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HPE Houston Open: Hometown Reed Headlines at Memorial Park

Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

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The PGA Tour returns to the United States for the first time in three weeks as 132 players are set to take on Memorial Park Golf Course. Hewlett Packard Enterprise jumps into the revolving door of title sponsors joining last week’s newcomer World Wide Technology and possibly hinting at Mega Corp entering the fold somewhere down the line.

Taking place just west of downtown Houston, Tom Doak will welcome players to his redesign as he and Brooks Koepka took to the Texas municipal course just a couple years ago. While Doak and the Florida State product are forever linked due to their architect-player consultant relationship, the four-time major winner has given 99.9 percent of the credit to the architect.

However, with such a profound 0.1 percent influence, you could see in last year’s debut, the course is right up Koepka’s alley. A long par-70 playing just about 7,400 yards, Bermuda grass stretches throughout the property. Penal rough off-the-tee with large, undulating greens surrounded by tricky, tight lies puts players on their heels from the very start. Comparing the examination to that of a U.S. Open, the two-time national champion finished in a tie for fifth, carding a pair of 65’s over the weekend.

Instead, it was Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz who proved victorious, getting to 13-under by tournament’s end, edging out a pair of eventual Masters Champions in Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama by two-strokes. Not the case this year, the Houston Open historically precedes the year’s first major and although the Tour heads to Georgia next week, Sea Island is far removed from Augusta National.

While a big-game hunter such as Koepka would make the obvious choice to begin the outright card with at +3000, the lack of form and lack of prey on the horizon has me worried. Cameron Smith was the plan before prices were released but unfortunately, I cannot get there with the Australian at +2000. Instead, it is Patrick Reed (+4000) who has garnered my consideration as difficult golf courses tend to be the Texan’s bread and butter.

Opening +4500 at some shops and +4000 at PointsBet Sportsbook, Reed is always an interesting prospect. A Houston resident and known Astros fan, the 31-year-old thrives when the going gets tough. Boasting victories at Augusta National, Bethpage Black, Torrey Pines, and Trump National Doral, a win at Memorial Park would fit in quite nicely on his mantle.

Battling back from a health scare late last season, Reed has begun to show signs of improvement. A runner-up effort in windy, wet Bermuda was followed up with a weekend appearance at El Camaleon Golf Course. While he hasn’t played in Houston since 2016, he captured finishes of T-10 and T-17 in his last two showings down the street at Golf Club of Houston.

Dropping down a touch, former winners Russell Henley (+4000) and Lanto Griffin (+6000) were heavily considered, but it is Max Homa (+6000) who we will be going with. Triumphant in the first event of the new season, the three-time winner on the PGA Tour takes after Reed in his ability to play his best in difficult conditions.

His victory last season at Riviera was accompanied by quality results at Bay Hill, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook, and Muirfield Village. I won’t put too much stock into his CJ CUP performance as Las Vegas can get the best of a recent winner and will instead look to his improvement from around-the-green as a potential indicator for a successful week.

Posting +2.7 and +2.2 Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green in his two starts, off-season efforts are paying early dividends for the 30-year-old. Described as a “top-10 ball-striker on the PGA Tour” by Justin Thomas’ new looper, I envision that area of his game returning to form in Houston. Unable to figure out the greens last year en route to a T-48 result, he has since found his touch with the flat stick on Bermuda-laced tracks and am willing to chance such prowess from last season in Florida can carry over into Texas.

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While Griffin and Henley were unable to make their way into our selections, the 2018 Houston Open winner, Ian Poulter (+7000), has. There appears to be some slight disagreement in the market about the Englishman as his price ranges from +6500 to +11000 here in the U.S.

Missing the cut last week at Mayakoba in the ugliest of fashions, the 45-year-old went from the chasing pack to packing his bags all within a 30-minute window. 8-under for the tournament through 33-holes, Poulter played his final three holes Friday evening in 5-over to miss the weekend by a single-stroke.

Willing to forgive such a blunder, Poulter continues to consistently find fairways and greens in regulation despite being on the wrong side of 40. However, in the off chance his ball-striking takes a backseat, his short-game is more than enough to steer the wheel down the same road Ortiz took to victory last year.

Nearly coming through for us at the Renaissance Club in July – another Doak design – Poulter finished a stroke outside the three-man playoff at the Scottish Open. He has since collected a top-10 finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, a tournament you can’t help but notice when looking at potential correlation. As this week’s favorite and last year’s 36-hole and 54-hole leader, Sam Burns, found himself in a playoff at TPC Southwind with Matsuyama and Abraham Ancer.

Whenever Burns draws so much attention, I can’t help but turn my cheek to Sebastian Munoz (+9000) as the pair have both claimed victories at Country Club of Jackson. A North Texas Mean Green alum alongside Ortiz, the Lone Star State was more than kind to the Colombian this past season.

Collecting a top-10 finish at the Valero Texas Open, Munoz found himself on the podium at the Charles Schwab Challenge in a tie for third alongside Poulter, Charley Hoffman, and Patton Kizzire.

Never one to wow you with his consistency, the 28-year-old appears to have recovered from his early season woes. After missing the first three cuts of this new campaign, Munoz has since collected a top-50 finish at The Summit Club and a top-5 finish at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Hindered by tree troubles off-the-tee at Narashino Country Club, the relatively wide-open nature of Memorial Park should fit his eye.

If driving is in fact at a premium at Memorial Park, Keith Mitchell (+15000) is a candidate to take a page or two out of the playbooks of Johnson and Koepka. Gaining strokes off-the-tee in each start this season, the long-hitting 29-year-old has gradually brought the rest of his game up to speed.

Posting positive results from tee-to-green in three consecutive measured tournaments – gaining strokes in each tee-to-green metric – Mitchell’s resurgence with the putter at The Summit Club was well-documented. Asking for such an effort may be a task too tall, but a low-scoring, defensive battle where par is a good score may be to the former Georgia Bulldog’s liking.

Outright Selections (Odds Via PointsBet):

Patrick Reed (+4000)

Max Homa (+6000)

Ian Poulter (+7000)

Sebastian Munoz (+9000)

Keith Mitchell (+15000)

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