This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.35M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Humble, Texas
Course: Golf Club of Houston (Tournament Course)
2018 champion: Ian Poulter
The Houston Open is the 10th oldest tournament on the PGA Tour, first played in 1946. For years, it had a golden spot on the golf calendar: the week before the Masters. But that ended last year, and now this tournament is a shell of its former self – pun intended. Shell, the title sponsor for more than a quarter-century, bowed out after 2017. The Houston Golf Association, which ran the tournament for a half century, is also gone, replaced by the Houston Astros Golf Foundation (yes, that's a thing). This is the last year at the Golf Club of Houston; next year, the tournament moves to a municipal course, at Memorial Park. And now, one of the elder statesmen of the PGA Tour has been pushed aside. It was not played at all in 2018-2019 and now it has landed in the fall season. And, apparently, in the worst possible spot in the fall season. Next week, the Tour moves on to its three-week Asian Swing, filled with big purses. Who wants to make that Houston-to-Seoul flight anyway?
Predictably, the field is atrocious. It is "anchored" by, of all people, Henrik Stenson, now No. 37 in the world – why he's in Houston and not in Rome for the Italian Open, a Rolex Series European Tour event, who knows?. Yes, he's the highest-ranked golfer among the 144 on hand, only two of whom are ranked in the top 50 of the OWGR, only 10 of whom are even in the top 100. Last year, in April, there were seven in the top 25 alone. Joining Stenson are No. 43 Keegan Bradley, No. 59 Lucas Bjerregaard, No. 60 Tom Lewis, No. 71 Cameron Champ, No. 75 Kyle Stanley, No. 82 Scottie Scheffler, No. 87 Russell Knox, No. 97 Brian Harman and No. 98 Luke List, who just climbed into the top 100 this week. Featured groups? Good luck with that one.
Tournament director Colby Callaway is not happy with the spot on the schedule. He told GOLF.com, "Hopefully we can force the Tour's hand to move us." Wow, force? That's a strong verb. Where are they gonna go? They have no title sponsor and they'll be playing at a muni. Frankly, it's a miracle the tournament is still around. When we previewed the 2018 event, there was a real chance there wouldn't be a 2019 version. But it does make sense to leave the Golf Club of Houston, which had the golf course equivalent of plastic surgery to look like Augusta. But for one more year they're still there, where play on and around the greens is critical, which we'll examine further in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
Weather-wise, there is a good chance of rain Friday, so you'll want to take a closer look at tee times – and an updated forecast – before the lock. Otherwise, it'll be hot the first two days, more comfortable on the weekend, with moderate wind. But it's Texas, so it could start blowing at any time.
Fun Houston Open Fact I: World No. 1 Brooks Koepka is involved in the course updates for Memorial Park, so the thinking is he will play the tournament next year. How could he not?
Fun Houston Open Fact II: The lineup of winners over the past 73 years is illustrious: Byron Nelson, Gary Player, Lee Elder, Raymond Floyd, Payne Stewart, David Duval, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, even Anthony Kim (!) and not one but two Palmers – Arnold and some guy named Johnny Palmer in 1946 (true story).
Key Stats to Winning at Golf Club of Houston
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Strokes gained: off the tee
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
If you don't putt well here, you won't win. Two of the past five winners, Henley and Jones, finished the week ranked first in the field in strokes gained: putting, and only two of the past 10 champs have been outside the top 11. One of them was Poulter, who ranked 15th in SG: putting. But if you recall, he sank that monster putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Beau Hossler, and Hossler hasn't been the same since. The last seven winners have all been top-10 in greens in regulation. Most of the recent winners have not been long off the tee. But we do list strokes gained: off the tee in the key stats because, short of lights-out putting, good tee balls will matter this week. That's especially true on the closing six holes, with two par-5s of around 600 yards and two par-4s nearing 500.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Henrik Stenson - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
Stenson, the overwhelming betting favorite, actually has played this tournament most of the past decade, and with terrific results. He was sixth last year (with horrible putting) and also has two runners-up since 2013. The past year has not been great for the Swede – hence his ranking in the 30s – but he has improved it the second half of the year, with a top-10 at the U.S. Open and a top-20 at the Open Championship. Stenson has made 14 straight worldwide cuts dating to THE PLAYERS Championship.
