Shell Houston Open
We discuss players looking ahead to Augusta, call out a well-known colleague and take an in-depth look at this week's PGA Tour event
Shell Houston Open
Where: Humble, Tex.
Course: Redstone GC (Tournament Course)
Defending champion: Anthony Kim defeated Vaughn Taylor in a playoff.
This Week's Fix Six
2. Lee Westwood
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Steve Marino
5. Stuart Appleby
6. Fred Couples
Welcome to another edition of Fantasy Fix, where we don't think there's anything wrong with a 75 winning at Bay Hill. Well, the member-guest, at least. Last week's finish shouldn't have been surprising with so many unproven players near the top of the leader board. What should be surprising is that there were that many there in the first place. As John Strege wrote in his Monday Qualifier column, a lot of big names were in action, but the majority of them, perhaps thinking about Augusta on the horizon, may as well have taken the week off. With a similar situation this week, here are some thoughts bearing that in mind.
The PGA Tour heads to Texas for the Shell Houston Open, AKA "That tournament they play the week before the Masters." Actually, that's been this event's calling card since 2007, when tournament officials decided to make course conditions mirror Augusta National as much as possible. Redstone Golf Club now has lightning-fast greens, hardly any rough and possibly even cheap but tasty pimento cheese sandwiches. As a result, in recent years the tournament has attracted a lot of the big-name players -- just not the big-name player. Unfortunately, with the NCAA Final Four also taking place in the city this week, the tournament is now being referred to as "That other sporting event in Houston."
Random tournament fact: The Shell Houston has been determined by a playoff the last two years, but its first edition, when it was known as the Independent Insurance Agent Open, ended in a tie between George Bowden and Pete O'Hara. Perhaps playoffs hadn't been invented yet...
Anthony Kim. At this point last year, Kim was the hottest player in golf. Now, the golf world is still waiting for that AK to reappear after a thumb injury cost him much of the 2010 season. Outside of a T-6 at Torrey Pines, the 25-year-old has struggled this year, including an 80 his last time out at Doral. In other words, the chances of him repeating are about the same as the chances of me winning any money from the crumpled up bracket in my trash can.
STUDS OF THE WEEK
Steve Marino. Has done better each of his four appearances here, including a T-14 last year. We were sad to see him lose another close call at Bay Hill, but we also would have been mad if he got his first PGA Tour win the one week we didn't pump him up. It'll be interesting to see how quickly he can recover from his latest disappointment. We think he's had enough practice at it, though, to bounce back right away.
Hunter Mahan. The Texas resident has an odd history on this track, with three good finishes (T-5, T-6 and T-11) and two missed cuts. He played terribly over the weekend at Bay Hill, but other than that, 2011 has treated him extremely well.
SENTIMENTAL PICK THAT COULD ACTUALLY WORK
Fred Couples. Freddie has made 17 straight cuts in this event, including winning it on Redstone's other course in 2003. But even recently, he's contended here with a T-3 in 2009 and a T-4 in 2008. He nearly won the last time he teed it up on the PGA Tour before running out of gas down the stretch at Riviera; and rumor has it, he's also coming off a win at the Member-Guest at the Madison Club in La Quinta, Calif. Of course, this tournament has special meaning to Couples since he played his college golf at Houston, where he was also a roommate with Jim Nantz. Fortunately, the broadcaster will be on the other side of town covering the Final Four so we don't have to worry about extra sappiness if Freddie plays himself into contention. Otherwise I might have to be forced to file a complaint with the FCC.
FAN MAIL BREAK
"Hey, Alex. Thanks for putting that picture of us in your last column. That was a fun day and I'll always be grateful for that putting tip you gave me. Take care and go Deacs! Sincerely, Arnold Palmer."
No problem, Arnie. Unfortunately, our Wake Forest basketball program is down, but at least Duke didn't repeat, right? OK, so the King didn't actually write me, but that's probably just because he was busy hosting a tournament. Seriously, though, please feel free to e-mail