The PGA TOUR heads to Texas for one last event before the Masters with the Vivint Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course. The course will play as a par 72, measuring 7,432 yards, and it will be played on bermuda greens again this week.
Dustin Johnson ($11,500) and Adam Scott ($9,200), who were both out recently due to COVID-19, will be in the field looking to dust off the rust and get some last-minute work before heading to Augusta National next week. Other golfers such as Tony Finau ($10,900), Scottie Scheffler ($9,600) and Sungjae Im ($9,300) will embark on the recently renovated Memorial Park Golf Course, which hasn’t hosted a PGA TOUR event since 1963 (Houston Open). The Vivint Houston Open will be the first PGA TOUR event designed by Tom Doak, and we should expect a course that’s different than what we’re used to in Texas and one that may have some similarities to next week. A 2019 Golf Advisor article alludes to a faint resemblance to Augusta National in 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.”
The fairways will slope toward hazard areas, and the green complexes will be challenging; golfers will need to be steadfast in their plan to navigate the course tee-to-green. Like Pete Dye and Donald Ross, Doak uses sightlines off-the-tee to entice aggressive golfers to take risks for the potential reward. With that said, the margin for error if you miss is more penal than playing conservatively. Hole No. 13, a driveable par 4, is a prime example of one risk/reward opportunity golfers will face. The hole seems relatively benign with no hazards, but the green is very narrow and steeps severely on both sides to challenging up-and-down collection areas, bringing in the potential of big numbers. The 2019 renovations also included adding a par 5 this week (five total), which will be a big factor in scoring this week. There will be 19 sand traps and two water hazards that come into play on four holes.
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. Lineup stacking with golfers who have similar styles should be a good strategy this week, especially on a new course with no previous knowledge of how it will play. Pairing Brooks Koepka ($10,600), who consulted during the renovations, with other long-hitters like Sam Burns ($7,500), could be viable. Rostering shorter-hitters shouldn’t be overlooked as well. Brian Harman ($8,500), Russell Henley ($9,400) and Denny McCarthy ($7,900) all rank outside the top 100 in Driving Distance but inside the top 13 in Strokes Gained: Total over the previous three months.
Viktor Hovland ($9,800)
Hovland looks like he’s returning to his game from earlier this summer, gaining an average of 5.6 strokes tee-to-green over his previous three starts. Hovland is one of the best drivers of the ball, ranking 20th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, and should take advantage of the five par 5s, ranking eighth in par-5 efficiency over his previous three months.
Sungjae Im ($9,300)
Sungjae’s streak of seven made cuts is due primarily to six straight events of positive Approach and Off-the-Tee splits dating back to the TOUR Championship. Sungjae is also much better putting on bermuda, gaining in seven of his last 10 rounds. Since the restart, Im is fourth Off-the-Tee, 24th with his irons and inside the top 25 in par-5 efficiency.
Cameron Davis ($8,100)
Davis has been one of the best bermuda putters over the previous three months, ranking third in the field. Mix his putting prowess with his ability Off-the-Tee and we should have a solid play in this range to pair with some of the top-priced studs like Brooks Koepka ($10,600) or Viktor Hovland ($9,800). Like Sungjae, Davis has been great on the par 5s, ranking fifth in par-5 efficiency since late July. Davis may also be able to pick up a few strokes on the short par 4s, ranking 14th in eagle rate and seventh in par 4s measuring 350 to 400 yards over the last three months.
Wyndham Clark ($7,700)
Last week was tough to watch if you backed Wyndham Clark. He played fantastic throughout the week and hit 17 of 18 greens on Sunday. Brian Gay ($6,600) just caught a heater in the final round was marvelous with his putter on Sunday. Hopefully, this keeps people off Clark this week, who should fit this course nicely with how well he plays par 5s, ranking 14th since the restart.
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Source: PGA tour