This week marks the second-to-last event of the PGA TOUR’s fall swing. The Houston Open has undergone a few name changes — and a venue switch — over the last couple of years but has remained a regular stop on the PGA. It used to be played right before the Masters, but for the third year in a row, it will take its place late on the fall schedule. This will also be the second year in a row that it’s contested at Memorial Park Golf Course.
The field this week comprises of 132 players and features 18 of the world’s top 50 players (as of writing). As of now, world No. 18 Sam Burns is the favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook at +1200, with world No. 21 Cameron Smith and 22 Scottie Scheffler tied in odds at +1800. Sungjae Im (+2000) and Tony Finau (+2500), round out some of the bigger names at the top of the betting board this week.
Memorial Park Golf Course — Houston, Texas
par 70, 7,412 yards; Greens: Bermuda
This year marks the second year in a row the Houston Open will be played at Memorial Park Golf Course, a public links course that was recently renovated by the city of Houston and once hosted this same event for a time, back in 1963.
The redesign of this course was completed in 2019 by Tom Doak, who brought in PGA pro Brooks Koepka as an advisor. The venue is a pure parkland course but was modified significantly from its old layout. Water is in play on four holes, and natural hazards like ravines come into play, as well. Elevation changes to greens and fairways also occurred while the redesign also decided to eliminate much of the sand that was on the course, as only 19 bunkers are in play now. The course was given a variety of new tee boxes, as well, allowing the course to play at various lengths, including ultra-long for the pros. The course now plays as a par 70, and at over 7,400 yards is actually one of the longest par 70s the pros will see all season.
Last year, this venue played as the 12th-toughest on TOUR, and the field here had a tough time with just about everything. Driving accuracy particularly was down vs. the TOUR average, as players hit about seven to eight percent less fairways than usual. This did play as a driver-heavy course, though, as Driving Distance for the week was over 295 yards and well above the TOUR average. Scrambling around these greens also proved difficult, and it’s worth mentioning Carlos Ortiz gained +6.1 strokes Around the Green here. In fact, each of the top 5 players from last year gained +1.5 strokes ATG or more for the week.
A solid comparison for this week may be the site of the 2020 PGA Championship, TPC Harding Park, which was also a lengthy par 70 and a public links course in a parkland setting. Memorial should favor the world’s best tee-to-green players in the long run, but particularly for DFS, we should emphasize those who are not only striking it well, but have been sharp on and around the greens.
2021 Weather Update: Despite it being in Texas, where weather and wind can change on a dime, there isn’t much we need to worry about this week in terms of the forecast. Highs will be in the low-to-mid 70s for three of the four days, with a bit of a cool front moving in for Saturday, where highs are only expected in the mid 60s. It could be tougher to score on Saturday as a result. The wind will be present but should stay in the eight to 10 mph range for most of the week. With temperatures cooling a bit, expect this course to play long and tough again. Look to longer hitters and good tee-to-green players who are coming in with good recent fall form.
Last 5 winners
**Tournament was played at the Golf Club of Houston prior to 2020
2020—Carlos Ortiz -13 (over Hideki Matsuyama -11)
2019—Lanto Griffin -14 (Mark Hubbard -13)
2018—Ian Poulter -19 (over Beau Hossler playoff)
2017—Russell Henley -20 (over Sung Kang -17)
2016—Jim Herman -15 (over Henrik Stenson -14)
Past Winner Stats and Trends
Previous five starts coming into 2020 (T35-T48-MC-MC-T46)
· Much like the 2019 winner of this event, Lanto Griffin, Carlos Ortiz had already played five times on the fall swing before his win here. The competitive sharpness tends to pay for players who do heavy fall schedules, and that’s been the case for the last two winners of this event.
· Ortiz was gaining strokes around the green and on approach prior to his win here, and then just rode the hot variance with his putter the week of his win. He didn't have great recent results, but his play was better than his results indicated.
· As mentioned above, Ortiz had a monster week on the greens but still maintained excellent tee-to-green play and was fifth in SG: TTG play for the week — he was second in around the green play.
· Five of the top-10 finishers here last season ranked in the top eight for strokes gained: tee-to-green stats for the week, and five of the top-six finishers gained +1.5 strokes or more around the green.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Christiaan Bezuidenhout +4500 and $8,600
- Seamus Power +4500 and $8,400
- Cameron Tringale +4500 and $8,300
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Matthew Wolff ($10,400; T5-2nd): Wolff heads into this week leading the field in strokes gained total stats over the last six events. He couldn't convert an opening 10-under starting round into a win last week, but he’s now gained strokes on approach, around the green and putting in three straight starts.
