Houston Open: The Right Ingredients for Longshot Value?
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
The final PGA Tour stop before the Masters takes us to Texas, where a solid field will compete in the Houston Open. Big names like Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson (pictured above) will look to generate momentum before heading to Augusta, while less heralded players will be motivated by the desire to qualify for the first major of the season.
How will it all shake out, and where can bettors and DFS players find value? Our team of experts weighs the evidence and explores the key angles to help inform your tournament wagering and fantasy selections.
Note: Odds are current as of March 27.
The Golf Club of Houston has hosted the tournament for more than a decade. The course is on the longer side at 7,457 yards for a par 72, but there isn’t too much danger outside of some water. The course also has faster green surfaces because players want a glimpse of the speed they’ll see next week at Augusta.
We usually see scores in the mid-teens win this event, with the occasional champion reaching 20-under par.
Because of the length and lack of hazards, I’ll be targeting players who are stronger off the tee. I won’t necessarily look for pure bombers, but definitely guys who pick up strokes with the driver. I also want birdie makers, so I’ll be keeping an eye on birdie or better percentage. Given the ease of the course, the winner will likely need at least 20 birdies. — Joshua Perry
Using the FantasyLabs Trends tool, we can back-test a variety of metrics to see what types of players do well at the Houston Open. The baseline golfer has historically produced a +1.85 DraftKings Plus/Minus. From there, I looked at how golfers in the top-20 percentile of each metric have historically fared at this course. Here’s the data …
Josh nailed it. This is one of the strongest course fits on tour, and it’s a pretty darn easy one to analyze. Take guys with distance off the tee, and you can load up on the bad putters given how easy the greens are here. On this week’s PGA Flex podcast, I joked that they should call this the “Luke List Open” for those reasons, and there’s actually a bunch of golfers who crush with the driver but typically struggle on the greens. Those guys are undervalued this week, so load up on the Luke Lists, Jamie Lovemarks, Aaron Wises and Grayson Murrays of the world. — Bryan Mears
A quintet of golfers are the event favorites, priced at either +1000 or +1200.
Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are atop the board on Bovada at +1000, while Spieth, Mickelson and Henrik Stenson are right behind at +1200.
All five will have an eye on the Masters, so it’s hard to see any real value with them. It’s true that this group has had a few good results on this course, especially Mickelson, who won here in 2011. But overall, the favorites have been far too inconsistent for their prices.
Instead, this is a prime opportunity to consider longshots with golfers who haven’t qualified for Augusta. The Houston Open represents their last chance to get into the Masters field. — Joshua Perry
Betting market: Beyond the favorites, there is a good group of players in that +2500 to +3000 range on Bovada that are worth a look. Daniel Berger (+2500), Luke List (+2500), Tony Finau (+2800) and Rafael Cabrera-Bello (+3000) are interesting options. Berger (fifth place in 2017), List (tied for third in 2017) and Cabrera-Bello (fourth in 2016) have fared well over the last two years at this event, so they clearly like the course. Finau hasn’t had a high finish here in that period, but he’s definitely got the game off the tee I’m looking for. List is the only player in this group who hasn’t already earned a spot in the Masters, so he has added motivation. That’s why I’d consider him in this range. — Joshua Perry
DFS spin: As of Tuesday evening, Rose ($11,400 DraftKings) has the highest projected ownership (21-25%) in guaranteed prize pools (GPPs) on DraftKings. As he sits atop the Colin Davy PGA Model, Rose is on a bit of a hot streak with his Recent Adj Rd Score of 68, finishing in the top five in back-to-back events. He’s been hammering the ball with a 305.3-yard recent and long-term driving distance (DD), and Rose is an excellent ball-striker with his 70.3% long-term greens in regulation (GIR). If you’re paying up for Rose, you’re hoping he can take advantage of the par-4s and par-5s, as his average adjusted strokes in both categories rank top-five in the field. — Justin Bailey
Read more DFS analysis in this week’s FantasyLabs Houston Open Breakdown.
Betting market: I thought there would be more to like here, but I’ve targeted just two mid-tier players at this point: Jamie Lovemark (+6000 on Bovada) and Ryan Palmer (+9500 on Sportsbook). Palmer is 10th this year in strokes gained: off the tee and is in the top 40 on tour in par-4 and par-5 birdie percentage, so he meets my criteria.
Lovemark has been pretty far down in the driving stats this year, but he’s gained strokes throughout his career. His struggles with the driver have also hurt his birdie rate this season. He’s not in the top 100 in birdie or better percentage, but he has finished inside the top 50 in his career. I expect him to improve soon. — Joshua Perry
DFS spin: Chez Reavie ($7,300) is interesting, considering he’s got the 11th-best long-term Adj Rd Score (69.3), and he’s sporting a +11.46 Plus/Minus over the last month. Reavie’s previous outing was a missed cut at a problematic Valspar tournament where he hit just 50% of greens in regulation, but he still had an exceptional 65.4% course driving accuracy (DA, defined as the percentage of fairways hit). Reavie isn’t a bomber by any means, but he boasts an exceptional long-term GIR of 67%, and his long-term DA of 71.4 ranks third in the field. His recent form isn’t great, as he’s hit 59.2% of greens and accumulated a 71.0 Recent Adj Rd Score in his past four tournaments, but he’s missed just one cut in that time. If Reavie can bounce back to his early-season form, you’ll be satisfied with his $7,300 price tag. — Justin Bailey
Betting market: I’m a sucker for longshots at the Houston Open. I had Sung Kang at +20000 last year, and that nearly cashed before Russell Henley had a Sunday putting performance for the ages. The +5000 top-five bet was a winner with Kang’s runner-up finish, however. Three of the last five Houston Open champions (Matt Jones, Jim Herman and D.A. Points) have been in that triple-digit range.
Players who are strong off the tee and make their fair share of birdies are the best bets here. Guys like Grayson Murray (+10000), Jhonattan Vegas (+13000), Tom Lovelady (+25000) and Nick Watney (+25000) have all caught my eye with big numbers on Sportsbook. I also like top-20 plays on all of them in the +600 to +800 range. — Joshua Perry
DFS spin: James Hahn ($7,100) has done well this season, posting a +17.05 Plus/Minus over his past 10 tournaments with a 70% Consistency Rating. He’s finished inside the top 15 just three times in that span, but at $7,100 you don’t need him to win: You’re just hoping he makes the cut, which he’s done successfully every week in that time frame. Hahn has the 11th-best Recent Adj Rd Score (68.8) in the field, thanks to his -7.5 recent average adjusted strokes on par-5s. — Justin Bailey
Top Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports