Pro Golf Weekly

10 Power Picks: Houston Open

Gamblers and fantasy players are happy that the PGA Tour is back to stroke play, as tournaments like last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play are extraordinarily difficult to predict.

Match Play Champion Bubba Watson is not in the field this week, but there is still a great deal of talent in East Texas for the Houston Open. The tune-up for The Masters should bring out tons of effort and determination from those hoping to make a run at a green jacket next week, and perhaps even more among those desperate to make the field.

Here is who we like best this week:

10. BRICE GARNETT

Credit: Getty Images/Christian Petersen

In the Dominican Republic last week, opposite the WGC-Match Play, Garnett was dominant going wire-to-wire for the four-shot victory at the Corales Puntacana Resort Club Championship, where he led the field in birdies and did not card his first bogey until Saturday.

Unfortunately for the 34-year-old Missouri native, the victory did not offer a Masters exemption, but that will just make him hungrier at Houston this week, and Garnett has shown the ability to get hot before, finishing in the top 20 in seven of his last ten Web.com Tour events to close out 2017, including two victories.

Odds: 100-1
World Rank: 125th
2017 Houston Open: DNP
Last Seven Starts: 1, 31, MC, MC, 35, 35, 63


9. RAFA CABRERA-BELLO

Rafa Cabrera Bello
Credit: Getty Images

Cabrera-Bello has been very solid on the PGA Tour this year, and a lot was predicted of him coming into last week’s WGC-Match Play after he finished T3 at the WGC-Mexico, but he disappointed, going 1-2-0 in group play, although close losses to Charles Howell III and Phil Mickelson are far from embarrassing.

His shotmaking has been phenomenal this year, which is reflected in his No. 2 Tour ranking in strokes gained: approach-the-green and 6th in greens in regulation. He is 7th on Tour in scoring average, and has played Houston well before, finishing solo-fourth in 2016 after a 68-65 weekend.

Odds: 30-1
World Rank: 25th
2017 Houston Open: MC
Last Seven Starts: 36, 3, 29, 26, 26, 6, 40


8. STEVE STRICKER

Steve Stricker
Credit: Getty Images

One of two players in the field coming fresh off a victory (Brice Garnett), Stricker has gone back-to-back in his past two Champions Tour starts.

Yes, the competition on the PGA Tour is younger and better, but Stricker has also looked great in his last two starts there, posting a T12 at the Valspar Championship and contending through three rounds at Pebble Beach.

His short game is still on point, and he has three career top-10s since the event moved to the Tournament Course.

Odds: 40-1
World Rank: 128th
2017 Houston Open: DNP
Last Seven Starts: 1, 12, 1, 2, 26, 31, 4
*Includes Champions Tour starts


7. MATT KUCHAR

Credit: Getty Images

After an underwhelming start to the season, Kuchar showed some serious life in Austin last week, comfortably winning his group, and taking a very hot Kevin Kisner down to the last hole in the round of 16.

Definitely watch out for Kuch at Augusta, as he is under immense pressure to finally snag major No. 1 and he contended there last year, but do not forget about him in Houston either.

He missed the cut last year, but had not played well coming into the week, and he has flashed at this tournament before, finishing solo-runner up in 2014 when he lost in a playoff to Matt Jones, who was in the zone with a final round 6-under 66.

Odds: 33-1
World Rank: 20th
2017 Houston Open: MC
Last Seven Starts: 9, 40, 58, 26, 62, 5, 32


6. TONY FINAU

Credit: Getty Images

Bombers generally do well at Houston, and Finau, who leads the Tour in driving distance, has been in tremendous form this year with a pair of runner-up finishes and a 9th place FedExCup standing.

He failed to make it out of pool play in Austin last week, but was still good, going 2-1-0, with the loss coming in a 1-up affair to Alex Noren, who ended up finishing third and knocked off Justin Thomas in the consolation match.

Finau does not have much positive history in Houston, although he did shoot three rounds in the 60s in the 2015 version (finished T42 due to a third-round 77), but he is clearly a better player now than he was in his past Houston Open starts.

Odds: 28-1
World Rank: 34th
2017 Houston Open: 34th
Last Seven Starts: 17, MC, 27, 2, MC, 6, 32


5. JORDAN SPIETH

Credit: Getty Images

Failed to make it out of group play at last week’s WGC-Match Play, but he was 2-1-0 and there is no shame in losing to Ryder Cup wizard Patrick Reed in match play.

What is more concerning is that Spieth has not finished better than 9th in any of his eight starts this season, but he seems to be coming back around with results of T17 or better in three of his last four starts.

Spieth is going to be desperate to get his putting on track before The Masters, so do not be surprised if he has a performance in Houston like his runner-up finish three years ago.

Odds: 12-1
World Rank: 4th
2017 Houston Open: MC
Last Seven Starts: 17, MC, 14, 9, 20, MC, 18


4. RICKIE FOWLER

Rickie Fowler
Credit Getty Images

It has been a strange year for Fowler, who has not posted a top 10 since the first week of January, but has played excellent Thursday-Saturday in three of his last four starts.

Another player who sat out the WGC-Match Play, Rickie should be rested for a tournament where he has finished T3, T10 the past two years. Perhaps a somewhat weaker field will keep him more comforted on Sunday.

Odds: 10-1
World Rank: 8th
2017 Houston Open: 3rd
Last Seven Starts: 14, 37, MC, 11, MC, 4, 1


3. HENRIK STENSON

Credit: Getty Images

Finishing runner-up in both 2013 and 2016, Stenson has shown a penchant for Houston, and after a solo-fourth place finish two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the elite shot-maker appears to be back in form.

Stenson’s driving and putting were both great at Bay Hill, and he’s well-rested after taking last week off.

Odds: 12-1
World Rank: 15th
2017 Houston Open: MC
Last Seven Starts: 4, MC, 60, 6, 8, 17, 35


2. PHIL MICKELSON

Phil Mickelson
Credit: Getty Images

Phil’s streak of top-6 finishes(4) was snapped at the WGC-Match Play, but he still played well, going 2-1-0 in group play. Unfortunately for him, Charles Howell III went 3-0-0 in that same group.

Mickelson is still an excellent bet at the Golf Club of Houston, where he won in 2011 and then followed it up with four straight top 20s in this event. He finished T55 last year, but given his past in this event and his current form, we are comfortable writing off that result as an anomaly.

Mickelson takes his Masters prep seriously, and an important part of that is excelling in Houston.

Odds: 12-1
World Rank: 18th
2017 Houston Open: 22nd
Last Seven Starts: 17, 1, 6, 2, 5, 45, MC


1. JUSTIN ROSE

Justin Rose
Credit: Getty Images

Since October, Rose has been great everywhere, and comes into Houston ranked No. 5 in the world. The 37-year-old seemed to take his 2017 Masters playoff loss hard, as he went into a slump that lasted until the FedExCup Playoffs, where he proceeded to finish in the top 10 of all four events.

No, The Masters is not this week, but we believe he is focused intensely on his prep, and that includes bringing his best stuff to the Houston Open this week. He sat out the Match Play last week, but was T5, 3 in the previous two weeks.

He is currently fourth on Tour in scoring average, 5th in strokes gained: putting, 6th in birdie average, and outside of one hiccup in Mexico, no one has found a way to keep him off the leaderboards.

Odds: 10-1
World Rank: 5th
2017 Houston Open: 55th
Last Seven Starts: 3, 5, 37, 8, 22, 1, 5


Next Five: Russell Henley, Daniel Berger, Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Charles Howell III


Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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