2. Talor Gooch ($9,300; T11-T5): Gooch started last week in the final group but couldn’t keep pace on Sunday. He’s in great form though and comes in ranked third in long-term form in strokes gained approach stats. Gooch has finished T4 at this event the last two seasons and landed top-12 finishes in his last four fall starts.
3. Aaron Wise ($9,200; T15, T5): Wise is yet another young American having a great fall swing. The 2018 winner of the Byron Nelson ranks sixth in strokes gained tee-to-green stats and has finished T15 or better over his last three starts. He hasn’t missed a cut in 13 straight starts.
4. Carlos Ortiz ($9,100; 2nd-T25): Last year’s winner also seems to be finding some form at exactly the right time. After gaining +4.6 strokes at THE CJ CUP a few weeks ago, he landed a second-place finish at the Mayakoba Classic. Considering his course history, another big week could be in store here.
5. Joaquin Niemann ($9,500; T5-T28): Niemann started the fall swing slowly but has finally started to show some life. A T28 a few weeks ago at THE CJ CUP was followed up by a T5 last week. He ranks 16th in long-term ball-striking form and is a player who could thrive on this tougher test.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Give Niemann the Nudge
We have a really talented player here in Joaquin Niemann ($9,500), who seems to be finding his form finally after a couple slow months. He was solid throughout the bag last week in Mexico and has competed well in Texas before, grabbing top-10 finishes at both the Valero and Charles Schwab Classic. Adam Scott ($9,600 - see below) is another mid-tier target I would be focused on here for core and cash game purposes, as is Shane Lowry ($8,200), who ranks out as a good value (see above) when we compare his DFS price to the outright odds he’s getting. Other potential cash and core players to look at here include Gary Woodland ($7,600) and Ryan Palmer ($7,100)
Tournaments: Give the Start to Smith
Cameron Smith ($10,200) doesn't have the length off the tee other top players possess, but his tee-to-green game is still as solid as they come. Smith ranks inside the top 25 in ball-striking, around the green play and putting over the last 24 rounds and makes for a good pay-up option in GPPs — where many may opt to go heavy on the $9K players. I most certainly like Luke List ($6,900) - see below) as a GPP play this week, but I also like the chances for Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($8,600) to find his maiden win. He showed well last week and is making his third PGA fall start in a row. Bezuidenhout plays tough golf courses very well and few scramble/putt better than him on TOUR these days. Other potential GPP targets here include Russell Knox ($6,900), Peter Uihlein ($6,400) and Jason Dufner ($6,300).
MY PICK: Adam Scott ($9,600)
This event should cater to the world’s best tee-to-green players, and over the last decade, few have been more consistent in that area than Scott. He doesn’t play as much as the other top players on TOUR do, but he’s had a busy fall (for him), as this start will mark his fourth start since the TOUR Championship. Scott landed a T5 finish at THE CJ CUP in late October and did so mainly on the back of some heady ball-striking, which has now seen him gain over +4.0 strokes on his approaches in each of his last two PGA starts.
While his putting and around the green play can sometimes be an adventure, Scott ranks eighth in SG: Putting in this field and third in SG: Approach stats over the last 24 rounds. His short-term form is definitely turning for the better and this is also a player who has had a lot of success in Texas over his career, grabbing wins at old Houston Open site in 2007 and at Colonial in 2014. I won’t make the mathematical assumption that he wins in Texas every seven years, but if he grabs the trophy this week you know who told you so. Scott is trending well, loves these tough setups and makes for a heady DFS play at under $10K.
MY SLEEPER: Luke List ($6,900)
We have a tough setup to conquer this week, so when we’re looking far down the board for value, I want players whose ball-striking can hopefully carry them through the toughest stretches of this course. List is a player who can hang with the best in the world when his game is in form, and this week marks his sixth start in the fall swing. List bowed out early last week in Mayakoba, but shootouts typically aren’t his thing. He did post a more encouraging T7 a few weeks ago in Japan at a much tougher setup and enters this week fifth in strokes gained tee-to-green stats over the last 24 rounds and 19th in around the green stats over that same time frame.
List has also been a solid play in Texas — specifically at this event, where six career appearances have led to four top-30 finishes. List has challenged and come very close to grabbing wins on the PGA numerous times now, and he’s a little under the radar here considering he’s grabbed a T17 and T7 finish this fall already. Rostering him in DFS at just under $7K makes great sense in GPPs and backing him at +15000 in the outright market on DraftKings Sportsbook is also the kind of longshot odds we can get behind for these fall-swing events.
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