This article is part of our Betting on Golf series.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open Betting Preview
The PGA Tour heads back to the states for this week's Houston Open – one of just two full-field events left on the calendar for 2021.
A tournament that's struggled at times to find its identity, the Houston Open has gone from being a tune-up for the Masters to a fall event, and it ultimately found a new home last year when the venue changed to Memorial Park Golf Club. Tournament favorite Sam Burns, at 12-1 odds, headlines a field that includes eight of the top 25 golfers in the rankings, including 12th-ranked Tony Finau. Last year, Carlos Ortiz – who was forced to withdraw from this week's edition – was a long-shot winner at 150-1 odds, holding off Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama by two strokes for his first PGA Tour victory.
Memorial Park GC was a true test for the world's best last season, with only three players reaching 10-under par. A par-70 at just over 7,400 yards, it's certainly a lengthy course and includes an exciting closing stretch of holes that should set up for a dramatic finish. Holes 13-18 include a driveable par-4 and a short par-5 that both provide eagle opportunities. There are also a pair of long and difficult par-4s, including the closing hole, on which players will be looking to survive with par. The field hit just 64 percent of greens in regulation last year, so short game and approach play will be key factors this week.
All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 5:00 PM ET Tuesday.
Something in the Water
These golfers, with a minimum of 12 rounds played, have gained the most strokes from tee to green per round in Texas since the 2019-20 season:
Stanley may not have any ties to Texas, but he's played well in the Lone Star State, with his only two top-15 finishes this year coming in the state. He's far from a threat to win this week, coming off seven consecutive missed cuts in full-field events, but he can be considered if you need a low-cost option in DFS contests. Also checking in on the list is Burns, who has posted a pair of top-10s in Texas and was in the last pairing in the final round last year before settling for a T7. He's had quite the rise since this point last year, when he entered the event outside the top 150 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Burns has won twice in recent months and is the third-highest ranked player in the field. Through 12 rounds this season, he is gaining a whopping 2.31 shots per round from tee to green – a number that leads the entire Tour.
Comin' in Hot
The following five golfers have the lowest scoring average over their last five tournaments:
Suddenly playing some of the best golf of his career is Im, who after an unspectacular start to the year turned the corner this summer. His most recent missed cut came 14 starts ago, and his last five tournaments included three top-10s and a four-shot win at the Shriners Children's Open. That certainly has the attention of the oddsmakers, as he's the fourth choice on the board at 20-1 odds. Also trending in the right direction is Scott, who has done so a bit more under the radar. Since winning the Genesis Invitational in February 2020, Scott only has two top-5s – both of which came in his last five starts. He's gaining a massive 1.13 strokes on approach per round during that stretch and played well here last year with three sub-70 rounds. He's a nice pivot off the top choices on the board at 28-1.
Brooks Koepka (28-1)
The biggest question mark when betting Koepka tends to be, will he be motivated? He didn't appear to be last week, but he now heads to a course he had a hand in designing. A lot of the risk is negated when he's the 10th choice on the board in an average field, and he's coming off a share of fifth here last year.
Mackenzie Hughes (50-1)
Hughes isn't a guy I target often due to his below-average ball-striking ability, but he's certainly a golfer that comes into play on tougher courses where you need to avoid bogeys and rely on your short game. He's coming off his best finish of the season – a T4 at the ZOZO – and also recorded a top-10 in his most recent major appearance at The Open.
Jhonattan Vegas (80-1)
Vegas will feel at home this week, having played collegiately at Texas and now residing in Houston. He struggled with his short game here last year but gained 1.63 strokes per round off the tee and on approach combined. With three runner-up finishes this year already, he's knocking on the door of his fourth PGA Tour title.
Lee Westwood (7-1)
It wasn't that long ago that Westwood nearly won back-to-back tournaments, and he's now being priced behind several rookies? He did miss the cut at this event last year, but this should be a course that tends to favor the golfers that have experience on the European Tour. Westwood may not make birdies in bunches any longer, but he won't need to this week.
Chez Reavie (9-1)
Reavie recorded two top-20s over his last 10 starts, and he did that despite only gaining strokes on the greens in one of those tournaments. If he can find some form with his putter, this should be a course that fits his style as an accurate driver and superb iron player.
Dylan Frittelli (14-1)
Frittelli was anything but reliable last season with only a pair of top-10s. Both came in majors, though, so the upside for the one-time Tour winner is certainly there. He had a terrible campaign on the greens, ranking 180th in Strokes Gained: Putting, so he's due for some positive regression. His play around the green is some of the best on Tour.
There's little reason to think the hot stretch of golf for Gooch ends in Houston – he's started the new season off with four consecutive top-15s and finished fourth here last year. Finau hasn't shown much since winning the first playoff event in August. As more of a birdie maker, Gooch's steadiness makes him a better course fit.
I was surprised to see Henley as an underdog in this matchup, as he shines in a lot of key categories this week, including SG: Approach – he finished sixth last season – bogey avoidance (fifth) and driving accuracy (27th). I also worry about McNealy's fatigue, as he's playing for the fifth time in six weeks in three different countries.