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PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open Preview

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2010

PALM HARBOR, FL - MARCH 21:  Luke Donald of England lines up a putt on the 10th hole during the final round of the Transitions Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club held on March 21, 2010 in Palm Harbor, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Contenders :

Fred Couples

Couples is averaging 298.7 yards off the tee (would rank fifth on the PGA Tour), he’s hitting 82.72 percent of greens in regulation (would rank first on the PGA Tour), and most importantly, he’s averaging just 27.44 putts per round.

This has all led to a mind-boggling scoring average of 65.33 for Couples this year on the Champions Tour.

Considering that Couples tied for third last at last year’s Shell Houston Open, this 50-year-old Champions Tour star with chronic back problems may be a favorite not only this week, but next week as well.

Matt Kuchar

Kuchar hasn’t experienced much success in Houston, but then again, Kuchar has not played this well since his amateur days at Georgia Tech.

With three top-five finishes in eight events, all this guy does these days is contend for tournament titles.

Kuchar first made a name for himself ten years ago at the Masters when he finished 21st as an amateur.  At the time, Kuchar was still a student at Georgia Tech and the media just couldn’t help but toss around the Bobby Jones (who also went to Georgia Tech) comparisons.

Needless to say, Kuchar has not developed into the next Bobby Jones, but he does finally seem comfortable in his own skin this year.

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Phil Mickelson

Considering just how poorly Mickelson has played in 2010, this prediction is based on nothing more than a gut feeling.

For Mickelson it’s all about the majors and he is, of course, looking at the Shell Houston Open as a tune up for next week’s Masters where he will attempt to slip into a third green jacket.  

The past has historically not been a good barometer in predicting Mickelson’s future results.

This is a guy who can shoot a 78 one day and come back to break the course record the very next day.

Mickelson’s game, and particularly his putting, has been off for most of the 2010 season.  However, that’s not to say that he can’t turn things around at the drop of a hat.

Anthony Kim

After a poor 2009 season, Kim finally appears to be regaining the form that led to two PGA Tour victories in 2008.

He’s finished inside of the top-25 at each of his last three events, including a second place finish at the Honda Classic just a few weeks ago.

Kim, who calls Dallas, Texas home these days, finished 5th at the 2007 Shell Houston Open and 26th last year.

Although his game may still be a little too erratic to win, look for Kim to at least contend this week in Houston.

Dark Horse : Jonathan Byrd  

Byrd has two top-20 finishes in his last two appearances at the Shell Houston Open.

Other than a tie for 8th at the Transitions Championship a few weeks ago, Byrd has not experienced much success this season.

Perhaps it’s the fact that his swing closely resembles that of Ben Hogan, and it’s just too difficult to overlook a guy who emulates Hogan, particularly at an event that’s taking place in Texas.  

 

Winner : Luke Donald

Although the Shell Houston Open has not been overly kind to Donald in recent years, he has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this year.

Donald has three top-10 finishes in seven events and has already earned more than $1.2 million in 2010.

Donald currently ranks 14th on tour in scoring average and both Redstone and Augusta National setup well for Donald’s game—which is keeping the ball in play and making putts.

If Donald can get his somewhat erratic driver under control this week and continue to find the bottom of the cup, Redstone is without question the type of golf course he can win at.

 

Other Notes : Defending champion Paul Casey withdrew from the Shell Houston Open citing a tweaked muscle in his back.  Surely not the tune-up he was looking for just seven days prior to the year’s first major championship.

For more news, insight and analysis on the game’s hottest topics, visit The Tour Report .

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