Houston … we still have a problem.
After an 18-month sabbatical, the PGA Tour returns to Houston for the 2019 Houston Open. The tournament, which used to be the lead-in to The Masters, has now been shifted to the fall portion of the wraparound schedule.
Past tournaments drew tremendously strong fields as players fine-tuned their games leading into the year’s first major.
Now, not so much. The big names haven’t signed up to play this week, leaving the tournament as a wide-open affair.
Will it be another first-time winner on Tour? Will it be one of those players looking to keep his card? Or how about one of those players teeing it up as he approaches 50 and the Champions Tour?
Last year, when the tournament was held in April, the names on the leaderboard carried a lot of clout. Spieth, Poulter, Kuchar, Fowler, etc. You didn’t need the first names to know it was a stellar field.
This week there are no players ranked in the top 10 in the field. Also, there are no players in the top 20. In fact, the top-ranked player this week is 34th-ranked Henrik Stenson (the favorite at 10-1) as he kicks off his 2019-2020 U.S. play. He’s the only top-50 player in Houston.
Now that makes this a great opportunity for guys many fans have never heard of. There are names like Michael Gligic (ranked 370th), Braden Bailey (unranked), Michael Perras (unranked) in the field. While they certainly aren’t favored to make the cut (let alone win), it gives them what every professional golfer wants: A chance. It’s an opportunity to experience a career-changing, life-altering victory (or made cut) that every PGA Tour player puts in his sights the minute he turns pro.
They have one simple goal this week: Make the cut. Do that and they get paid and the dream of playing professional golf for a living stays alive.
But this week there are still enough players with PGA Tour experience that will still make this event attractive to watch and wager on. But the firepower just isn’t going to be teeing it up without names like Koepka, Rose, McIlroy, etc. on site.
In fact, after Stenson at 10-1, the next lowest odds are 25-1.
With that in mind, let’s make some cash.
A few names do pop off the odds sheet as players to watch.
Scottie Scheffler (30-1) is fresh on the Tour in 2019 and racing up the rankings and sits 83rd in the OWGR. He has three starts as a pro this year. He opened with a T7 (A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier) and a T14 (Sanderson Farms) before starting strong at Vegas in the Shriners Open. He faltered on the weekend but a good group of players had weekend woes as they had to go flag-hunting to try and catch eventual winner Kevin Na and runner-up Patrick Cantlay.
The only thing keeping Scheffler from finishing higher all three weeks were Saturday rounds that were in or around par leaving him scrambling. A little more push on Saturday and Sunday this week could see him finding that first PGA Tour victory.
One other factor could come into play. He’s also a Texas resident so he’s close to home and has battled the (usually) windy conditions that have come to be the norm on a lot of Texas courses.
Stenson is the wild card this week. He’s definitely the class of the field. But this is his first time playing on U.S. soil since the end of July. Figure in the rust factor and bet on him with extreme caution.