Shell Houston Open experts' picks

April, 1, 2014

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston. 

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Hunter Mahan
It's another case of feast or famine for my guy this week in this slot. Ten starts and five missed cuts, but he also has a win and four finishes inside the top 11. So if he makes the weekend, and you started him on your fantasy team, you're golden!

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Henrik Stenson
The 37-year-old Swede had 19 birdies against only four bogeys last year on the Golf Club of Houston course en route to a tie for second. From there, he went on to have a great spring and summer that spurred him to the FedEx Cup crown.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Keegan Bradley
He has been top 10 in Houston each of the past two years, including a tie for fourth a year ago. And he's coming off his best finish of the season, placing second at Bay Hill.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Henrik Stenson
If there was one top-five player who's trending in the right direction for me, it's this guy. Combine that with last year's success at this event and I'd say he's a solid pick for a top-10 finish. Don't be surprised if he's fighting for the win late on Sunday afternoon.

Evans: Andrew Loupe
To the consternation of Johnny Miller and all slow-player critics, the 24-year-old former LSU golfer doesn't own a consistent pre-shot routine, but in San Antonio, the tour rookie had the best week of his short career with a tie for fourth. Going into the Texas Open, he had a tie for 12th and a tie for 27th after starting the year with five missed cuts. He should be able to keep this upswing in his fortunes this week in Houston.

Harig: Steven Bowditch
He wasn't exactly knocking down flagsticks on Sunday, but he did shoot the lowest score over 72 holes, earning his first PGA Tour victory and a trip to the Masters. This week ought to be a victory lap.

Super Sleeper

Collins: J.B. Holmes
Why would I pick a guy who has only one top-10 this year? Maybe it's because in eight starts, he has missed only one cut. Maybe it's because his 10th place was at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he held it together over the weekend in tough conditions. Or maybe, just maybe, I have a secret talking frog who makes all my picks for me.

Evans: Charles Howell III
The Augusta, Ga., native has five top-10s this season. It's not unusual for him to be steady, but he's not yet in the field for his hometown event. Houston is his last chance to avoid missing the Masters for the fourth time in five years. Last year, he shot a 66 in the final round at Houston to finish in a tie for 10th.

Harig: Steve Stricker
The part-time golfer is making just his third start of the season after lackluster results at the first two -- a first-round exit at the WGC-Match Play and a T-57 at the WGC-Cadillac. This is a warmup for the Masters.


Collins: Lee Westwood
Baseball has begun, so here's my "out of left-field pick" to win. Or since we've still got March Madness going on, he's my Kentucky. Nothing he's done in his eight starts on the PGA Tour so far would give any indication that he should win this week. He has had a solid past record at this event but with no wins. Still . . . I have a feeling it's gonna be one of those years.

Evans: Dustin Johnson
The eight-time Tour winner is overdue to win a major championship. And the 29-year-old is primed after five top-10s this season, including a win in November at the WGC-HSBC Champions, to get it done at the Masters next week. He could get some good momentum this week in Houston, where last year he finished in a tie for fourth.

Harig: Rory McIlroy
He has had three weeks off since playing at Doral, a week after losing in a playoff at the Honda Classic. Lest we forget, McIlroy has played some excellent golf this year without winning, and is looking to get in gear for the Masters.





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