The PGA Tour this week moves to the nation’s fourth-largest city to stage the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston for the final time. With Shell dropping out as a tournament sponsor a couple years ago, the Houston Astros Foundation and the Tour were able to sign a five-year agreement to keep the tournament in the Houston area. Next year the Houston Open will be moved to the Memorial Park Golf Course.
The tournament was moved to this time of the year from its former spot on the schedule—the week before the Masters. As a consequence only two of the top 50 players in the world rankings have elected to tee it up this week. Among those missing is defending champion Ian Poulter, who will instead play in the Italian Open, which he has won twice.
The Houston Open will have a new champion this year.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) October 8, 2019
Despite the disappointing fact that many marquee players are absent, it is fitting that the Astros Foundation, under Astros baseball owner Jim Crane, has stepped up to the plate to keep the tournament in Houston. The timing is ideal now, too, with the Astros hosting the Tampa Bay Rays in the decisive Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.
It’s discouraging to see so many top players elect to rest or play elsewhere, but somebody in this field will get a two-year exemption, as well as a berth in next year’s Masters.
Fun @RotoWire factoid: While the Houston Open field is really bad, there’s a good shot Brooks Koepka plays next year. He’s friends with Astros owner Jim Crane and has a part in the sprucing up of Memorial Park, the muni where the tourney moves next year. Used to live in Houston.
— Len Hochberg (@LenHochberg) October 8, 2019
One player in this field with proven form at the Golf Club of Houston is Keegan Bradley, who is currently listed at +4000 to win. He took three events in the space of two years from 2011-2012, including a major and a World Golf Championship, but then went winless for six years.
Bradley finally reached the summit again when he defeated a top-notch field in the 2018 BMW Championship. He has three top-10 finishes on the Golf Club of Houston course and only one missed cut in seven appearances. The nephew of Hall of Fame LPGA Tour golfer Pat Bradley merits consideration for top honors, and in any each-way and match-play scenarios, considering his proven form on the course.
Another player with good recent play, which includes a tie for ninth at the Shriners last week, is Denny McCarthy. The University of Virginia graduate and 2015 Walker Cup team member is +3300 for top honors this week and is third in this young PGA Tour season in strokes gained putting. Every player must win for the first time at some point, and this field will provide an opportunity for just that.