GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the Houston Open.
Houston Open | 5th-8th November 2020 | Sky Sports
It's the week before the Masters – yes, in November.
And just like usual years, the PGA Tour heads to the Houston Open in Texas, though this time, the event is held at Memorial Park Golf Course instead of the Golf Club of Houston.
Interestingly, one of the favourites in the betting – Brooks Koepka – had a say in the course's current design by helping Tom Doak with the renovations last year. It's a Par 72 stretching a little over 7,400 yards. The fairways are wide, there are very few bunkers and you're hardly going to be punished. It's about racking up birdies and getting to grips with the contours around the Bermuda greens.
It bears some similarities to Sherwood, which hosted the recent ZOZO Championship in the sense that it has five par-5s and 5 par-3s, as well as a driveable par-4. It should be a typical bomb and gouge birdiefest. Oh, the joys of the PGA Tour.
There isn't much to go from as it's a new venue aside from what's been mentioned.
With it being the week before the Masters, it gives me some reason to oppose what is a strong front of field – the likes of DJ, finally back after several weeks off, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau and Koepka himself will surely want to peak next week. Tyrrell Hatton is tempting but not at 16/1.
Corey Conners (50/1 William Hill)
I'll begin this week's staking plan with big-hitting Canadian Corey Conners as he should relish this sort of test. His sole victory on the PGA Tour came at the Valero Texas Open last year, which earned him a spot in the Masters.
He seems to play well in this area – T8 at Colonial before that win, a T20 there again this year. Conners goes into this one on the back of another T8 at Sherwood, which as mentioned is similarly set-up.
As someone who can rack up plenty of birdies on the par-5s, he makes perfect sense at these odds. His one downfall – putting – has been quite consistent in recent weeks. Let's hope that continues.
Denny McCarthy (66/1 William Hill)
I find it intriguing to see Denny McCarthy at these odds despite finishing fourth last week. Yes, there are a plethora of elite guys here this time, but he should be able to roll on with his red-hot form. He's missed just one cut in his last 11 tournaments.
At the Bermuda Championship, he ranked among the best for Greens in Regulation and is usually very consistent with the flatstick – especially on Bermuda greens. He like Connors has form in these parts, registering a T20 the week the Canadian won at the Valero.
Alex Noren (66/1 William Hill)
Next up, is an intriguing punt on ball-striking Swede Alex Noren. There's a train of thought that the course designer, Doak, is a revolutionist like the Coore & Crenshaw architect team. Ben's two favourite courses of all time? St Andrew's and Royal Melbourne. He also helped out at Renaissance, the host of the last two Scottish Opens. This makes me think of links golf and playing in the wind instantly, which is why Noren's name crops up soon after.
He has shown many glimpses of re-finding the form that has won him ten events on the European Tour. He's won the Scottish Open, the Open de France, in Scandinavia among many others. Two of his last three outings have drawn a T17 – one at the ZOZO, one at the US Open. T3 at the 3M, T9 at the Barracuda and a T8 in the Northern Trust all in the last eight starts is very impressive.
I'm willing to take the chance on him taking to this course very well.
Aaron Wise (80/1 William Hill)
Trinity Forest, the host of the 2018 Byron Nelson in Texas, is also worth exploring. The winner that week? Aaron Wise. He endured a torrid 2019-20 spell but has shown little signs of flashing at picking up another victory on Tour.
He's enjoyed a T3 at the Bermuda Championship last year, which was followed up with a T23 last week with an 8th at the Barracuda and T17 at Sanderson thrown in between. Most importantly, the first two results show he can prop up at similar events, which will be the hope here as he returns to the place of his only PGA Tour triumph.
Wise is long off the tee, can hit GIR and uniquely, is one of the best in this field for par-3 scoring. Remember, there are five holes here, so he has the ability to score on those when others don't.
Russell Knox (100/1 William Hill)
In a similar way to Noren, I'd like to chance another who has performed on links-like tests with Russell Knox. He won the Irish Open in 2018, has form in France and has actually contended on the PGA Tour with wins in the WGC HSBC (2015) and the Travelers (2016). The Scotsman, who resides in Florida, has also a handful of top-5 finishes at the Mayakoba, other WGC, the RBC Heritage and the aforementioned courses.
Doak has also helped out Pete Dye on many designs, so there's a potentially fruitful link to Harbour Town, the host of the RBC Heritage. I think Knox could be an under-the-radar selection this week.
Luke List (125/1 William Hill)
Finally, when you throw in big-hitters that have performed in Texas and at Dye designs, then Luke List‘s name quickly crops up. His last win came on the KFT's event at Dye-design TPC Sawgrass. He's also got form at the aforementioned Harbour Town. He has a T3 in this event too, back in 2017.
At three-figures, he's well worth a chance as this bomb-and-gouge test will be right up his street. He's gone close plenty of times before – playoff loss to Justin Thomas at the Honda in 2018, 6th in last year's PGA Championship at Bethpage – which only reinforces the big hitter angle – T2 at Sanderson and an array of top-10s across the Memorial, CJ Cup, RSM, Safeway and many more. List even has a T3 in the Scottish Open.
Whilst he's not in the greatest of form, there's not many longer than him off the tee and with his ability to score birdies and score well on par-5s, he makes for an interesting play at these odds.