Shell Houston Open: Last Chance for Masters start

The Shell Houston Open provides a final chance to earn a start at The Masters

Matt Jones defends Shell Houston Open
Matt Jones defends Shell Houston Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Shell Houston Open is the last chance saloon for those not yet in the field for The Masters. A victory at the Golf Club of Houston would secure a start at Augusta for a player not already invited.

Lowdown: The Shell Houston Open is the last chance saloon for those not yet in the field for The Masters. A victory at the Golf Club of Houston would secure a start at Augusta for a player not already invited.

In 2008, Augusta National restored the Shell Houston Open’s automatic winner’s ticket for The Masters. Since then Johnson Wagner, D.A. Points and Matt Jones have taken advantage of the opportunity. Last year, Matt Jones secured his first PGA Tour title in an exciting finish to the event. The Australian holed a monster birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force extra holes then chipped in to beat Matt Kuchar in the playoff and earn his place at The Masters.

Jones will need to win again in Houston if he’s to return to Augusta next week.

This event has traditionally been contested in the week prior to the year’s first Major and the Rees Jones designed layout is always set up to replicate the sort of conditions the players will face at Augusta.

As such, the event attracts a strong field as the world's best complete their final Masters preparations. This year is no different. Last week’s winner Jimmy Walker will start, so too Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer will lead the European charge.

Phil Mickelson will be using the event to try and find some form ahead of Augusta. The three-time Masters champion has been struggling in the lead up to the year’s first Major – his best finish to this point in 2015 is a tie for 17th in the Honda Classic.

The Houston Open began life in 1924 and over the years it’s seen some notable winners including Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Roberto DeVicenzo.

There looks like being some rain through the course of the tournament, but it might not come together with thunderstorms. With luck, the event will run without disruptions.

Venue: Golf Club of Houston, Humble, Texas Date: Apr 2-5 Course stats: par 72, 7,411 yards Purse: $6,600,000 Winner: $1,188,000 Defending Champion: Matt Jones (-15)

TV Coverage: Thursday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Friday 3 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Saturday 4 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Sunday 5 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player Watch: J.B. Holmes – He’s been enjoying superb form in 2015 with two runner-up finishes, and he has a good record in this event. He was second in 2009 and tied 12th last year.

Ryan Moore – Another man on a great run at the moment, Moore has finished in the top-10 in his last two PGA Tour starts.

Jason Kokrak – His last three starts have been tied 7th, tied 6th and tied 11th. He has the game to score well at this course and he needs a win to qualify for Augusta.

Key Hole: 18th. A tough par-4 of 488 yards, a lake borders the entire left hand side of the hole. From the tee the golfer must attempt to carry as much water as possible to reduce the length of the second shot. The approach is equally challenging, as anything straying to the left side will find a watery grave.

Skills required: Scrambling. This is a course that set up to resemble conditions at Augusta. As such, a premium is placed on the short game. The man who can get it up and down on a regular basis will have a great advantage here.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?