Teeing Off with Our Bets on the PGA Houston Open
After going to Bermuda last week, the PGA Tour returns back to the United States for the Houston Open, which starts Thursday.
This is the final tune-up before the 2020 Masters next week at Augusta National. The Houston Open will be played at Memorial Park Golf Course for the first time since 1963. Memorial Park is a public links golf course that underwent a complete re-design in 2019.
The weather forecast looks terrific this week, so scoring should be low. Memorial Park is a Par 72 with five Par 5s and five Par 3s, which makes it unique. Three of the Par5s stretch over 575 yards, and they carry an average of 567.8 Yds as a whole. This means scoring on Par 5s may be a little higher than average but also favours the long hitters.
With no historical data on the course, we'll have to trust Strokes Gained this week. The key stats to focus on will be Driving Distance, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, and Strokes Gained: Approach.
Below are my favourite head-to-head bets for this week's Houston Open.
Dustin Johnson (-160) over Tyrell Hatton
Since a disastrous couple of weeks in late-July, Johnson has been the best player on the PGA Tour. He has not finished worse than T12 in his last six events, winning twice with two runner-up finishes.
This will be Johnson's first event since the U.S. Open after he was forced to withdraw from both the CJ CUP and ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Hatton is playing well recently, finishing T3 and T28 in his last two tournaments, but he's not on Johnson's level. DJ leads the field in SG: T2G (+2.89), ranks second in SG: Approach (+1.72) and is third in Driving Distance. He's the class of the field and could head into Augusta with three wins in his last five starts.
Scottie Scheffler (-130) over Sungjae Im
Scheffler was the 2020 PGA Rookie of the Year and has had a solid start to his 2021 season. Scheffler has made the cut in nine of his last 10 starts but has had a tough time putting everything together recently. When his irons are on, his putter has let him down, and vice versa.
He's historically been a terrific iron player, so expect his recent regression to correct itself. Scheffler is one of the best drivers of the ball on Tour, ranking fifth in this field in Driving Distance and fourth in SG: Off the Tee over the last three months.
Im is no slouch, making the cut in seven straight events, but has not finished higher than 11th in any of those events. This should be a tight matchup, but Scheffler has top-5 upside in a relatively weak field.
Lee Westwood (-125) over Kevin Streelman
It's tough to get a good gauge on Westwood because he plays primarily on the European Tour. The last time we saw him on American soil was at the U.S. Open when he coasted to a T13 finish after being the 18-hole leader. Westwood has made the cut in nine consecutive starts and has gained strokes in six of his last seven.
The 47-year-old has always been great with the driver and irons but had a shaky short-game. 2020 was the best putting year of his career, so he comes in playing some terrific golf.
Streelman has made the cut in 10 of his last 12 starts and his putter has been red-hot in his last two starts. However, Westwood has a big length advantage and that should come into play this week. I expect both players to make it to the weekend and both have top-20 upside, but Westwood's driver will likely be the difference on some of these daunting Par 5s.
-- by Tommy Bits