Despite more late withdrawls than an international friendly, reigning champ Matt Jones needs to go back-to-back at the Shell Houston Open to get his second glimpse of Augusta after his play-off win here over Matt Kuchar last year gave him his first.
With form ponies Henrik Stenson (flu) and last weekend’s Texas Open winner Jimmy Walker (unwell, but not the flu) swerving the Golf Club of Houston there’s an opportunity for someone else to step up a week out from the US Masters where Paddy is now paying the first 6 home across all channels (includes ante-post bets).
It’s pretty crowded at the head of the market but as of 11am on Wednesday morning here’s the six best-backed players in Paddy’s book.
1. Rickie Fowler 22/1
Has yet to finish better than T12 this calendar year but kick-started his season here last year when finishing sixth before becoming just the third player behind Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to finish in the Top 5 in all four Majors.
Unlike Nicklaus and Woods though he didn’t win one. Despite all the love-bombing from fans and media alike the easily-spotted Fowler has still only lifted the over-sized cheque once on Tour in a three-way go with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.
A late springer in the marker after Walker & Stenson withdrew – Fowler is also Steve Palmer’s tip in the Racing Post.
2. Jordan Spieth 7/1
Was out-drawn by Jimmy Walker in last week’s shoot out at the Valero Texas Open but never gave up and his second-place finish was the 22-year-old’s fifth top 10 finish in his last seven starts.
A €5 e/w on the Texan’s Valspar Open win and two other places this calendar year would see you £/€117.50 ahead with Paddy Power.
Spieth is hotter than Mila Kunis with the flatstick at the moment and shot four consecutive birdies on the back nine (14th-17th) at TPC San Antonio to keep Walker honest.
Another strong showing inhis home state should have him at concert pitch for the Masters where he teed off with eventual winner Bubba Watson in 2014 as joint leader on the final day before finishing T2 with fellow first-timer Jonas Blixt.
3. Shawn Stefani 40/1
Not a name that jumps out as a likely winner but the local boy from Baytown, Texas, has been attracting plenty of each-way cash this week.
The World No 93 finished fifth here last year and boasts some solid – if not spectacular – early-season form including when T6 to Jimmy Walker in the Sony Open in January.
Last two runs saw him post a T21 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T26 at the Valero Open last weekend, but has yet to win on Tour. Even with the late absences – this field is pretty deep with 12 of the World’s top 30 teeing it up as a prep to the first Major of the season next week.
4. Patrick Reed 14/1
Self-professed as ‘one of the best player in the world’, Reed is slowly showing he has the game to match his ego and tees it up for the first time since losing in a three-way go with Jordan Spieth (winner) and Sean O’Hair at the Valspar Open.
Has already claimed an oversized cheque at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January when beating Jimmy Walker in a play-off to join Tiger Wooods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia in the ‘four wins by aged 25 club’ in the past two decades.
His Hyundai win and Valspar place has left backers £/€170 in profit this year and while Reed missed the cut on his Houston debut in 2013 he’s seen out all four days in all nine tournament he’s played this year.
Also hasn’t left the course early in any of his last 16 competitions and will have plenty of backers in Augusta next week too.
5. Matt Kuchar 14/1
Firmly in the best player ‘never to win a Major’ category, Kuchar lost out to a Matt Jones’ chip in on the first play-off hole last term – the third time this comp has gone to sudden death in the last six years.
After suffering this first play-off loss in three attempts Kuchar followed up with a credible T5 at Augusta last year after holding the final-day lead with Jordan after the third hole.
Mr Consistency has finished T3 and T2 at the Sony Open and Humana Challenge in January and looks a steady each-way play in Houston.
6. Cameron Tringale 50/1
We couldn’t get our head around why was he was attracting money last week in San Antonio – but someone may have jumped the gun.
Going on the horses for courses theory this could be the track – and the week – Tringale presses up into the each-way places where Paddy Power is paying the first six home.
Finished three shots off the leaders (-12) last year after a final round 71 – his only round not in the 60’s.
Off the pace with a T40 in San Antonio, Tringale’s Houston form figures of 3-8-16-4 could see him involved at the business end at a decent price.
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