Shell Houston Open — #SHOtime

It’s time for the second leg of the Texas Two Step — The Shell Houston Open. One week until the Masters and players are hoping to play well to gain confidence for the tournament that actually matters. Good course and pretty strong field (15 out of the top 30 in the world) means it’ll be a good one to watch. Also congrats to the tournament for having one of the better hashtags for the event. Get ready for a preview full of grainy images! It’s #SHOtime!

About the Sponsor

Royal Dutch Shell sponsors the second leg of the Texas Oil Swing. Betcha didn’t know that Shell’s full name was actually Royal Dutch Shell. Well I didn’t either! So I’m going to spend this section trying to figure out what in the world the Netherlands, petroleum and sea animal houses have to do with each other. Off to Wikipedia!

Ok I’m back. First thing I learned is that the Royal Dutch Shell group was created in 1907 as a way for two smaller companies to combine resources in order to compete with Standard Oil who was the giant in global oil. Unfortunately for Standard Oil, the US Supreme Court ruled that it was a monopoly and dissolved it in 1911. Unlike Standard Oil, both the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company (Netherlands duh) and “Shell” Transport and Trading Company Ltd (United Kingdom, and yes, those quotation marks were part of the company’s legal name) didn’t have to deal with US monopoly laws. And their partnership thrived.

Royal Dutch / Shell existed as this sort of partnership where they were two distinct companies that shared everything until 2005 (yes 2005!) at which point they finally got around to dissolving the “Shell” part of the company and became the now named Royal Dutch Shell plc that we know today.

Big fan of logo progressions.

Big fan of logo progressions. Best guess as to what the first logo actually looks like wins a shoutout on Twitter.

Oh, and the “Shell” company literally imported shells for collectors in England until one of the guys in charge realized that shells are dumb and that “maybe this lamp oil stuff has actual value.” I paraphrased that last part.

About the course

The Shell Houston Open is held at the Golf Club of Houston’s Tournament course. Previously known as Redstone Golf Club, this is a big man’s course. At 7,441 where it actually will play about that long. As I noted a couple weeks ago, PGA Tour courses love to claim that their course is something like 7,800 yards with 25 inch rough when in reality, they’re measuring the distance from the back of every tee to pins on the back of every green. And that 25 inch rough? That’s the native grass areas used for course decoration that is never in play unless you really suck. Well I’m here to say that the GCoH plays as long as it says on the card.

Ok fine, maybe it’s because I’m still a little bitter that I could barely carry my drive from the tee to the fairway on one hole back when I was 16 years old and I’m trying to make it sound completely reasonable that I eventually had to hit a wedge to a more forward tee box before finally getting to the fairway. But this is a long course.

Luckily for the players, there’s a decent amount of fairway out there, and there’s even a decent amount of desert/pine straw stuff off the fairways that makes it somewhat playable if you’re driving it semi-crooked.

The 18th hole is a good example of this. Check out this grainy picture of the 18th hole I took from the course’s website that really doesn’t show much of what I’m talking about!

TCourse18

That really doesn’t look like Texas, does it?

Even with the people and corporate tents that go up on the right side of the hole (left in the picture), there’s still a decent amount of bail out room over there. Doesn’t make the hole easier since it plays something like 480 yards and a bailout drive isn’t going to go as far, but at least you aren’t in the trees like you would be at TPC Sawgrass.

Also, this is yet another course with a stupid lake on the last hole. I’m gonna do an analysis sometime where I figure out the percentage of courses on tour with water in play on the 18th. My completely arbitrary guess is 73%. We’ll see if that holds true when I get around to actually counting. Until then, you can assume I’m right.

Last year…

Matty Jones birdies 18 two times in a row — once in regulation and once in the playoff — to beat my boy Matt Kuchar. Kuchar had a chance to win, but dumped his second shot into the water left of the green on his 72 hole and managed to make a bogey to force the playoff.

This finish is the classic case of did Matt Jones win or did Matt Kuchar lose?

Well I’m here to say that Jones won plain and simple. He shot a 6 under 66 in the final round and birdied the only hole in the playoff. By the way, did I mention that he pitched in to win?

Frankly I’m ever a fan of saying that a person lost an event, whether that’s a golf tournament or any other competition. People win tournaments, they don’t lose them. It’s such a slap in the face of the winner to make it about the person who lost. I’m looking at you ESPN. I know it’ll never change because the normal person is more likely to click on an article about Kuchar than Matt Jones, but I can at least hope for a better world.

What to Watch For

Shaved grass — The SHO is in the somewhat unfortunate position of being right before the greatest sporting event in the world — The Masters. This means that it has to do what it can in order to try to entice the better players to forego extra practice at Augusta and come to Texas to play. One method often used is to try to set the course up in a somewhat similar fashion to what players see at the Masters. The idea is that similar conditions entice players to play who want to get used to Augusta’s grass. Who knows if that actually makes a difference. These guys play a new course every week so having that mental shift to new terrain is nothing they aren’t used to. But at least we know that Shell cares.

Texans….again — Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed, all born in Texas (though only Spieth and Walker still live there) are back at it. After last week’s showdown and how well all those guys are playing, it wouldn’t surprise me if they all were in contention again. Tuesday Afternoon Update: Walker’s withdrawing. Gonna just have to live with only having the other two being the Texans to watch.

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