Houston Open: Tight Market for Final Masters Warm Up
In just over one week from now the best golfers in the world will be competing in the first Major Tournament of 2018. The Masters Championship heads back to Augusta but before then, there is one last chance to find form and fitness ahead of the main event.
With such a close proximity to the 2018 Masters, it’s perhaps surprising that we don’t have a stronger field for the Houston Open this week. There’s no Dustin Johnson, no Justin Thomas and no Rory McIlroy but that does leave a competitive declaration which should give us some value in the markets.
Tight at The Top
It’s certainly very packed at the top of the outright betting with some bookmakers showing three golfers as joint favourites. Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler can all be backed at 10/1 in some places but overall, Rose is considered to have the slight advantage.
The Englishman, runner up to Sergio Garcia in last year’s US Masters, is available at best odds of 11/1 with Boylesports while Spieth is just behind at a top price of 12/1 with Sky Bet and MarathonBet. Fowler can also be found at a best of 12/1 with SportingBet but do any of those three hold an advantage?
Fowler has a better record in this event with three top tens since 2014 while Spieth has a solitary runners up spot and Rose just a tie for 15th twelve months ago. These are the highest ranked players in the competition but there are no great indicators that would back up those prices.
Henrik Stenson led for much of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last time out and as a two-time runner up in this event, he will attract some interest at his top price of 14/1 with BetFred and Boylesports. The Swede missed the cut here last year amidst a poor run of form but he is showing signs of a return to his best.
Also at 14/1, this time with SportingBet, is Phil Mickelson who is our first former winner of this event. Champion here in 2011, Lefty is bang in form and heads the Power Rankings going into Thursday. Behind those five names, the market really starts to open up.
Our defending champion this week is Russell Henley who took the title with a three shot lead over South Korea’s Kang Sung-Hoon. It was Henley’s first Tour win in three years and because he has yet to add to that triumph there will be little interest in his best odds of 33/1 with bet365 and Unibet. A better option may be the improving Luke List at a top price of 28/1 with BetFred and Black Type while Tony Finau may be of particular interest at a best of 35/1 with SportingBet. A power driver, Finau may benefit from whatever advantage this lengthy course gives to distance hitters and if he can keep his short game together, that may be an excellent price.
Other players with similar numbers include Matt Kuchar at best odds of 40/1 with bet365 and SportingBet, Steve Stricker at 40/1 with SkyBet, and JB Holmes at 75/1 with bet365. Holmes won this event in 2015 and at the very least could be an option for a Top Ten finish.
It’s all very open down in Texas this week and there are many further options that we have yet to mention so just how do we go about picking a winner?
Course, Trends and Indicators
The 2018 renewal returns to the Golf Club of Houston which gives what seems to be a lengthy challenge. In terms of pure yardage, this is one of the lengthier venues on tour with a par 72 course that approaches a distance of 7,452 yards.
However, like many similar locations on the PGA Tour, the power hitters don’t necessarily have an advantage and the stats tend to back that up. If there is a key element that links recent winners, it is Greens in Regulation so while we can’t rule out the big hitters such as Tony Finau, there has to be an element of accuracy from tee to green.
Multiple winners are quite rare in the modern day, assuming we discard much of the 72 year history of this event. Since 2000, Vijay Singh completed a hat trick of wins in 2005 and a year later, Australia’s Stuart Appleby nailed a double but there have been no multiples since.
We are edging towards Phil Mickelson and although he isn’t necessarily backed up by that indicator, trends are meant to be broken and he has the form and the stats to deliver. It’s also a predominantly American field and while an Englishman may head the betting, seven of our previous eight winners have come from the US.
Overall it’s a very open field so while we will keep faith in Mickelson, we’re going in with an Each Way tip on the left hander. Elsewhere, there are so many contenders for the Top Ten markets and while we’ve dismissed Russell Henley’s chances of winning, there have been a number of admirable defences in 2018 to suggest that the reigning champion should finish high up the leaderboard.
Here, then, are our tips so let’s hopefully look forward to a profitable four days down in Texas.