2010 Shell Houston Open: Predicting the Top 10 Finishes
The final tour stop before the Super Bowl of the PGA Tour, the Shell Houston Open will get underway on Thursday April 1st in Houston, TX. It boasts a field of guys like Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, defending SHO champion Paul Casey, and Fred Couples.
Els is just coming off a win in Florida at the Arnold Palmer Invitational while Couples, who's already won twice on the Champions Tour, looks to make his 17th straight cut in Houston breaking Hall of Famer Jimmy Demaret's record.
Couples also became the first University of Houston alumni to win the hometown tournament when he claimed victory in 2003.
Another perk for the field, at least for those not already on the invitation list, the winner of this tournament will gain an automatic invitation to the Masters, which will get underway on Thursday, April 8.
There are several golfers that have a chance to win this tournament and even more that could play extremely well on this course. Mickelson himself signed on to the tournament when he found out that the grass was being cut along the same lines as Augusta.
There are those that are just there for a tune-up before the Masters but even more that need the win. Here are my top 10 finishers for this year's tournament.
No. 10 Johnson Wagner
Who? That's what I'm sure a lot of PGA Tour fans are saying as they read this. Johnson Wagner has finished in the top 10 in this tournament two out of the three years he's played, including winning it in 2008, finishing at 16-under par.
He's no stranger to this course or to the tournament though he didn't play well last year and missed the cut.
Through nine starts in the 2010 campaign, Wagner has made just five cuts and his best finish was a tie for 40th at The Honda Classic.
No. 9 Hunter Mahan
This will Hunter Mahan's seventh start at the Shell Houston Open. He's made the cut in three of the six starts, finishing in the top 10 twice (2007, 2009) and 11th in 2006.
Mahan has already picked up a tour victory this season, winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open back in February. He didn't finish with a single bogey over the last two rounds, firing a final round six-under 65, beating Rickie Fowler by a single stroke.
He's played well in this tournament before, finishing tied for sixth in last year's tournament (71-69-72-68=280), three shots back of champion Paul Casey.
No. 8 Stuart Appleby
For Stuart Appleby, this will be his 10th start in the Shell Houston Open, winning the tournament twice (1999, 2006) and finishing in the top 10 four times in nine starts.
Appleby is in desperate need of a kick start as he's only made three cuts in the nine tournament he's played in so far this year. His best finish in a PGA Tour event so far was 30th place in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.
While he hasn't had the kind of start to the year as he would have liked, this is a tournament he can play well in as he's showed in years past.
No. 7 Paul Casey
The defending champion of the tournament makes his return to try and make it two straight. Paul Casey won with a total score of 277 (-11) but needed a sudden-death playoff hole to fend off J.B. Holmes and take the trophy for 2009.
Casey is arguably one of the hottest golfers on tour right now as he's finished in the top 10 in each of the four tournaments he's played in, including finishing second in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
No. 6 Bob Estes
Bob Estes is a dark horse pick for this event, but I don't think it's really that far-fetched. He's played well at this tournament before, finishing in the top 10 three of the last four years, but struggled in last year's tournament.
From 2006 to 2008, Estes finished second, tied for ninth and tied for sixth respectively before finishing tied for 74th at four over par in 2009.
So far this season Estes isn't lighting up the PGA Tour but he's made five cuts out of the six tournaments he's played in, including one top-25 finish at the AT&T Pebble Peach National Pro-Am.
No. 5 Geoff Ogilvy
Geoff Ogilvy is another who has played well in this tournament, finishing in the top 10 four out of the six times he's been in Houston. Ogilvy finished tied for sixth in 2009 and second in 2008.
Ogilvy has made the cut in all five of the tournaments he's entered including a win at the SBS Championship back in January.
No. 4 Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh could be one to look out for in this year's tournament. Even though he missed the cut in 2009, Singh has finished in the top 10 eight out of the 12 times he's played in this tournament.
Singh was the back-to-back champion of the Shell Houston Open in 2004 and 2005 but did not enter the tournament in two of the last three years.
He's played in six tournaments in 2010, making the cut in five of them and finishing in the top 15 in his last two events, including finishing fourth in The Honda Classic.
No. 3 Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim has played in this tournament in each of the last three years, finishing tied for fifth in 2007, missing the cut in 2008, and tied for 26th in 2009.
Kim has three top-25 finishes in five tournaments this year, including a second place finish in The Honda Classic. Kim also ranks fifth in the PGA Tour in scoring average (69.67) this year.
No. 2 Ernie Els
Ernie Els has entered this tournament twice but never finished better than 14th, where he finished last year.
Els is one of the hottest golfers on tour going in to this tournament, having won two of his last three tournaments and finishing in the top 10 four out of the seven tournaments he's played.
This will go down to the last day and it's going to depend on course experience. Unfortunately for Els, Fred Couples will know this course just a little better.
Shell Houston Open Champion: Fred Couples
Though Couples plays mostly on the Champions Tour, he returns to a tournament in his old stomping grounds of Houston, TX and the Shell Houston Open.
Couples has finished in the top 10 five of the 11 times that he's entered this tournament, including three top-five finishes, and won the event back in 2003.
What's more incredible about Couples is, he's entered four tournaments this year on the Champions Tour, he's won three of them.
Before you go thinking I'm crazy, let's not forget that Couples had the lead through the front nine of last year's tournament but ended up finishing in a tie for third. He can, and will, win this tournament in 2010.