Following tournaments in Japan, Bermuda, and Mexico, the PGA Tour is back on US soil. Players and fans head to Texas this week, where the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open takes place.
Memorial Park Golf Course will host this event for the second season in a row having made a comeback on the tour schedule for the first time in 2020. Among those teeing it up in Houston will be Carlos Ortiz, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory in this event a year ago.
Aside from last year’s winner, big names such as Brooks Koepka, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, and Cameron Smith will all feature, while Matthew Wolff, having been out in front for the first two rounds at El Camaleón, will be involved too. Several previous winners of this tournament will tread the fairways this week, including Ian Poulter, Adam Scott, tournament specialist Russell Henley, and Lanto Griffin, who picked up his first and only PGA Tour win in the Lone Star State back in 2019.
Memorial Park Golf Course features on the PGA Tour for just the second time in just under 60 years, having been reintroduced to the schedule when hosting this tournament last season. Golf architectural royalty Tom Doak remodelled the course in recent times, and he did so alongside none other than four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, who served as a consultant. The course was altered in many areas, with some holes shortened and others lengthened, while the greens, which are slightly atypical and feature sharp run-off areas, were made harder to hit.
As Carlos Ortiz proved last season when winning at this venue, Memorial Park is a course that demands strong second-shot and approach play. Hitting greens in regulation is paramount, while those who are to save shots by scrambling well around the greens should be at an advantage. Ortiz finished third for strokes gained: around-the-green last season, which is telling. With the putting surfaces not the easiest, being hot with the flatstick is something of a prerequisite too. Again, Ortiz gained strokes on the field on the tricky greens last season, finishing the week in fifth for strokes gained: putting.
Key stats for Memorial Park
As touched on above, this is a venue for sharp iron play and accurate approach, while what players do on and around the greens will be key.
Four important stats have been included below including the top ten in those categories this season so far. Only players in this field are included.
Strokes gained: approach: Russell Henley, Mito Pereira, Sam Burns, Collin Morikawa, Matthew NeSmith, Talor Gooch, Adam Scott, Henrik Norlander, Chez Reavie, Tom Hoge.
Strokes gained: around-the-green: Jim Knous, Rory Sabbatini, Sungjae Im, Danny Willett, Sanghun Shin, Talor Gooch, Aaron Baddeley, Stephan Jaeger, Aaron Wise, William McGirt.
Greens in regulation: Cameron Smith, Sam Burns, Russell Henley, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Mito Pereira, Gary Woodland, Matthew Wolff, Jim Herman, Talor Gooch.
Strokes gained: putting: Matthias Schwab,Nate Lashley, Adam Long, Mackenzie Hughes, C.T. Pan, Matthew Wolff, Adam Schenk, Tyrell Hatton, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith.
|Odds To Win +1600|
|Draft Kings $11,100|
|Rising star Sam Burns comes into this tournament as the highest-priced draft player and it’s not at all hard to see why. The American has flourished in recent times, picking up his second PGA Tour victory at the Sanderson Farms at the start of last month, while he continued to move in the right direction when finishing fifth at the CJ Cup a fortnight later.|
In addition to being a player in form, Burns took well to the task at this venue last season, finishing seventh. We know that approach will be key this week, which won’t be a problem for the Louisiana man, who is currently the third-best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: approach, while he also ranks third for greens in regulation. Quite simply, get him in the team.
|Odds To Win +3000|
|Draft Kings $9,900|
|Who could be better suited to a course than the man who helped re-design it? Brooks Koepka has an experience under his belt that nobody else in this field has and being involved in the remodeling of Memorial Park clearly helped the four-time major winner last season. On that occasion, he finished fifth.|
The recent Ryder Cup victor hasn’t exactly hit the heights so far this campaign, but don’t let that put you off. As already mentioned, he knows all about this place and was one of the best on tour in terms of gaining strokes overall last term, finishing eighth for strokes gained: total. Well worth including at a shade under $10,000.
|Odds To Win +3300|
|Draft Kings $9,200|
|As the key stats above show, Talor Gooch is a player that ticks several boxes ahead of this week’s event in Houston.|
The 29-year-old arrives in fantastic form and after finishing T4, T11, T5, and T11, clearly has his game in excellent shape. Add to this fourth-place finish at this venue last season and Gooch becomes very hard to disregard. Get him in the team. It’s as simple as that.
|Odds To Win +3500|
|Draft Kings $9,100|
|The winner of this event 12 months ago, Carlos Ortiz is another player who not only has rock-solid form at Memorial Park, but who turns up in excellent form.|
Played some of his best-ever golf last week to finish second in his native Mexico and is hard to oppose in his current form. That second should have given the 26-year-old, who has risen to 49 in the world rankings, a real boost, so much so that he should be brimming with confidence ahead of his return to the site of his one and only PGA Tour win.
|Odds To Win +14000|
|Draft Kings $7,000|
|Henrik Norlander didn’t exactly set the world alight at this venue last season, missing the cut, but his game has certainly improved since, and there’s reason to believe that he can perform well this time around.|
Coming off the back of a solid start to the campaign, making four out of four cuts, posting a T4 and a T18, Norlander rates as one of the best approach players on tour right now, which bodes well ahead this week’s test. For strokes gained: approach, only seven players have outperformed the 34-year-old so far this season. He’s also been tidy around the greens, ranking inside the top 20 (in this field) for strokes gained: around-the-green. At a cheap price, take a chance on the Swede.
|Odds to Win +15000|
|Draft Kings $7,000|
|Veteran Martin Laird showed that there’s still plenty in the tank when winning the Shriners in late 2020, and he’s started this campaign in hot form too, posting efforts of T11 and T22. Throw in that he ranks inside the top 20 (in this field) for strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: tee-to-green, currently ranking as the 21st best on tour for strokes gained: total, and it’s easy to envisage the Scotsman outplaying what is a lowly price-tag.|