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Sam Burns is the outright pick at +1400 with Caesar’s Sportsbook
Russell Henley can grab a top 10 at +475 with bet365
Back Jason Kokrak to beat Mackenzie Hughes in a matchbet at -110 with DraftKings
When the Houston Open made its first visit to Memorial Park Municipal Golf Course last year it would have been easy to assume that a field of PGA Tour professionals would rip the public layout to pieces.
That would have been the assumption based on initial information and the theory would have been backed up by news that the renovation team of Tom Doak and Brooks Koepka had cleared the property of its extensive woodland and also left only 19 bunkers out there.
Wide-open, few threats, designed to give 18-handicappers a good time – obviously the scores would be low, argued conventional wisdom.
And how wrong that perception proved to be, however, with Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz winning with a 13-under total of 267 that was the highest score to par since the 2010 tournament – and he won by two blows as well.
In truth, the difficulty of the test had been highlighted during practice.
Koepka himself had said: “It’s quite difficult and long. You’ll see some high numbers especially if the wind gets up, it kind of resembles a U.S. Open course.”
Scottie Scheffler added: “It kind of forces you into being patient just because you can’t really miss too many greens. And around the greens, it is very, very difficult to get up and down and you can get into some spots where you start playing ping pong across the putting surfaces. It’s brutal.”
The numbers back up the notion that this is a tough week because the course plays to a par of 70 despite total yardage of 7,412.
Twelve months ago Sam Burns was a promising young player who arrived in Houston having started the season with the first end-of-round lead of his PGA Tour career, a two-shot halfway advantage which he couldn’t convert at the Safeway Open.
He spun off that effort to find himself one shot clear with 18 holes to play at Memorial Park.
Once again, the win proved elusive and the same thing happened early in the New Year at the Genesis Invitational.
Some snickered and thought he had a bad head for heights, but it turns out that Burns was instead learning important lessons, and at the fourth time of asking he landed the win at the Valspar Championship in May.
He very nearly added a second seasonal win, losing a play-off in the World Golf Championship St Jude Invitational, before he opened the new campaign with another triumph at the Fortinet Championship.
What those two victories and the near-miss have in common is that all three were on Bermuda grass greens – just as this week.
That’s an important consideration and so, too, is formed in Texas which means that Burns’ second-place finish in this year’s Byron Nelson Championship reads well.
He’s the clear favorite this week, but he absolutely deserves to be and the fact he lives locally means he will have plenty of support – another tick in the box.
Take him each way in the outright at +1400 with Caesar’s Sportsbook which pays out eight places.
Four years ago, 32-year-old Russell Henley picked up the third win of his PGA Tour career in this tournament at the Houston CC and he’s got a fine chance to make it four wins this week, but let’s focus on the safer option of him landing a top 10 in his hunt.
His form in the event is exceptional beyond that win. Indeed, he landed five top 10s in seven starts at the previous venue ahead of making a solid effort at Memorial Park last year (T29th).
What’s also clear is that in 2021 he has played his best golf on Bermuda greens and pars below 72: T11th at Waialae, tied third at PGA National, tied ninth at Harbour Town, and tied seventh at Sedgefield.
He was on track for adding another at El Camaleon last week before he recorded a poor third round, but he bounced back with a final day 67 and he can kick on from that.
And his first two PGA Tour wins? They were at Waialae and PGA National – tricky, windy and Bermuda greens. Again, very much like this week.
Take him to find the top 10 with bet365 offering a top price of +475.
With victory and another two top 10 finishes in his last three starts in Texas, I’m keen to support Jason Kokrak in some way or other and his match-up with Mackenzie Hughes at DraftKings looks the best option.
The head-to-head in the last 12 months read a close 9-8 to Kokrak, but throughout their careers, the American leads the Canadian 55-35.
That’s good news. The better news is how they compare in this week’s distinct conditions.
In Texas, Kokrak holds a 7-3 advantage and since the start of 2018 he leads 26-7 on Bermuda grass.
History, location, and putting surface – that’s a trio of reasons in Kokrak’s favor and yet DraftKings can’t split them.
Take the 36-year-old Kokrak to prevail at -110.
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|The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open Information|
|Tournament||The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open|
|Location||Memorial Park GC, Houston, Texas|
|Time||Thursday, November 11 – Sunday, November 14|
|How to watch||Thursday & Friday 1pm & 7.30pm ET (Golf Channel), Saturday & Sunday 1pm & 10.30pm ET (Golf Channel). And all four days on Sky Sports.|
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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