The Houston Open was a big miss on last season’s PGA Tour. This is a very popular tournament both with local fans and many big name players so its return thanks to sponsorship from the Houston Astros’ foundation is very welcome indeed.
All of those competing in the 2019 Houston Open will look at the tournament as a genuine opportunity to claim a PGA Tour win. Daniel Berger is one of those very much looking to make the most of a lower than usual calibre of field. He has played well at this event in the past and could kick on to win a third PGA Tour title at very nice odds of 25/1 with Betfred.
The Houston Open’s return means a return for the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston. This is a real horses for courses venue which some players make sure to add to their schedule. Although little has changed with Golf Club of Houston over the years, the players will find it to be a different beast this year due to the change in date.
The Houston Open used to be held the week before the Masters in April and was therefore set up to mimic the firm and fast conditions the players would find at Augusta. It will be very different this time around, as autumn approaches. The greens will not be quite so fast nor are they overseeded whilst the rough has been allowed to grow to two inches.
|Tournament Course, Golf Club of Houston||Humble, Texas||7,441 Yards||$7,000,000|
It’s fair to say that the Houston Open doesn’t quite provide the same level of challenge as the Masters. Recent winners may have had to hit the ball a fair distance off the tee, putt well and rely on a razor sharp short game but it is not in the same class of challenge as Augusta National.
Russell Henley is the only player to have won any of the last five renewals of the Houston Open without having to rely on a playoff despite -15 being the worst score. That shows that the Golf Club of Houston is a place at which birdies are easy enough to come by, so this week’s winner will need to putt well and keep bogeys off the card.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2017||Russell Henley||-20||3 Strokes|
|2015||J. B. Holmes||-16||Playoff|
Analysis: Control Set to Be Key
Conditions at the Golf Club of Houston are set to be considerably different to the norm. Softer conditions could well mean that the greens are much more receptive than normal so a player’s short game is less important. Combine that with rough that is longer than we are used to seeing and you can see why ball control both off the tee and into the greens will be vitally important this week.
Berger Can Return to Winning Ways
It’s fair to say that this year’s renewal of the Houston Open doesn’t boast the same quality of field that we are used to seeing from this tournament. Many of those who traditionally use the tournament to warm up for the Masters are not in attendance which opens the door to players in the field who are in need of a win. Players like Daniel Berger.
The 26-year-old American has not kicked on in the manner that many thought he would when he was awarded PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2015. Berger has been working hard to get his game back to the level it was four years ago and you get the feeling this is a very important season for him.
It’s no surprise that Berger is heading to Houston this week. He has two top five finishes and no missed cuts from his four appearances at this event. As with the other regulars, Berger will need to alter his game a little to cope with the autumnal conditions. That’s within his capabilities though and his odds of 25/1 with Betfred look good value.
Lewis Can Use His Ball Striking for a Positive Result
Since earning his PGA Tour card for the first time, Tom Lewis has found the going a little tough in America. The Englishman has already shown he can play well Stateside with his win at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship and is now looking to extend his time on the PGA Tour beyond the one season.
The Houston Open is a good chance for Lewis to make his first cheque on the PGA Tour. He shouldn’t be overly concerned about the quality of the field whilst the course should allow him to make the most of his excellent iron play. He also won’t have to deal with lightning fast greens so Lewis is a good outside each way bet at 80/1 with Coral.
Final Verdict: Daniel Berger to Win
This may not be a particularly stellar renewal of the Houston Open but it is a potentially massive week for those in attendance. Daniel Berger is one of those who is desperate to make the most of this week’s tournament. He has the quality and the mentality to dig deep and claim this important win at 25/1 with Betfred.
About the Houston Open
The Houston Open was first played way back in 1946 and over the years has been held at a number of different courses and had several different names. Unsurprisingly, it has always been held in Houston or the surrounding suburbs and here we take a closer look at this historic PGA Tour event, including the huge names of golf on the roll of honour and what it takes to get over the line here.
Over the years many things have changed in relation to this tournament. It has been held in spring, before the US Masters, in October and, in 2020 was scheduled to take place in mid-November. In April that year the event was moved to the start of November in order to facilitate the rescheduled US Masters. 2020 was a year of great upheaval in the sporting world but hopefully in years to come it will just be another minor asterisk in terms of the history of this event.
No Houston Open at All
At the time of writing we do not know if the 2020 edition of the Houston Open will be played but we do know there was no tournament in 1948. 21 years later, in 1969, it was again missing from the PGA calendar, this time because then-host, the Champions Golf Club, was used for the US Open that year, having hosted the Ryder Cup in 1967.
