The Houston Open, which lost its pre-Masters slot last year, finds itself as the accidental Augusta National warm-up in 2020
After losing its prime-time April slotting last season, the Houston Open once again finds itself, accidentally, as the Augusta National warm-up for the 2020 Masters.
On Monday Augusta National Golf Club announced that the Masters would be moving to Nov. 9-15, the week occupied by the Houston Open on the PGA Tour's fall slate. But following the joint statement from golf's governing bodies, Houston Open officials announced that they had accommodated requests from Augusta National Golf Club and the Tour to move its event a week early.
"This is a win-win for both tournaments," said Astros Golf Foundation president Giles Kibbe. "The Masters has their rescheduled dates, and the change places our tournament as the premier tournament to once again be played the week prior."
Granted, the seasonal switch won't be the only change to the Houston-Augusta dynamic. The Houston Open is returning to Memorial Park, a public course in the city limits that first hosted the Houston Open in 1947 and returned as host from 1951 to 1965. One of the reasons the Houston event was popular with Masters' participants was the Golf Club of Houston had been retrofitted through the years to replicate Augusta National—or as much as one can replicate Augusta National's unique conditions—to help serve as a proper major tune-up. While Tom Doak's renovation of Memorial Park has received universal acclaim, it's set-up is far from synonymous with what will be seen at the Masters.
Still, for a tournament that was facing extinction, the Houston Open is not complaining.
No event on the PGA Tour schedule has seen its destiny fluctuate as much as the Houston Open the past three years. The Shell Oil Company, which had underwritten the tournament for 25 years, declined to renew title sponsorship after 2018. Weeks after the tournament was held without a sponsor, the Golf Club of Houston told the Houston Golf Association, which ran the tournament, that it no longer intended to serve as the competition's venue. Simultaneously, the Texas Open, buoyed by a long-term sponsorship renewal, was able to snag Houston's pre-Masters spot. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane ultimately saved the tournament by moving it to the fall, yet its reintroduction last year saw a field lacking star power, leading tournament director Colby Callaway blaming both the tour and players for its predicament.
Conversely, Crane has pumped millions into the event's success, and with a new long-term home at Memorial, the Houston Open's future is bright. For its suffering, it will receive a one-off gift this fall.