November 27, 2021

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PGA Tour Picks: 74th Houston Open

6 min read

After three weeks outside the United States, the PGA Tour is back for the 74th edition of the newly renamed Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston.

A PGA Tour event was played sporadically in Houston from 1922 until 1938, but since 1946 the Houston Open been played every year except 1948.

Byron Nelson claimed the title in 1946 and the impressive list of Houston Open champions includes Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Phil Mickelson, Gene Littler, Raymond Floyd, Payne Stewart, David Duval, Cary Middlecoff, Jack Burke Jr., Bobby Locke, Bob Charles, Mike Souchak, Roberto DeVicenzo, Frank Beard, Bobby Nichols, Bruce Crampton, Lee Elder, Bruce Devlin, Dave Hill, Curtis Strange, Fred Couples, Vijay Singh, Hal Sutton, Paul Casey, Jay Haas, Mark Brooks, Fred Funk, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby and Ian Poulter.

Strange and Singh each claimed the title three times, with Palmer, Middlecoff, Burke, Souchak, Nichols, Crampton and Appleby all winning it twice.

Carlos Ortiz of Mexico claimed his only PGA Tour title in the Houston Open last year by outlasting Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama by two strokes.

“I am really excited to defend my title at the Houston Open,” said Ortiz, who last week finished second to Viktor Hovland in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba at El Camaleon Golf Club in Play del Rey, Mexico.

“I enjoyed playing the Memorial Park Golf Course last year and I look forward to playing in front of the Houston fans. It will be a great week of golf and entertainment.”

Other notable players in the field include Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Sungjae Im, Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Wolff, Joaquin Niemann of Chile, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland, Jason Day, Graeme McDowell, Cameron Smith, Lee Westwood, Stewart Cink, Francesco Molinari, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner.

Among the young guns are Aaron Wise, Talor Gooch, Mito Pereira, Maverick McNealy, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sahith Theegala, Max Homa, Denny McCarthy, Aaron Rai, Stephen Jaeger, Peter Uihlein, Greyson Sigg, Matthias Schwab and Matthew NeSmith.

Every one would love to etch his name on the trophy of one of the PGA Tour’s most iconic tournaments.

BEST BETS

1. Sam Burns, United States — Coming off his victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship, a tie for fifth in the CJ Cup and a tie for 14th in the Shriners, Burns leads the FedEx point standings. This has come after he had eight top-10 finishes last season, including his first PGA Tour victory in the Valspar Championship among eight top-10 finishes, including a tie for seventh in Houston.

2. Sungjae Im, South Korea — Claimed his second PGA Tour victory in the Shriners Children’s Open last month and tied for ninth in the CJ Cup to rank second in the FedEx Cup standings. Im’s first title came in the 2020 Valspar Championship, and although he didn’t win last season, he posted five top-10 finishes and 16 in the top 25. However, he could manage only a tie for 50th in the Houston Open.

3. Tony Finau, United States — The 12th-ranked Finau figures to get it going again after managing only ties for 45th both at Mayakoba and in the CJ Cup. Finished last year strong with his second PGA Tour victory in The Northern Trust during the playoffs and had eight top-10 finishes and 16 in the top 25 to wind up 11th in the FedEx Cup point standings. He tied for 24th in Houston both last year and in 2018.

4. Scottie Scheffler, United States — Former University of Texas star still is seeking his first PGA Tour victory after he was solo fourth at Mayakoba last week. However, he finished last season with eight top-10 finishes, including second in the WGC-Match Play and a tie for fifth in the WGC-Workday before going 2-0-1 in the Ryder Cup, beating top-ranked Jon Rahm in singles. Scheffler was T-28 in 2019 at Houston.

5. Cameron Smith, Australia — The 22nd-ranked Smith tied for ninth in the CJ Cup in his only start of the new season after earning his third PGA Tour victory last season in the Zurich Classic among eight results in the top 10 and 14 in the top 25. That included a tie for second in the Masters and solo second in The Northern Trust during the playoffs, finishing 14th in FedEx Cup standings. Tied for 19th at Houston in 2016.

6. Matthew Wolff, United States — Held the lead after opening with 61-68 and eventually tied for fifth at Mayakoba, after finishing second in the Shriners and tying for 17th at Sanderson Farms, so he ranks eighth in the FedEx Cup standings. Claimed his only PGA Tour victory in the 2019 3M Open and last season he finished second in both the U.S. Open and the Shriners. Wolff is making his debut in the Houston Open.

7. Tyrrell Hatton, England — The 19th-ranked Hatton has a tie for second in the Dunhill Links on the European Tour and a tie for 18th in the CJ Cup recently. Claimed his first PGA Tour victory and eighth as a pro in the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational and last year had four top-10 finishes and nine in the top 25 on the U.S. circuit. One of those was a tie for seventh in the Houston Open, playing the weekend in 67-65.

8. Carlos Ortiz, Mexico — The defending champion in Houston is coming off a runner-up finish at Mayakoba last week and a tie for 25th in the CJ Cup. His first PGA Tour victory came after he won three times on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour and he had three finishes in the top 10 and seven in the top 25 last year. Beat Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama by two strokes at Houston with a closing 65.

9. Adam Scott, Australia — One of Scott’s 31 victories as a pro came in the 2007 Houston Open, when he played the weekend in 66-65, and he also tied for sixth in 2009 and tied for 14th in 2010, but he’s played the tournament only twice in recent years. He tied for fifth recently in the CJ Cup at the Summit, tied for second last last season in the Wyndham and claimed his last victory in the 2020 Genesis Invitational.

10. Brooks Koepka, United States — The formerly top-ranked Koepka missed the cut at Mayakoba last week and his best result in three starts this season was a tie for 38th in the CJ Cup, but he was 2-2 and beat Berndt Weisberger in singles to help the U.S. regain the Ryder Cup. He won the Phoenix Open last year for his eighth PGA Tour victory and 15th as a pro, and a tie for fifth in Houston was one of eight top 10s.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Joaquin Niemann, Chile; Patrick Reed, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Aaron Wise, United States; Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa; Mackenzie Hughes, Canada; Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela; Jason Day, Australia; C.T. Pan, Taiwan; Gary Woodland, United States.

SLEEPERS

1. Taylor Pendrith, Canada – Two-time winner on 2019 Forme Tour was T-5 in Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Making his debut in the Houston Open.

2. Greyson Sigg, United States– Won the Knoxville Open and the Albertsons Boise Open on 2020 Korn Ferry Tour, was T-22 in Bermuda. Makes his first Houston start.

3. Harry Higgs, United StatesHas won twice on lower tours and was T-4 in 2021 PGA Championship. Also was T-9 in CJ Cup recently. Making his Houston debut.

4. Henrik Norlander, Sweden – Won twice on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, was T-4 in Sanderson Farms, T-18 in Zozo this season. Finished T-45 in Houston last year.

5. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour, Jaeger was T-20 in Bermuda Championship, T-26 in Sanderson Farms this season.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html