Returning Stateside this week, the PGA TOUR heads to Memorial Park Golf Course for the Houston Open.
A field of 132 golfers will be teeing it up this week with the field getting trimmed to the top 65 and ties after 36 holes.
We are getting close to the end of the fall portion of the schedule which means the Korn Ferry Tour graduates only have two more events to improve their position in the reshuffle. That's probably not a narrative you want to lead your research with this week but a possible point of consideration when looking for value options for your DFS roster or betting board.
Let's get right into it and talk about the course.
Memorial Park Golf Course is a classical design that was completely retooled three years ago. It's a par 70 that stretches out to 7,412 yards from the tips.
It's not your standard par 70 as there are three par 5s and five par 3s.
Par 3s are always the toughest scoring holes on the PGA TOUR and when you add in beefy par 5s that don't yield many eagles, this course is well-defended from low scores.
It's a grip-it-and-rip-it type of course at Memorial Park which is a big switch from the last few weeks which were played on short, coastal tracks.
There are five par 4s that play over 490 yards on the card so it's no surprise to see golfers pounding driver after driver in Houston.
There isn't a lot of trouble to find when missing off the tee but the bermuda rough is just tricky enough to reward the straight shooters who can find the fairways.
On approach, golfers will be attacking relatively large targets but there are plenty of traps set up to punish overaggressive behavior. As Houston resident Jhonnatan Vegas said last year, "These greens are hard. I think whoever designed it did a phenomenal job on making these greens hard. Like I said, especially just to get the ball close to it. Sometimes you hit it to 20, 30 feet and it's a really good shot."
If you get fooled into attack mode, you can find yourself short-sided trying to get up-and-down from the bermuda rough with speedy, undulating greens to make the task that much harder.
The overall scoring environment is one of the toughest on TOUR, if it plays like the first two years. The field has averaged just a 16% birdie rate which is second lowest of non-majors behind only Innisbrook.
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Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Scottie Scheffler: "This golf course can be pretty challenging from the bermuda rough and you've got to hit the ball in play. If you're hitting it in the rough to elevated greens that you can't hold just because you're hitting knucklers out of the rough, so it was very important to get the ball in the fairway."
Marc Leishman: "There's not a whole lot of strategy off the tee here, it's pretty much driver on every hole, but that flips going into the greens. There's a lot of strategy of where you want to hit it, there's places you can just not hit it, and the greens are perfect so you can make putts. "
Luke List: "Yeah, like I said, a lot of drivers. Par 5s are long and I think for me I can get to a few of them with my length where a lot of guys are playing them as three-shot holes."
Martin Trainer: "It's really long, there's a lot of really long par 4s especially, and the greens are pretty firm and they're really fast. So there's a lot of really tough up-and-downs if you miss the green, and if you miss the fairway, it's tough to hit the green, so that combination makes it really tough. You know, trying to hit 14, 15 greens out here is no small task.
Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week's host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on TOUR. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:
Harbour Town GL
Bay Hill Club and Lodge
Quail Hollow Club
Tough courses, bermudagrass, long courses, fast greens. Those are the key themes this week.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 79 degrees. Calm winds with gusts up to 20 MPH.
Friday: Chance of showers with a high of 78 degrees. Winds at 8 to 15 MPH, gusting up to 25 MPH.
Things get pretty chilly by Texas standards over the weekend temps sitting in the mid-50s for the weekend.
Golfers to Watch
He arrives off a win in Mexico and he was also the co-first-round leader at this event last year. He seems to play well in Houston regardless of the course with six top 10s in nine starts including a win at the GC of Houston. "I lived in Charleston for seven years and we played bermudagrass just like here in Houston and a lot of wind in Charleston. So I guess just kind of felt comfortable with playing in the wind and the bermudagrass."
Speaking of comfort in Texas, the Dallas resident is the most notable name in the field and is very comfortable playing in the area. He snagged a T32 at Memorial Park in his debut and improved with a runner-up finish last year.
He may not be a Texan but very familiar in the region and it's shown with a pair of T7s at Memorial Park, in two tries. He didn't earn the nickname "Bermuda Burns" for nothing and he'll get a chance to putt on his preferred surface this week in Houston.
Memorial Park is a driver-heavy course with fast greens. He has wins at TPC Scottsdale, Augusta National, Firestone, and Muirfield Village. It's safe to say he like striping the driver and knows how to handle speedy surfaces.
He always has my attention when heading to a course with bermudagrass. While his game has evened out a bit over recent years, there is a clear comfort on the grainy grass. He said this back in 2019, "I don't want to say my game is winnier on Bermuda greens, but I've just got to get better on the West Coast and poa annua. I'm playing every Bermuda event we've got this year." Consider him a high-upside option this week.
Ranking the Field
1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Aaron Wise
3. Sam Burns
4. Hideki Matsuyama
5. Russell Henley
6. Tony Finau
7. Maverick McNealy
8. Taylor Montgomery
9. Denny McCarthy
10. Alex Noren
11. Jason Day
12. Si Woo Kim
13. Joel Dahmen
14. Emiliano Grillo
15. Adam Hadwin
16. Sahith Theegala
17. Keith Mitchell
18. Taylor Pendrith
19. Matthew NeSmith
20. Davis Riley