Shell Houston Open Preview

The Shell Houston Open (SHO) is a paradox every year, loved by some golfers, ignored by others. For those like Tiger Woods, it’s always been a non-play. With the Masters always coming the week after the SHO, this is a week that plenty of pros use to rest up from the busy early-season schedule, and fine tune their games before the first Major.

For others, it’s a chance to do just the opposite: Play four competitive rounds, get their games on track if they haven’t been so far, and you know, make a lot of money playing golf.

Fortunately for South Texas golf fans, there are far more of the latter than the former, which should make for an entertaining field, led by the trio of Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, and Rickie Fowler, who are paired together for the first two rounds starting with a 12:40 p.m. local tee time on Thursday.  It’s Garcia’s first tournament in more than a month and he finished third here a year ago. Kuchar was second, losing a playoff to winner Matt Jones.

The second big trio of the tournament tees off at 8:50 a.m. when Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, and Ernie Els are on course. Spieth is one of the hottest golfers around, finishing first and second in his last two starts, and will have one of the biggest followings – Houston is home to one of the largest contentions of University of Texas graduates around. Rose has slipped considerably this year, out of the top 10 to No. 11 after ending 2014 ranked sixth.

Also on course early in the morning on Thursday is fan favorite Phil Mickelson, who will be paired with Patrick Reed and Hunter Mahan. Mahan won the tournament in 2012, and Mickelson, the 2011 champion, obviously is always a favorite at Augusta, having previously won the green jacket in 2004, 2006, and 2010.

The SHO has known a legion of homes since debuting in 1946, but has been at its current home, the Golf Club of Houston in neighboring Humble, since 2003. The course is a par-72, 7,457-yard layout with a $6.6 million prize fund.

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