Daniel Berger - $10,400 (25-1)
Berger is the No. 4 guy on the DraftKings board. He has top-25s the past two weeks in pretty good fields, so maybe he is turning a corner after the better part of two lost seasons. Berger has played Houston four times, with a pair of T5s and two other top-25s. He is ranked 19th in strokes gained: putting in the early going this season.
Scottie Scheffler - $9,900 (30-1)
Scheffler is one of many Texans in the field; he's from Dallas. He's never played this tournament, but is 3-for-3 so far on the PGA Tour this season, with a pair of top-20s before fading to 74th last week at Las Vegas.
Denny McCarthy - $9,500 (30-1)
You want good putting? You've come to the right place. McCarthy is third on Tour in strokes gained: putting, and is coming off a top-10 last week at Vegas and a top-20 in his prior start. McCarthy tied for 43rd in his Houston debut a year ago.
Tier 2 Values
Harris English - $8,900 (40-1)
The veteran has climbed more than 100 spots in the world rankings since the new season started, thanks to a pair of top-6s. English is also coming off a T33 last week at Vegas. He has made the cut in 4-of-5 visits to Houston over the past decade, though that lone miss was last year.
Sam Ryder - $8,800 (40-1)
Ryder is known more for his iron play than his putting. He's currently ranked 15th on Tour in strokes gained: approach, something that will serve him well this week. Heck, it served him well last year, when he tied for fifth. Ryder is coming off a top-20 last week at the Shriners event.
Bronson Burgoon - $8,400 (50-1)
Burgoon opened 2019-20 with a T19 and a T6, in pretty weak fields. He fared worse the past two weeks when the competition got tougher. Well, it's weak again. Burgoon played well in Houston back in 2018 with a top-25 in a far tougher field. He's ranked 33rd on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Lanto Griffin - $8,000 (40-1)
Griffin has made four starts this season and all four have been top-20s. He's doing it largely with his putter, as he's ranked 12th in SG: putting. Griffin played Houston last year but missed the cut.
Tier 3 Values
Xinjun Zhang - $8,000 (60-1)
After struggling in his first two starts, the Korn Ferry grad has found his footing the past two weeks, with a T7 at the Safeway and a T16 last week at Vegas. Zhang is now ranked in the top-16 in both strokes gained: approach and SG: around the green. He made his Houston debut a year ago but missed the cut.
Jhonattan Vegas - $7,600 (60-1)
The native of Venezuela attended the University of Texas. He was recently at an Astros game, as he's friends with countryman Jose Altuve. Vegas has done well here, with top-20s in both 2016 and 2017. He has played only two tournaments so far this season but was ranked 23rd on Tour in greens in regulation last season.
Tom Lewis - $7,500 (80-1)
The Englishman is really trying to make a go of it on the PGA Tour. He's one of the highest ranked golfers in the field and could've played in the prestigious Italian Open this week. In fact, he was entered there before opting for Houston. Lewis has missed the cut in both his PGA Tour starts this season, but returned home in between to tie for fifth at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He's struggled with his accuracy from the fairway, but he is ranked 37th in strokes gained: putting.
Michael Thompson - $7,300 (100-1)
Thompson is a very good putter who hasn't quite shown it yet this season. But he has in years past, and certainly at Houston in the past, with top-15 finishes the last two years. The veteran missed the cut last week but secured a top-25 the week before at the Safeway.
Mark Hubbard - $7,100 (100-1)
Hubbard has made 3-of-4 cuts since coming of the Korn Ferry Tour, with two of the cashes resulting in top-15s. He's actually played Houston three times, missing two cuts but also securing a top-20 in 2016. Hubbard is ranked 21st in scrambling and 24th in strokes gained: putting.
Johnson Wagner - $6,900 (125-1)
The 2008 Houston champion also was runner-up in 2015, and he's made his last four cuts here. Wagner is usually hurt by his short distance off the tee, but that won't be such a detriment this week. He's ranked in the top-25 on Tour in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation. Always a good putter, Wagner is ranked 31st.
Scott Harrington - $6,900 (150-1)
Harrington has carded a pair of top-25s, wrapped around a missed cut, in his first three tournaments this season. The Korn Ferry grad took last week off. Harrington has some impressive numbers in the early going, ranked 10th on Tour in greens in regulation, 29th in strokes gained: putting and even 25th in strokes gained: total.
Bo Hoag - $6,700 (250-1)
The Korn Ferry grad missed the first cut of the season but has made the past three, albeit without a high finish. Hoag's short-game skills could pay off this week. He's ranked 28th in scrambling and 42nd in strokes gained: putting.