
SOUTHERN PURP SKURP
- Over on the LPGA circuit, it’s the first major of the year, the Kraft National Biscuit Company Championship out in Palm Springs. Other than the winner jumping in the water after they win, and that Suzann Pettersen is hurt this week, I really can’t tell you much about it. Will try to get educated this week on it and report back. #TheMoreYouKnow
- Jon Curran in the field this week – great to see him getting an exemption. Dude’s been on FIRE the last few weeks on the Web.Com. Have to think he’s totally jonesing to get into Heritage, as that short course could be money for him.
- Other than that, we’re worn out. The grind of these nonner events is catching up to us. We’re ready for a major. More burned out than burning on anything in particular.