It’s #SHOtime! Featuring a website looks like it’s straight out of the early 2000s, this week’s Shell Houston Open marks the second and final leg of the two week Texas Oil Swing. On the line this week for the winner, 500 FedEx Cup points, $1,152,000 out of a $6,400,000 purse, $25 Shell gas gift card good at participating Shell locations, and a trip to Augusta next week! While only three of those statements are true, you shouldn’t let that deter you from watching what hopefully is a great tournament that is a week before the best tournament.
The Shell Houston Open is held at the Golf Club of Houston’s Tournament course, different in name only from Redstone Golf Club where the tournament has been played for the past 10 years. Apparently some investment group bought up the Redstone courses and decided to change their names just to confuse everyone. Well they confused me so congrats to them.
One of the main issues for tournaments preceding majors is attracting a decent field. Many players like to rest up, and spend some time practicing shots they’re going to have to play during the next week. For example, low runners before the British Open, or gouging out of deep rough if it’s the US Open. Because of that, it can mean the top players skip the tournament before.
While the SHO doesn’t have to charter a plane to Europe like the John Deere Classic (which is played before the British Open), tournament organizers still need to do a little extra to make sure the top players are in Houston.
In order to please the guys who want to practice for Augusta National’s conditions, the Golf Club of Houston grounds crew shaves down the rough to the shorter-than-normal Augusta height, as well as creates the short, fairway length runoff areas that you’ll see at the Masters. I’m guessing the John Deere would like to mimic the conditions for the British Open similarly, but I don’t know if there is enough John Deere equipment in the world to make a tree lined course in the midwestern United States to make it seem like it’s in Scotland. Just saying.
The course itself personifies the saying that everything is bigger in Texas. At 7,441 yards, par 72, this is a big boy’s course. My rule of thumb is courses start getting long once they get over 7,400 yards so this definitely fits the bill. Couple that with a weather forecast that calls for rain and clouds for pretty much the whole week and Sunday’s contenders are going to have to get the ball out there off the tee.
I’m going to take a side paragraph to talk about weather sites. My current go-to is weather.com and that’s where I got the info above. I go to that site not just because my fingers have gotten used to typing that over the years, and not just because chrome auto-completes that website as soon as I type ‘w’ into the address bar, but because they use big letters and numbers and the user interface is so easy to follow. I go to Weather Underground and I’m bombarded with small text and bizarre graphics. I just want to know if I’m going to freeze my ass the next few days on my way to work and wunderground thinks I care about the barometric pressure. Maybe I’m not their target audience, but give me a break.
The other reason I desperately want to get off of weather.com is because they’re not a real weather site anymore! They’re a content site that happens to have weather on it. Their front page currently has articles about a dead female racecar driver, a “half dog” (whatever the hell that is), a mysterious island, and another girl that died in a plane crash. Literally have two articles about dead teenage girls. Their tv channel isn’t much better with shows like “Coast Guard Alaska”, “Prospectors”, and “Highway Through Hell”. No wonder no one blinked an eye when the Weather Channel was yanked off of DirecTV. Anyway, back to golf.
All the work the course did conditionwise must have paid off since the field features 11 of the top 20 in the world. We’re still waiting on how Phil’s love handles recovered, so that number might drop down to 10 before the start of the tournament, but 50% is still a great showing, even for a normal PGA Tour event.
This also marks the return of Wisconsin homeboy Steve Stricker who has so far limited his 2014 events to the highly lucrative and guaranteed 50 grand WGC Events. Sticker has seemingly adopted the mindset of “Screw it, I can still beat these guys without playing” and I fully expect him to do so. While he might not contend this week, watch out for him in the big show in Georgia.
Last year, D.A. Points won the event with a total score of -16 and capped it off with a very respectable final round of 66. More incredibly, he did this with driver and wedges being his only clubs made after 2012. His ancient Ping i5 irons must have been doing something since Points is way down on the list of driving distance, which would seem like an important part of the game to have this week.
Barring another random short hitter, look for big guys to contend this week. Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, both of whom finished in the top 5 last year would both be solid picks. And even someone like Jason Kokrak, who’s sitting at 5th in driving distance and who finished in the top 10 at Redstone/GCoH last year. And maybe even a Graham DeLaet, also in the top 10 in driving distance and someone who finished third in 2010 at the SHO. Actually, looks like I just picked my fantasy team this week.