In 1981 we did get to see some golf, with Tulsa-born Ron Streck winning with what would be a staggeringly low score of 198, were it not for the fact that the Houston Open was reduced to 54 holes that year due to bad weather. The same fate befell the championship in 1990, when Tony Sills won and in 1993 when Jim McGovern took home the winner’s cheque.
A number of golfers have come to Houston and enjoyed multiple success in this event, with Curtis Strange and Vijay Singh the most successful players in its history. Here are all the players to have won it more than once:
|Vijay Singh||3||2002, 2004, 2005|
|Curtis Strange||3||1980, 1986, 1988|
|Stuart Appleby||2||1999, 2006|
|Bruce Crampton||2||1973, 1975|
|Bobby Nichols||2||1962, 1965|
|Arnold Palmer||2||1957, 1966|
|Mike Souchak||2||1955, 1964|
|Jack Burke Jr.||2||1952, 1959|
|Cary Middlecoff||2||1950, 1953|
Cary Middlecoff, Arnold Palmer, Jack Burke Jr., and Stuart Appleby were also runners-up on two or more occasions and so it is safe to say that this is a tournament at which past form is certainly very much worth paying attention too.
If that is the angle you intend to use for your bets you should definitely pay close attention to what course is hosting the event. Many different courses have been used over the years and whilst the weather conditions, in particular the fierce Texan heat, will be the same at them all, the test they offer will differ. Below is a list of courses used, with the Houston Open being particularly nomadic in its early years:
- River Oaks – 1946
- Memorial Park – 1947
- Pine Forest – 1949
- Braeburn – 1950
- Memorial Park – 1951-1963
- Sharpstown – 1964-1965
- Champions Golf Club – 1966-1971
- Westwood – 1972
- Quail Valley – 1974 and 1974
- The Woodlands – 1975-1983
- TPC Woodlands – 1984-2002
- Golf Club of Houston (though the club has changed name over the years) – 2003-2019
- Memorial Park – 2020 onwards
The new course promises to offer the players a real test but it will be interesting to see what sort of player will thrive at the redesigned Memorial Park. We certainly hope it will produce the same thrilling finishes that have become rather commonplace over the past decade or so at the Golf Club of Houston.
Since it took over hosting duties in 2003 we have rarely seen a win by more than a shot and in 2005 Vijay Singh needed a play-off to get the better of John Daly. Since then there have been five more play-offs, including four times in seven years between 2009 and 2015.
As well as the changes of venue listed, this golf tournament has also seen many changes of name. From 1992 to 2017 oil giant Shell were long-term sponsors, whilst other commercial names have included the less-catchy Independent Insurance Agent Open, Houston Coca-Cola Open and Michelob-Houston Open, with the Houston Classic and Houston Champions International just some of the other names used over the years. A rose by any other name still smells as sweet, so let’s look at some of the greatest moments in the history of this event.
Poulter Masters Houston
Ian Poulter is a man who loves drama and performs best when the pressure is really on, the way he kick started the Miracle of Medinah being testament to that. One of his greatest moments came at this tournament in 2018.
A week earlier he had been told he had earned a spot at that year’s US Masters by making the quarter finals of the WGC Match Play. However, that was an error and he actually needed to beat Kevin Kisner and make the semis in order to move inside the world’s top 50 and thus earn his place at Augusta. He couldn’t manage that and left Austin despondent, thinking about skipping Houston and giving up on the Masters.
After no doubt giving himself a stern talking to he decided to plug away, knowing that only a win in this event would be enough. Things looked bad after a 73 on the Thursday but he didn’t give up. On the last hole, on the last day, he faced a 19 foot putt to force a play-off. He rolled it in for birdie and won the play-off at the first extra hole to earn his place at Augusta National.
Boom Boom Delights Locals
Another one to master the Golf Club of Houston and this tournament was Freddie “Boom Boom” Couples. In the first year at the new venue Couples, who won the Masters in 1992, delighted the Houston crowd by taking glory.
Boom Boom was a Seattle native but went to the University of Houston on a golf scholarship. His 2003 victory brought five years without a PGA Tour win to an end so with deafening support from the crowd it is safe to say the win here meant a lot to Couples. Looking back it will be even more memorable as barring a minor miracle in his 60s, the Shell Houston Open will be the last full tour event he wins.