First off, Ladbrokes are going EW places 1-6this week for the Shell Houston Open. They offer this for selected events through the season and it is much appreciated if you take advantage by opening accounts through my links. I'll be staying away from market leaders this week in the main and going for bigger odds players to hopefully place.
The annual warm up for the year's first major this week as Redstone G.C hosts the Shell Houston Open. Each year, Redstone is set up to pose a very similar test to that which the players will face next week at Augusta. There is a domination of the Shell Houston Open leaderboard down the years by the bombers and hardly surprising given that it plays almost 7,500 yards long, doesn't penalise errant drives and birdies are a premium. The greens are large and conditions generally fast and firm and emphasis, like Augusta, is on approach shots. Miss the greens and scrambling will be tough.
2012 Shell Houston Open Picks
Pick 1: 1pt e/w Johnson Wagner @ 33/1 with Ladbrokes - free £50 bet Wagner is a new man this season and has shocked me with his form. Five top 15's already including a win and a T2 and coming off the back of a T4 last week where he holed nothing down the stretch. Wagner is a previous winner of this event and was right up in contention after two rounds at the 2011 Shell Houston Open.
Pick 2: 0.5pts e/w Padraig Harrington @ 50/1 with Ladbrokes - free £50 bet Opened with a stunning -10 two weeks ago at the Honda, on a course (despite his record) that arguably doesn't suit. Harrington runs his schedule around the majors and likes to 'peak' before the event and signs were obviously there at the Honda. This is a track that suits Harrington and multiple top 20's back that up, including a top 10 here last year.
Pick 3: 0.5pts e/w Rickie Fowler e/w @ 50/1 with Ladbrokes - free £50 bet Indifferent season so far and comes into the Shell Houston Open off the back of a top 10 at the Honda and a T45 at the Cadillac. Redstone is a course that should suit the birdie machine type player. Fowler ranks 6th in total driving in 2012 and was sixth in birdie average last year and at double the price of the market leaders and six places, the better bet.
Shell Houston Open sleeper picks
Pick 4: 0.5pts e/w Anthony Kim @ 100/1 (SB) Texas native and course specialist, Kim, showed signs of some form last week as he lead the Arnold Palmer Invitational for most of round one and was looking towards a solid finish before a disastrous final round. Winner of the Shell Houston Open in 2010, Kim has gone low here before despite some erratic driving and has done the same at Augusta, and may be one to watch. Could be a strong first round leader bet. Best price still 80's.
Pick 5: 0.5pts e/w Fred Couples @ 110/1 (SB) Posted top fives at the Shell Houston Open in 08 and 09 and had a special and emotional comeback victory here back in 2003. Couples will be in fine spirits returning to Houston (where he went to College) off the back of a win last week on the Champions Tour and may continue on where he left off.
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Free bet offers: Up to £200 in free bets with Bet365 | £50 free bet with Ladbrokes | £50 free bet with Betfred | £25 no loss @ Betfair