Shell Houston Open Betting Preview

Keegan Bradley reads a putt during the final r...

Keegan Bradley reads a putt during the final round of play. (Photo credit: GoToBermuda)

One week after Tiger Woods reclaimed the world’s number one ranking, Rory McIlroy is back in action with a chance to get it back, and he’ll be joined by Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson and a stacked field at the Shell Houston Open from Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas.
2013 Shell Houston Open Fact Sheet

  • Course: Redstone Golf Club
  • Location: Humble, Texas
  • Yardage: 7,441 yards, par 72
  • Defending Champion: Hunter Mahan
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:00 to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
  • Sunday –  1:00 to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)

Key Storyline This Week
For the first time since August of 2012, Rory McIlroy is not the number one ranked player in the world. With his win on Monday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger Woods surpassed the 23-year old Northern Irishman, but McIlroy can take it back from the idle Woods this week with a win at Redstone. It’s been an interesting start to the season for McIlroy, starting with the switch to Nike gear and his early season struggles, but his final round 65 at the Cadillac a few weeks ago drove the point home that he’s going to be just fine with more reps. We haven’t seen him since then, as he’s opted to skip the last two weeks, and he’s planning on using this week as his final tuneup before the Masters in the second week of April. The friendly rivalry between McIlroy and Woods is also starting to pick up:

When a player of McIlroy’s ability is in the field, he’s always going to be the guy to watch, but the combination of his lack of events to this point in the year and his record at Redstone, albeit in a small sample size, has me doubting his ability to win this week. You can never be surprised if it happens, and I do think there’s decent value on him this week at roughly 10-1, but that’s not where my money will be going.
Redstone Golf Club
Redstone doesn’t typically play as an overly difficult track with the course average being under par in three of the last four years, but the greens will cause fits for most players. The putting surfaces are large, but also tend to be very fast with a Stimpmeter rating of around 13. For a point of reference, the USGA usually has their faster greens at around 11 for the U.S. Open, while Augusta National tends to run at about 12.5, so players will be dealing with some incredibly fast, and undulating surfaces this week.
The 488-yard par-4 18th is the toughest hole on the course, with a massive lake guarding the entire left side of the fairway and a huge bunker on the right. The same setup runs all the way to the green, with many players likely to attempt a bail out on the right, and hoping to avoid the greenside bunker. It has played as the number one handicap hole on the course in four of the last five years, with an average score of 4.34 in 2012. For a full course flyover, watch the video below:

Suggested Plays (All each-way except for Bradley and Mahan)
Keegan Bradley (Best Odds 14-1 at bet365)
Bradley is trending in the right direction at the moment, with three consecutive finishes inside the top-7, all against good fields at the Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Bradley hasn’t been putting as well as he usually does to start the year, but he’s been rolling it better in the last couple of weeks, and his other stats have been off the charts recently, including hitting 82.1% of his fairways last week. He posted four under-par rounds here last year en route to a fourth place finish, and keep in mind that one of his other PGA Tour wins happened in the area at the 2011 Byron Nelson Championship.
Hunter Mahan (Best Odds 18-1 at Betfair)
I’ve said before that taking defending champions is usually a kiss of death, but Mahan’s record at Redstone is too good to ignore. In seven appearances at this event, Mahan has finished inside the top-11 five times, and only 3 of his 24 career rounds here have been over-par. He hasn’t had a poor tournament since the opening event of the year, and 18-1 seems like it’s a little high for a player with his pedigree at Redstone.
Henrik Stenson (Best Odds 50-1 at Ladbrokes)
Stenson was one of the few players last week at Bay Hill to have four solid rounds, ending up in a tie for 8th. Granted, it’s his first top-10 on the PGA Tour since the Puerto Rico Open last March, but he did have a very good season in 2012 on the European Tour, with seven top-10’s and a win at the South African Open. In two previous visits to Redstone, he’s never been over-par in eight rounds, and has picked up a T-21 and a T-3.
Thorbjorn Olesen (Best Odds 66-1 at Ladbrokes)
Olesen has never played at Redstone, but that was also the case at Bay Hill last week and he finished in a tie for 7th, which gave him his third top-10 of 2013. His game can be a little inconsistent, but he’s usually one of the better putters and ball strikers out there every week, regardless of the tournament he’s playing in. He’s also a better player when he’s playing a lot, as opposed to when he takes a break, so you could be catching him just on the upswing after last week’s solid result.
Geoff Ogilvy (Best Odds 80-1 at Stan James)
When Ogilvy finished as the runner-up to Michael Thompson a few weeks ago at the Honda, I figured he was starting to break out of his nearly two-year long funk, which has seen him fall far enough out of the picture that he’s just barely qualified for the Masters next month. Since that runner-up, he’s finished T-47, T61 and missed the cut last week at Bay Hill. A good finish this week will ensure that he stays qualified for the Masters, and fortunately for him, his track record at Redstone is solid. He did miss the cut in his last appearance here in 2010, but he was tied for sixth in 2009, and was the runner-up to Johnson Wagner back in 2008. There’s a lot riding on this for Ogilvy, and I think he comes through.
John Huh (Best Odds 94-1 at Betfair)
A final round 80 derailed any chances of Huh catching Woods last week at Bay Hill, but his first three rounds had him only a few shots back of Woods going into Sunday. After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, it’s been a bit of a rough start for Huh in 2013, but last week could be a sign of him starting to break out. He finished tied for 14th last year in his lone appearance at Redstone.

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