THE Golf Club of Houston provides a cracking warm-up for next week's US Masters.
Host of the Shell Houston Open, organisers pride themselves on the fact that with shaved banks, collection areas around the greens and putting surfaces that run to 13 on the Stimpmeter it is similar to Augusta.
Built across a wooded landscape in the suburbs of Houston it has many lakes and wetlands throughout the course.
With it being a week until The Masters players are taking part this weekend are either trying to get into the first Major of the season or hone their skills for Augusta.
Jordan Spieth looks a good fit for here but at around 7-1 favourite I think I’ll give him a miss. Also Jon Rahm blew everybody away in the WGC-Dell Matchplay last week in Austin until he came up against the brilliance that is Dustin Johnson – and after winning his third tournament in a row the world No.1 has pulled out.
I tipped Rahm last week and was tempted to back him again but with all the exertions it might be better to leave him alone.
Rickie Fowler looks a good choice though. He won the Honda last month and has had four top-six finishes from his last six outings.
Confidence is an important part of golf and after an up and down 2016 he seems to have regained his. At Houston he has finished 6th (2014) and T10 in 2016. His GIR stat is 70.71% (32nd) and SG:putting 0.775 (11th) which could be important here.
Rafa Cabrero Bello is spending more time on the PGA Tour this year and is holding his own. On his debut here last year he had a tournament final round of 65 while finishing fourth.
He hasn’t missed a cut in nearly 18 months. I like the big Spaniard and think he has the game to do well in America. On the European Tour he is seventh in the Race to Dubai and has finished in top six 10 times. GIR stat of 70.83% (31st) and SG:putting of 0.519 (30th).
Justin Rose has been picking his tournaments carefully this year and missed last week’s Matchplay to be ready for this weekend and next. He has three top-four finishes from six outings and I am seriously considering him for next week.
Rose has never been the greatest putter but has improved and the stat is now 0.249 (71). His GIR stat is a solid 68.75 (76th) and I have no hesitation in making a pick for Houston.
Lucas Glover was a good T7 in the Arnold Palmer last time out after a varying degree of success since the turn of the year.
He started the season well with a T5 and 3rd before the Christmas and New Year break and has taken a while to get back into the groove. Although he has a SG:putting of 0.068 his three-putt avoidance of 2.05% (32nd) on the slick greens here could be important. A GIR stat of 73.39% (9th) is also a good stat and gives me confidence for a small wager.