US Tour specialist Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) warms up for the US Masters with a preview of this week's Shell Houston Open.
Shell Houston Open | 30th March-2nd April 2017 | Sky Sports
Just nine days until the first Major of the year. The US Masters starts next Thursday. Myself and European Tour expert @Vince_RFC will both be airing our opinions early on in the week. Sunday at Augusta is one of my favourite days of the year, I hope you will enjoy what we have for you.
The week before any Major is notoriously difficult from a betting perspective. Donald Trump acolyte Jim Herman went off at 400/1 when taking this title in 2016. Matt Jones 2014 win saw him start at 125/1 and before that DA Points, winner in Puerto Rico last week, could be backed at twice Jones odds.
So I am telling you to swerve this one? No, this may be a relevantly easy track but this years field contains a number of players that you may just have heard of (unlike Herman) with the attributes and course form to be valid betting propositions and at some fairly attractive prices.
Augusta style set up
The Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas is the traditional host and the resort style course of 7441 yards plays Par 72. This track is made up of wide fairways, no rough to speak of and water is in play on nine holes.
Any work on the course in recent years has had Augusta as its focus. The committee has clearly decided to set up Masters style. Greens are large and fast and there are plenty of runoff areas that will test everyone in scrambling. Miss the greens here and up and down is by no means certain.
Jordan Spieth has pointed out this week that these run off or collection areas are shaved closely and mown into the grain. Those who hit plenty of greens or have ability when missing will feature well this week.
Drooling over Rahm
If you follow me on Twitter, you will have noticed me drooling over John Rahm for months now. I tipped him at 70/1 for Augusta not expecting what followed.
Rahm is knocking on the door of the worlds top 10 after just 21 starts as a pro. Truly astonishing and I'm sure you all see what I do. A future superstar at the start of his career, Rahm will go off favourite here.
For one so young, that seems faintly ridiculous but there are so many parallels with a 21 year old Jordan Spieth on his way to a first Major victory in 2015.
Rahm took Dustin Johnson all the way in the final of the World Matchplay last week. I would love to pick him here but I cannot believe that all that happened on the back nine will not have an affect just a few days later. He has to run out of gas sooner or later, so let's leave that 11/1 alone.
Phil. I'm going with Phil. What can I say. I adore the guy. True, he's not won since 2013 but he's been right in the mix recently and as good as anyone on and around the greens.
Mickleson is a past champion here and since that 2011 victory has not played a single round over par. Not one. With almost no penalty for missing fairways and scrambling being so important who better than possibly the best player of all time at getting up and down. No, not possibly, he is THE best.
I have watched Mickleson play some ridiculous golf in recent weeks. At 22/1 with most of the worlds top 10 absent I have to go with my favourite player.
Hoffman in good form
Charley Hoffman is another player I always look out for. The Hoff was a 66/1 winner for us last year and he could go really well here again at a big price.
Charley is in good form. 4th at Riviera and 2nd at Bay Hill caught the eye in recent weeks and there's some really good form here as well. 6th in 2008, 20th in 2013 and 11th last year, he was also first round leader in 2014 and again in 2016. I am happy to have another go on him leading after 18 and also a decent each way bet at 50/1 with Stan James paying 6 places.
Tony Finau keeps going close, he's not the luckiest guy around. A winner this time last year in Puerto Rico, Finau instead of defending his title last took a chance as first reserve, of getting into the World Matchplay. That must have hurt but even more so when three players withdrew after one match.
Finau has played just six rounds here and dipped under 70 in four of those. His length off the tee certainly will not hinder his chances. With his record of being thereabouts on a Sunday, he's very tempting at 40/1 as a solid each way bet.
Finally, it's last week's runner up to DA Points after sinking 23 birdies, Bryson De Chambeau. Here is a guy who divides opinion like few others.
De Chambeau does things differently to everyone else. Irons of the same length, a scientific approach to the game, flat caps. You name it, Bryson has a different angle.
He's also a really good golfer. A man who was 21st on his Masters debut and 14th at the US Open. A change to his putting stroke in recent weeks has done wonders for his form. This may be one of the last times you can get 75/1 for this guy. It's a bet worth taking on in this field, on this golf course.