The PGA Tour moves from Florida to Texas this week for the Shell Houston Open. Phil Mickelson won the event a year ago and is back to defend his title, along with a solid field that includes Steve Stricker, Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, and many others.
For Phil Mickelson, this will certainly be an event that he needs to perform well in to gain extra confidence heading into the Masters next week. What is most concerning for me about Phil's game to this point has been his driving, as he currently ranks 127th on Tour in total driving and 158th in driving accuracy. It doesn't matter if he can hit good approach shots and putts if he is hitting from the deep rough and behind trees all day. It is evident that it is affecting his game recently, as he has yet to break 71 in the last 8 rounds he has played in. Hopefully he can get the kinks in this area of his game worked out at this event, because if he doesn't, I don't see him as having much of a chance to win the Masters.
Players to Watch
Els will need to win this event in order to get into the Masters next week, and it is a real shame that he hasn't been invited in to this point considering all that he has meant to the game of golf. Regardless, I like Els' chances at this event, as he has hit nearly 70% of greens in regulation on average for the year and will have the added motivation to perform well with the Masters on the line. The only real problem in Ernie's game right now is his putting, especially from within 10 feet, but I think he should be able to work around it at this week's event.
With all of the news regarding Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald's recent wins, what happened to Westwood? He has only played in three events on the PGA Tour this year, with his worst finish being a T-29 at the WGC Cadillac Championship, so it is not as if he has lost his game or anything to this point. He will certainly have a lot to prove at this week's event being the top ranked player in it, and will need to improve his putting (145th on Tour in strokes gained from putting) if he wants to have a chance to win the Masters next week.
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Ryan Kekoufski is a scratch golfer who has both played and watched the sport for well over a decade. He covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and currently resides in Virginia.