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Scott Pianowski

Welcome to the Boomtown: The Shell Houston Open

Scott Pianowski
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Between some traveling and a daily draft/auction schedule this week, I'm a little out of my basic routine the last few days. But I wanted to at least share with you how I played the Shell Houston Open for fantasy purposes, and feel free to come back here as the tournament goes along and we'll talk some golf.

First things first as we attack the field – it's time to get Fred Couples back in there. It's one thing to go on the Champions Tour and compete or even win, but he's been flat-out dominant there (three wins plus a second) and that will serve him well as he heads back to the main circuit.

Houston's like a second hometown for Boom Boom – he attended the University of Houston, rooming with Jim Nantz and Blaine McCallister – and his victory at this event in 2003 was one of the tour's most emotional moments over the past decade. Here's what Couples has done since this event shifted to the Redstone Golf Club in 2003: win, T49, T4, T3. He's a forced play, and a fun one, this week in his adopted city.

Other B-List Picks: I understand if you're a little gun shy on Geoff Ogilvy these days; he's been somewhat of an underachiever since the early victory at the SBS Championship. But he's got a sterling rep at Redstone (7, 10, 62, 2, 6) and I don't see how we can look past that now. … Kevin Sutherland is one of those solid if forgettable pros that always seems to take care of your fantasy club when you tap him on the shoulder. He's made 12-of-14 cuts at Houston over the years, including 6-of-7 over the Redstone track, and he's done well of late at this stop (T19, T8). Consistency and a steady iron game go a long way. … Lee Westwood had two ordinary starts at the Shell until last year, when he finished a respectable T11. I'm comfortable using him at any venue and some different rules apply for name players who compete part-time on the PGA Tour; let's take advantage of their presence when we can. … Hunter Mahan should be a popular pick in this group; he's already bagged a 2010 victory and he's assembled a strong Redstone resume over the last four seasons (T6, MC, T5, T11). But Mahan's lone contending tournament this year was the victory in Phoenix; I'd like to see more intensity from him on a weekly basis, gunning for Top 20s and Top 10s when a trophy is out of play.

A-List: Ernie Els is an obvious selection off his amazing Florida success, but I'd prefer to use him in a fallback role, and maybe skip him for the week if things work out well with the primary pick. Keep in mind Ernie's recent victory was a Monday finish with some extra stress down the stretch; combine that with the extra media and public demands that come with winning and it seems like a good time to put him in the No. 2 slot. … Anthony Kim figured out Redstone pretty quickly in 2007 (T5); since then he's given us a MC and a T26 here. His iron play runs hot and cold but the swagger will be present either way; if Kim can get off to a fast start Thursday, I might lock him into the driver's seat and forget him for the rest of the event. Justify the faith, AK. … I don't see the point of playing Phil Mickelson right now; he's been underwhelming during the Tiger Void, and he's never seemed to fully buy into the Houston experience (MC, 23, 28, 30, MC over five stops, the first three at Redstone). When you're ready to come back to the inner circle, Lefty, give us a sign.

C-List: Paul Casey won here last season and he's been lights out for most of 2010; forget trying to find a reason away from him in this list, you're not going to find it. Unfortunately he's going to be a shared check – anyone with a pulse will have Casey too – but you can't swim against this tide. … The other name grab in this spot is Charl Schwartzel, but his last Houston visit came in 2006, a forgettable T81 check, and I've already burned a few of his starts. Instead let's ride with underrated post-hype star Matt Kuchar, who's quietly picked up $1.4 million and sits No. 7 on the money list. The highly-touted Georgia Tech product was a perennial disappointment through his 20s, but games and careers mature in strange ways. He's one of the more bankable C-List options now, standing sixth in putting average and second in all-around rank.

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