The Masters is on everyone's minds, but there's still another week of golf before the sport turns its attention to Augusta National. The Houston Open takes perhaps its final bow in its pre-Masters schedule slot, which would be a great loss for the players. The former Redstone Golf Club serves as a fine Masters tune-up, which routinely translates into a strong field for the Texas event. A sentiment that rings true in 2018, with Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler teeing it up in Houston. Alex Myers remains on baby duty, so Christopher Powers and I discussed the this week's tournament, while reviewing the WGC-Match Play and taking a peek ahead to the Masters.
But for those seeking the old-school format, here are five guys to watch in Houston:
Justin Rose: The Englishman is arguably the hottest player in golf, racking up an absurd 13 top-10 finishes in his last 15 worldwide starts. Though Houston's layout is noted for its Augusta National parallels, one noticeable difference is the scoring, as the average winning score in Humble has hovered around 17 under the past seven years. Given he ranks fifth in strokes gained, sixth in birdie average and fourth in scoring, Rose is a safe bet to paint the Humble property red. Forget his lack of a track record at this event and ride the heater.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello: Cabrera-Bello is a nice dark horse pick heading into Augusta, although that status may disappear with a strong showing this week. The Spaniard has been quietly effective this season, making the cut in all eight tour appearances. The 33-year-old ranks second in strokes gained: approach and seventh in scoring average, showing he's more than capable of going low. Also aiding his cause is a fourth-place finish in Houston in 2016. For those looking for an affordable, high-ceiling pick in daily formats, here's your guy.
Rickie Fowler: The 29-year-old resides in Jupiter, but he's clearly felt at home in Houston. Fowler has posted three top 10s, including a T-3 last year, in his last four appearances here. It's been a bit of a tepid start for Fowler this campaign, though there's hope (11th in GIR percentage) that he just needs to shake off some rust. Expect his season to get into gear this week.
Jordan Spieth: 2018 hasn't delivered the dividends we've come to expect from Spieth, struggles that have been tied to his putter. In that same breath, it's not like the three-time major winner has been awful, logging four top 20s in six stroke play tournaments. Although he missed the Houston cut last season, Spieth has enjoyed some success at this event, finishing runner-up in 2015 before his Masters triumph. It's a matter of when, not if, Spieth will turn things around. Don't be surprised if that bounce back begins in Houston.
Just missed: Thomas Pieters, Phil Mickelson.
Knockout/One-and-done pick -- Henrik Stenson: The Iceman has three top-three finishes in six tries, and is coming off an impressive display at Bay Hill. Stenson's turning 42 next week, but—evidenced in a 1.687 strokes gained mark—he still has plenty of gas in his tank.