The Houston Open starts today and for some players, it is the last chance to make it to The Masters. Obviously, the winner will be given an invite and there are 19 categories by which a player can qualify for the first Major. The most important for the “bubble guys” is:
CATEGORY 19: The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament
As I checked the world golf ranking, only Ian Poulter (51) and Charles Howell III (60) are the real bubble guys for this year. They both will have to play extremely well to have a chance to qualify (if they do not win the tournament). The rest of the players between 50 and 60 in the rankings have qualified because of winning a tournament last year, winning a previous Major, playing well in another Major or top 50 in the world rankings in 2017.
Therefore, the Houston Open more of a tune up for players before the big event next week and a real race to qualify. Unlike previous years where more “bubble guys” were in the hunt, this year, the last event before Augusta is about honing the mental game. This weekend, there are 4 players to watch because how they perform will set up for their success next week in Georgia.
Phil Mickelson – his play of late is a resurgence of vintage Phil. He, like many ageing veterans, continues to perform, but needs a strong game this weekend to set him up for success at The Masters. Without a strong showing, his mental game may take a hit and affect his play in the big stage.
Jordan Spieth – never to be counted out, he is struggling of late. With only 2 top 10s this year, Spieth needs something great to happen. He has the game to play well at Augusta, but needs a mental boost to make him realize he still has game. Houston is the place, but he needs to finish in the top 5.
Rickie Fowler – has struggled of late. With 1 top 10 and 2 missed cuts, Fowler is doing as Fowler does. He is a streaky player right now his play is as cold as ice. He finished 2017 off very strong but has not performed well since. Fowler will need a top 5 if he has any chance of being ready for Amen Corner.
Luke List – he is my dark horse selection. He has slowly started to climb the world ranking (60 positions since last year), but has yet to qualify for The Masters. Sitting 67th in the world, he will have to win or finish second to make the leap into the field. Basically, he has to win. I am not entirely sure he will, but something tells me he is getting ready for a breakout week and Houston just might be the place.
The Houston Open will provide some excitement. With most of the top players in the world and FEDEX standings taking a break this week, it will give others an opportunity to shine. It is not quite time to look at The Masters, but after Sunday, all eyes will be focused on Augusta National.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!