This week on the PGA Tour is the Shell Houston Open, featuring a fantastic field in the final tune-up for the Masters.
D.A. Points is your defending champion. Last year he won by one over Billy Horschel and Henrik Stenson. In 2012, Hunter Mahan defeated Carl Pettersson by one, and in 2011 Phil Mickelson beat Chris Kirk and Scott Verplank by two.
Mickelson, Stenson and Mahan all have assorted injuries - albeit Stenson's injury has hampered his prep for 2014 rather than his current play - and as a result we do not recommend any of them.
Conversely, we do recommend Kirk, who won the McGladrey Classic last fall and has played well this season, adding a T12 at the Honda Classic. Statistically, he is 17th in sand save percentage, 42nd in total driving and 24th in the all-around ranking.
This field also includes Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker and more.
Our recommendations are Stricker and Walker.
One may be wondering why Stricker - who has only played two events and has finishes of T33 and T57 - would be our pick, but consider that this is his second straight year of playing a pared-down schedule, and he mastered it last year. In 2013 he played 13 times and had eight top-10 finishes, including four second-place finishes. He finished T38 in this event a year ago and completed the 2013 season third in driving accuracy, second in greens in regulation and second in strokes gained-putting. All while playing just THIRTEEN events.
On the other hand, Walker has played a lot and has produced with three wins. But on a course setup that will be as close to Augusta National as they can make it, consider this: Walker is fifth in strokes gained-putting (the greens will be mighty fast this week and next) and 38th in greens in regulation, which shows strength in iron play.
We'll take a break from our usual Sunday Surgers this week and instead focus on those whose games are rounding into form entering the week before Augusta. These are the highest ranked players in all-around ranking entered this week:
Dustin Johnson - Johnson, the WGC-HSBC Champions winner, is first in all-around ranking at the moment. He enters Houston ranked second in driving distance (309.7 yards), first in greens in regulation (73.61 percent) and 11th in strokes gained-putting (.715).
Webb Simpson - Fourth in all-around ranking, Simpson, who won earlier this season in Las Vegas, is 19th in greens in regulation (69.81 percent), sixth in strokes gained-putting (.903), third in birdie average and 15th in scoring average (69.927).
Ryan Palmer - Palmer is probably not the guy you would expect to be fifth in all-around ranking, but he is. With three top-10 finishes in nine events played, he's having a nice season. He ranks 16th in driving distance (300.4 yards), 26th in greens in regulation (69.44 percent), 14th in total driving and 24th in scoring average (70.283).