AN absence of big names – apart from Brooks Koepka, who is back to looking decidedly second rate unless there is a Major title at stake – mean this event should probably be re-named the Houston Wide Open.
That is underlined by the fact that Sam Burns is the clear favourite, presumably because he led after 36 and 54 holes last year, before the nerves caught up with him and he fell back into a share of seventh.
To be fair to him, Burns has won two PGA Tour events since, and has climbed into the world’s top twenty.
But I’m still reluctant to take a short price on him, and that applies to most of the players near the top of the market.
So let’s try to find some value further down….
Hot tip: Talor Gooch, 35-1
I earmarked him as a future winner a few weeks ago – when he did us an each way turn at 66-1 – and it looked like he might deliver when he was right in the mix entering the final round in Mexico last week.
I am prepared to overlook the final round 74 that dropped him into a share of eleventh, because seeing his name at the top of leaderboards is still a bit new to him.
But it will not seem so daunting next time, and the field in Houston looks a lot weaker than the line-up in Mexico last week. So it will be disappointing if he does not show more of the form that saw him shoot 64-69-63 in the first three rounds at Mayakoba.
Mid price: Mackenzie Hughes, 50-1
Another player who seems to be finding it hard to kick the door open, despite knocking on it pretty hard on a few occasions.
His tie for sixth at the Open should have proved to him that he has the talent to compete in any company, but his performances since then have been solid rather than spectacular.
But the curve seemed to be heading upwards again when he overcame a slow start to finish fourth on his last start, at the Zozo Championship, and a closing 63 here last year for a share of seventh suggests the course suits his game.
Long shot: Harry Higgs, 100-1
I’ve banged on before about the fact that a player who finishes fourth in a USPGA Championship should be able to kick on from that, and this may well be the last time I push Harry’s claims.
But that effort at Kiawah Island still makes me think there is more to come from Higgs. And it is not like he has disappeared into a hole since his Major championship effort – he managed a tie for ninth a couple of starts ago, and has two other top twenties in his last six starts.
Maybe Higgs’ own expectations have been raised too much, and he is pressing too hard for the breakthrough. But while he remains at three figure odds, he is still worth a small investment.
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