• "Shell is a great test heading into Augusta," said the 21-year-old
• Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker withdraw with illness
SHELL HOUSTON OPEN
Jordan Spieth heads into the Shell Houston Open as the highest ranked player in the field after world No.2 Henrik Stenson was forced to withdraw from the tournament on Monday night.
The 21-year-old leads the PGA Tour stats for putting average and putts per round and is in a hot streak of form, winning the Valspar Championship and coming runner-up at the Valero Texas Open in his last two competitions.
And the world No.4 will be hoping to maintain that form through this week and into the Masters, where he finished runner-up in his tournament debut last year.
"Shell is a great test heading into Augusta" - Jordan Spieth
Speaking to the PGA Tour ahead of the tournament, Spieth, who missed the cut in 2014, said: “Shell is a great test heading into Augusta as far as owning that second shot and really finding confidence in it. It’s another home game for me but you just want to be consistent.”
Stenson missed last week’s Valero Texas Open and was due to feature in Houston after three consecutive top five finishes, but was forced to withdraw on Monday night with the flu, with his mind naturally focussed on Augusta.
Another player who has withdrawn this week is last week’s winner and current FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker, who also reported feeling unwell.
In a statement, Walker, who became the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season, said: “Following my win at the Valero Texas Open, I went to Augusta in order to prepare for the Masters. Unfortunately, I soon realised that I was not feeling well and needed to get better before next week. I look forward to returning to Houston in future years.”
Sergio Garcia is the only other player in the top ten who will be teeing up in Houston, while past winners Paul Casey, Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson will all be looking for strong tournaments ahead of Augusta next week.
With eight of the world’s top ten not featuring, the spotlight in particular will be on world No.21 and three-time Masters champion Mickelson, whose best finish in six 2015 events is T17.
Selected groups (local times)
7.50 – Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Ernie Els
In 2015, Spieth has recorded five top ten finishes in just seven events, including his win at the Valspar Championship and his runner-up spot at last week’s Valero Texas Open. That form couldn’t be more different from his playing partners Rose and Els. Rose has missed three cuts and came 55th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, while Els had missed four consecutive cuts in 2015 until a T13 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago.
8.00 – Patrick Reed, Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson
Winner of the tournament in 2012, Mahan will desperately looking for form with a best of T17 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in six events so far in 2015. The winner of that event was Reed, who also lost out in a play-off to Spieth at the Valspar Championship, while Mickelson will also be searching for form. The 44-year-old started strongly last week with rounds of 70 and 72, but fell away over the weekend with a 74 and a 76 to finish T30.
12.40 – Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler
Kuchar has made the cut in each of the seven events he’s played this year with a worst finish of T33 at the Valspar Championship. The 36-year-old will be hoping to regain his form of early 2015, which saw him T2 at the Humana Challenge and T3 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Kuchar lost in a play-off to Matt Jones last year. He tees off with Garcia, who should’ve won the Northern Trust open back February, and Fowler, who has had a fairly modest year so far.
Shell Houston Open :: Your thoughts
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