Playing the field at the Shell Houston Open

Welcome to Playing the Field, where we survey the key players and stories at each tournament, giving you the guys to watch and the stories to know. Today, it's the final pre-Augusta tournament. And here's who we'll be watching:

Ernie Els and Fred Couples: What the heck? Is this the 1990s all over again? Are we about to start wearing flannel and listening to Eddie Vedder, huh? Anyway, Els and Couples are the two hottest golfers in the game right now, both riding strong winning runs. (Yes, Couples' is on the Champions Tour, but still.) Keep an eye on both of these cats, and see if they can carry any momentum from Houston into Augusta.

Phil Mickelson: What a tease. Phil shoots well in one round of Bay Hill, and everybody's all, "Phil's back! Phil's back!" And then Phil falls face-first into the drink. Come on, Lefty! Possibly he's setting us up for a great run at Augusta, in which all this mess will be forgotten, and possibly he's just wildly inconsistent.

Hunter Mahan: He's had all kinds of success in Houston — three top-25 finishes in his last four starts — and he's already got a victory this season. Could be time for him to make his move.

Roto Arcade's Sleeper of the Week: Matt Kuchar. As our pals at Roto Arcade note, "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."

All right, your turn. Who's your pick for this week? Go!

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