The PGA TOUR heads to Texas for the Hewlett Packard (HP) Enterprise Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course. The course will play as a par 70, measuring 7,412 yards and be played on Bermuda greens this week.
The 132-player field will tee it up at Memorial Park GC, which hadn’t hosted a TOUR event since 1963 (Houston Open) before last year. Course architect Tom Doak built a different course from what we’re used to in Texas. Instead of having a relatively open course where the wind was the primary defense, Doak decided to make Memorial Park slightly “resemble” major-style tracks. In fact, a 2019 Golf Advisor article alludes to a faint resemblance to Augusta National that “... much of the golf course will be opened up, especially the back nine, which Doak compared to Augusta National in the sense that spectators should be able to see several holes at once … .” Another similarity we saw last year at Memorial Park was these tightly-mowed runoff areas around the greens, and golfers who were able to gain strokes Around-the-Green ended up playing well. Last year’s winner, Carlos Ortiz (+3500, $9,100), gained 5.7 strokes ARG, and the golfers who finished inside the top five also gained in this category. The green complexes won’t feature many undulations, but golfers will still need to be precise if their short games aren’t sharp this week.
Some fairways will collect toward hazard areas, and the green complexes will still be challenging; golfers will need to be steadfast in their plan to operate the course Tee-to-Green. Like Pete Dye and Donald Ross, Doak uses tricky sightlines Off-the-Tee to entice aggressive golfers to take risks for a potential reward. Doak routinely mentions golfers will need to “think” their way through this course and that it’s not just a long track the players can overpower. Memorial Park will have three par 5s and five par 3s, which is unusual for a par 70. Last year, Ortiz ranked fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Putting — an all-around performance, which also ranked Ortiz fourth in SG: Par 3s and first in SG: Par 5s.
Brooks Koepka (+2800 to Win, $9,900 on DraftKings)
If you look at his current stats alone, you’d probably scroll past Brooks in a heartbeat. A missed cut last week at an easy course and no better than 22nd in his previous five starts isn’t the best form to back. Last year, Memorial Park was the fourth-longest par 70 since the start of 2016; the other four in the top five were all major championships: Enter Brooks. Over the previous 24 rounds on courses measuring over 7,400 yards, Koepka ranks second in SG: Tee-to-Green and first in ball-striking. A top-five finish here last season also should give those of us backing Brooks a ton of confidence, especially on a course he advised the renovations on with Tom Doak.
Marc Leishman (+4000 to Win, $8,700 on DraftKings)
If the Houston Open is going to play like an easier major, then consider Leishman amongst the favorites in this range. He’s got two top-four finishes in his previous three starts on TOUR and ranks 19th in SG: Tee-to-Green over the past 12 rounds. Australians have generally played well in Texas. We’ve seen Matt Jones, Stuart Appleby and Adam Scott (+2800, $9,600) win this tournament, and Leishman could add to that list this week. On courses over 7,400 yards, Leishman ranks fifth in SG: Total over the previous 24 rounds.
Denny McCarthy (+18000 to Win, $6,600 on DraftKings)
He missed the cut at the Shriners Children’s Open on the number but has three good finishes in his previous four events, with his worst finish (sans the MC) as a T39 in Bermuda. Denny isn’t going to wow you Off-the-Tee, but neither did Ortiz last season. Coming into the week of his victory, Ortiz ranked 63rd in the field in driving distance. McCarthy’s strength is from fairway to green, and that’s where he could gain some strokes on the field, ranking 74th with his irons (not great, but not bad) and 12th around-the-green over the previous dozen rounds. Last season, McCarthy finished 38th here, gaining 2-2 strokes Tee-to-Green.
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