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Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open Preview

Sam Burns

Sam Burns

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The PGA TOUR heads to Texas for the first of five events to be played in the Lone Star State this season.

There is just one more official FedExCup event on the fall schedule so it’s time to pack on the points before the holidays.

Carlos Ortiz will serve as the defending champion this week after winning last year’s edition with a 13-under 267 tally which was two shots better than the closest chasers, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama.

Let’s hop right in and talk about the host course.

The Course

The host venue this week is Memorial Park Golf Course.

This course is a John Bredemus design (1936) but it was completely renovated by Tom Doak in 2019 and we saw that renovated version in competition for the first time last year.

Memorial Park is not too tight off the tee and there are just 17 bunkers on the entire course. That allows golfers to grip it and rip it off the tee but it doesn’t mean they can do so without penalty.

A combination of bermudagrass rough and young, firm, bermuda greens makes it tough to land greens in regulation if you are trying to attack from off the fairway.

The greens are larger than TOUR-average (7,000 square feet) but heavily undulated so even some shots that initially land on the green can get unfavorable rolls that trickle off into the rough or even worse (water).

What about the overall length of the course? During tournament week it plays as a par 70 that stretches out to 7,412 yards. That is very long by par-70 standards. It’s not a traditional layout, either, as there are three par 5s and five par 3s.

Five of the par 4s playing over 490 yards. Two of the par 3s play over 215 yards. All three of the par 5s play over 575 yards. That is very beefy and golfers will need to be dial in with their mid and long irons or have the scrambling weeks of their life if they want to contend this week.

As you might expect with all that length, the course played very tough last year. Only 37 golfers ended the week in red numbers.

The course has had one more year to mature, which can help with the firmness of the greens on a freshly renovated course, but we should still expect this to be a tough test for the field this week.

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Quotes on the Course

Adam Scott: “The course is relentless. It’s just demanding off the tee. It requires something long and straight, and then you must hit the green in the right spot, too, especially the 9th hole. Dustin’s ball was on the green for a good 10 seconds today and ended up in the water, so you have to be very precise on some of them. The challenge is all around the greens, the course is still kind of growing in and that’s making it very difficult from down in the low areas around the greens. You know, you just have to get a little bit creative this week and somehow get it up on the green and try and save your par.”

Scottie Scheffler: “I think the golf course kind of forces you into being patient just because you can’t really miss too many greens. Around the greens out here is very, very difficult to get up and down and you can get into some spots where you start playing ping pong across these greens, it’s brutal. Fairways and greens is definitely at a premium this

Dustin Johnson: “The greens got a lot of slope and undulation in them, so you’ve got to hit it in the right spots if you want to have any kind of look at birdie. If you miss greens, you’re going to have a really tough time making pars, especially if you’re in the wrong spot. So yeah, I mean, the golf course, I think it’s going to play fairly difficult. It’s a long golf course, you hit a lot of mid to long irons. You don’t get many wedges in your hand out here.”

Brooks Koepka: “I know this golf course is quite difficult. It’s quite long. You’ll see some high numbers especially if the wind gets up, it kind of resembles a little bit of a U.S. Open I think some people would say, which I feel like I’ve done pretty good at.”

Cam Davis: “The penalty for just missing on the wrong side becomes really big because the ball just rolls away. It’s been a while since I’ve played a course on Tour that’s really done that and it’s great, it reminds me a lot of back in Australia.”

Correlated Courses

We have just one year of data to look at but I plugged in the top performers from last year and these were the courses that showed the highest consistency of crossover success:

Quail Hollow
Torrey Pines
Detroit GC
Waialae CC
Sedgefield CC

These courses don’t fit every checkbox but I think the themes this week are long courses, bermudagrass, and heavily undulated greens.

The Weather

Thursday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 78 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH.

Friday: Sunny with a high of 74 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH.

As of Monday, there is a chance of a late-night storm on Wednesday night to soften the course for Thursday morning but otherwise, it looks pretty dry this week. There is no major wind in the forecast but this is Texas so don’t be surprised if that changes as we near closer to the first tee time.