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Handicapping

Shell Houston Open Picks

Shell Houston Open Predictions to Win
When: March 31st-April 3rd, 2016
Where: The Golf Club of Houston (Tournament Course) Ė Humble, TX
Channel: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Professional Golf Betting Handicapper, Predictem.com

Spring is an interesting time on the American sports calendar. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of the biggest events in all of sports and Major League Baseball is right around the corner. The PGA Tour has what amounts to nearly a 52-week schedule depending on how you look at it but this is the time of the year that most golf fans really identify with as the start of the season. The Masters is just a week away with most fans and players having already turned an anxious eye to Augusta. For those already qualified for the Masters, now is a time to prep and the Shell Houston Open serves as a wonderful opportunity to do so. Normally, the week leading into a Major is a bad spot for a golf tournament as players would rather visit the upcoming venue but the course personnel at The Golf Club of Houston have gone to great lengths to set up their Tournament Course to mimic many of the features that are seen at Augusta. That has led to many top players making the trip to Houston to compete and this tournament is one of the most successful stops that either directly proceed or follow a Major Championship. Jordan Spieth highlights the field this week with Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler making up a strong American contingent. Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia are some names of note from the Euro side and J.B. Holmes is looking to defend his 2015 title.

The Houston Open has PGA roots going back to 1946 but the Tournament Course at GCH has only played host for the last ten years. The 7,440 yard, par-72 layout is not exactly what most people think of Texas golf as the course features very hilly terrain that is dotted with plenty of trees and natural lakes. Make no mistake though, the formidable Texas winds can wreak havoc here as they often do at the more typical flat-land courses. The course superintendents take a good look at what makes Augusta difficult and do their best to create what players will see next week. Green complexes are manicured perfectly and tight mowing filters missed approaches to collection areas. The putting surfaces are made to roll at 13 or more on the Stimp, so this is really the best prep you can get without being at Augusta itself. The best putters or at least the hottest ones will do just fine this week as most should get around from tee-to-green in good order. Good approaches will net decent birdie looks but precise ones are required to get those quality chances. The par-5 scoring will loom very important and watch out for just about anyone in the field to make a big move on the weekend as GCH has a history of giving up rounds in the lower sixties pretty regularly. There have been four playoffs in the ten years at GCH and two more one stroke wins so this one should be pretty tight coming down to the wire.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at the best bookmaker on the web: 5Dimes Fast payouts, lots of wager options and one of the oldest/most trusted books on thew eb! Here are our picks to win the 2016 Shell Houston Open.

Dustin Johnson (12 to 1 odds to win)
Despite going winless in the early season, DJ has had a very nice start to 2016. In seven starts, he has not missed a cut and has four top-10 finishes, including a T5 in last weekís Match Play, falling one match short of the final four. He has a short track record here but did record a T4 back in 2013 and you would expect another good showing from the guy leading the Tour in birdie average.† There isnít much to point to that would suggest a struggle this week as Johnson is one of the best off the tee and into the greens. His 4.92 birdies per round come from a very average putting game overall so just imagine what kind of results he will post if that putter finds a sharper form. The life changes made by DJ over the last year or more appear to have produced a golfer that is once again capable of being the best in the world and I would anticipate he is ready to go out and erase some of his near-misses from 2015.

Brooks Koepka (30 to 1)
If you like Johnsonís chances, you pretty much have to like Koepka as well as there are very few differences in the overall skill sets. At just 26-years old, Koepka is in just his third full year on Tour so there is a bit of an experience deficit but he stacks up just fine talent-wise. Brooks missed a cut back in October of 2015 but has been clean since with three top-10ís including a T5 last week.† He is 9th in driving distance and also inside the top-10 in birdie average and the all-around category. He has a little work to do in refining his irons but he makes up for it with a top-30 putter. He is still a little green in terms of high end scrambling and course management but he has won and is pretty fearless so winning an event like this is right in his wheelhouse.

Steve Stricker (60 to 1)
Given the strong field, picking longshots is tricky as all the top-end players will be hard to wade through for an upstart talent. Stricker provides a proven winner, even if he hasnít played much recently but he is feeling healthy by all reports and is looking to head into the Masters in good form like everyone else. After three missed cuts to start the year, Steve has made the weekend in three starts with T11 and T7 finishes to show for it. He has a modest track record here but did wind up T4 here in 2011 and hasnít missed the cut in any of his last four appearances. You wonít see much that will impress you from his long game but this guy can still putt. Even his semi-retirement hasnít slowed his prowess on the greens and he enters the week as the top-ranked putter in putting and is 2nd in 1-putt percentage at 48.6%. It would be a pretty impressive feat if he were to take down the field this week but I wonít be surprised if he is playing late in the afternoon on Sunday.

Head-to-Head Golfer vs. Golfer Matches
Picks to win based on final score after all four rounds. Check with Bovada Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets. Your credit card WILL work there for depositing and you get a nice generous 50% sign up bonus up to $250 in FREE cash as well!

Phil Mickelson v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Mickelson)
I finally did it, I picked Phil Mickelson to win a match. For years, I have been making a ton of money betting against Lefty as the books kept putting him up against big name players despite his spotty play. I never thought that he would wind up back on my betting ticket but here he is and he is here because he has regained a lot of the short game form, including putting, that propelled him to success for all those years. His decline in recent years was tied to his rather average performance on and around the greens but he has put together the 4th ranked scrambling stat and added a top-15 putter in strokes gained once more so there are more birdies, less bogeys and one of the best scoring averages on Tour again. Now, I donít know how long it lasts but I think Lefty can be depended on, especially this week as he will be keen to peak heading into Augusta. Reed is a fine player that will be a tough out in any head-to-head but this one is more about Phil and his apparent return to form.

JB Holmes v. Jimmy Walker (pick to win: Walker)
Both men in this match are near mirror images of each other on the stat sheet. They hit it about the same distance and find nearly equal fairways and greens but Walker has been the much better putter in 2016 and that really makes a big difference when the greens get tough. Holmes will surely have some good mojo working as the defending champ but he enters the week outside the top-100 in strokes gained-putting and that had been a big contributor to a 68th ranked scoring average. Walker has the 6th best scoring average on the strength of a top-40 putter and I just donít know how you advocate not taking him when all the other stats are basically a wash.

Good luck and good golf!

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