All eyes are firmly on the Houston Open this weekend, although many minds in the golfing world are already thinking about Augusta.
The Masters takes place next week, and whilst some players are already focusing on the first major of the year – others are using this weekend’s tournament in Houston as preparation.
The Golf Club of Houston hosts the event, which it has done since 2006 and it is often praised for it resemblance to Augusta and many feel it is the closest you will come to playing the great Georgia track. Since 2007 it has been played the week before The Masters.
World number one Dustin Johnson, who won the World Matchplay last week, has decided against playing as he aims to land the green jacket next month.
“Having played seven rounds of competitive golf in the last five days, I feel it is best to give my mind and body a much-needed rest heading into Masters week,” he said.
The likes of Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are all taking part, after they decided against taking part in the World Matchplay.
Defending champion is Jim HErman, but going into Houston and the man everyone has their eyes on is hometown Texan favourite Jordan Spieth.
— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) March 27, 2017
Spieth has actually started his Augusta preparations, which included a round with New England Patriots quarter-back Tom Brady, but he has headed straight back to Texas.
Another big star on show in Houston is Phil Mickelson, who is more than happy to be playing in the build up to Augusta.
“I almost always play the week before a major because if I take it off, I often feel a little rusty at the start,” said Mickelson.
“I like playing in a tournament that’s similar to what we’ll be playing. It’s a great place to get ready for next week.”
Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.
Home favourite Jordan Spieth will go well on home turf for me, and he has done well here before. Rickie Fowler has already shown good form this year and I will go for Phil Mickelson – who has also shown some good form.
We caught up with Ladbrokes’ senior golf trader Peter D’Arcy ahead of the weekend’s action to gauge the markets and ask him about our fancies.
Jordan Spieth is rightly favourite after the withdrawal of DJ and Rory McIlroy skipping this week and the punters like his chances by backing him well.
Of the players returning to the field Adam Scott has been fancied most from the refreshed trio, most likely due to his previous win here, but Henrik Stenson’s three top three finishes from five starts suggest he could go best.
Jon Rahm has certainly caught the imagination of the public. He’s currently our worst result this week and also for the Masters next week.
For an outside wager I’d be looking at Keegan Bradley. The former world number 10 was showing some glimpses of returning to form at the start of the year and this is a course that he likes.
Hernik Stenson has got a good record here with two runner-up finishes and he should go close again. And Phil Mickelson likes it around here too.