Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Russell Henley ran away from the field in Mexico, winning Mayakoba by four strokes for his 4th career victory on the PGA Tour.
Henley tied the tournament scoring record by winning at -23 (which was set by Viktor Hovland at Mayakoba last season).
Henley was previously 1-for-6 in converting 54-hole leads or co-leads on TOUR (now 2-for-7).
The only golfers ahead of Russell Henley in true SG: APP over the last two years (per DataGolf): Paul Casey, Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas, and Xander Schauffele.
Henley's rank on the PGA Tour in SG: APP over the past three seasons: 2nd, 6th, 3rd. Good stuff.
Brian Harman finished runner-up to Russell Henley at Mayakoba; in doing so, Henley and Harman became the first pair from the same college to win and finish runner-up in the same PGAT event since Patrick Reed and Henrik Norlander did it at the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open (per PGA Tour Communications).
Seamus Power followed up his win in Bermuda last week with a T-3 at Mayakoba.
Power moved to 1st in the FedExCup Standings and 29th in the Official World Golf Rankings. Power is also now #4 on the World points list for the 2023 European Ryder cup team (top 6 automatically qualify for the team).
Power is 37 strokes under par over the last two weeks (-19 at Bermuda, -18 at Mayakoba).
Scottie Scheffler post a top-5 finish at Mayakoba for the second consecutive season. However, Scheffler came up one spot (two strokes) short of regaining the world No.1 spot--needed a solo second place finish or win.
Scheffler returned to his old putter over the week at Mayakoba. He shot 62 (-9) on Sunday at El Camaleon to match the low round of the tournament.
Taylor Montgomery and Thomas Detry continued the strong starts to their rookie campaigns on the PGA Tour; both finished in the top-15 at Mayakoba.
Taylor Montgomery: 5/5 on made cuts; five top-15 finishes; best result: solo 3rd (Fortinet)
Thomas Detry: 5/5 on made cuts; four top-15 finishes; best result: solo 2nd (Bermuda)
Will Gordon's T-3 at Mayakoba matched his previous best finish on the PGA Tour (T-3, 2020 Travelers Championship).
Viktor Hovland came up short of the Mayakoba three-peat, but he still finished T-10.
Aaron Wise continued his stretch of strong performances at El Camaleon: T-15 (2022), T-15 (2021), Runner-up (2020), T-10 (2018).
Collin Morikawa finished T-15, but the bigger news was that Morikawa hired a putting coach for the first time in his career.
Four holes-in-one were made at Mayakoba this past week. The last time four holes-in-one were made in a PGAT event was in 2019, also at Mayakoba. Most Aces in a single event? Eight at the 2009 RBC Canadian Open (per Justin Ray).
Memorial Park Golf Course - Houston Texas
Event #8 of 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Full-Field Cut Event
The Houston Open has been a staple on the PGA Tour since the 1940s. It's taken on various names and sponsors, of which Shell Oil Company was the longest standing (1992-2017). This is the first year in which Cadence Bank is the sponsor.
Previously, the Houston Open took place in the Spring just prior to The Masters. But since 2019 it's been a part of the Fall swing instead.
The course venue for the event has also changed many times over the years. Memorial Park Golf Course hosted this event at one point nearly 60 years ago.
In 2020, the tournament moved back to a newly renovated Memorial Park GC, which makes this essentially the third year we've seen this version of the Houston Open.
In 2019, Memorial Park received significant renovations thanks to a donation from the Astros Golf Foundation. For those renovations, they enlisted help from world-renowned golf architect Tom Doak, as well as Brooks Koepka.
Last season, Memorial Park ranked 10th (out of 38 courses) in scoring, meaning that it fell towards the more difficult end of courses on TOUR. The field scoring average in 2021 was 70.80 (+0.80). Jason Kokrak won it at -10.
Memorial Park played even tougher in 2020 with a field scoring average of 71.03 (+1.03). Carlos Ortiz won it that year at -13.
Strangely enough, both past winners at the Memorial Park GC version of the Houston Open are now on the LIV Golf tour, guaranteeing we see someone new this year.
Winner's Profile - How Jason Kokrak gained strokes on the field in 2021:
SG Total: +13.40
SG T2G: +4.72 (16th)
SG OTT: +2.16 (14th)
SG APP: +6.44 (2nd)
SG ARG: -3.88 (67th)
SG PUTT: +8.68 (3rd)
Jason Kokrak had an impressive run at Memorial Park last year. Outside of a seven-hole stretch at the end of round two where Kokrak shot +7, he played well throughout the bag. Most of Kokrak's strokes lost (hemorrhaged) around-the-green happened over that seven-hole meltdown.
Kokrak had become one of the better putters on TOUR, ranking 6th in SG: PUTT for the 2020-21 season, and that certainly came in hand last year in Houston.
One of the funnier stories of Kokrak's win last year in Houston was that he apparently almost withdrew two days before the start because his swing felt so off. He got back on track during the Wednesday Pro-Am though and struck it great.
Kokrak played notably well on the par-5s last year, shooting eight under for the week on those holes. This stands out because the par-5's at Memorial Park ranked 2nd most difficult in 2021 and 3rd most difficult in 2020.
They are far from "gimme" holes. As you can see from the above scorecard, there are only three par-5s and none of them are short.
On the whole, Memorial Park GC is one of the longer courses on the PGA Tour schedule. In addition to the lengthy par-5's, there are two Par-3's that play over 200 yards and two Par-4's that play over 500 yards.
Field changes: Brendon Todd, Vince Whaley, Nate Lashley, Sam Ryder, and Greyson Sigg all pulled out of the originally announced field list.
Field changes: Tano Goya, Trevor Werbylo, Scott Harrington, Kevin Streelman, Tyson Alexander, and Kevin Roy have entered the field.
Sponsor exemptions: Charley Hoffman, Cole Hammer, Nico Echavarria, Walker Lee, Kyle Westmoreland, Travis Vick, Johannes Veerman, Chris Stroud.
Monday Qualifiers into field: Seung Yul Noh, Sean Jacklin, Lukas Euler, Zack Fischer.
27 OWGR Top-100 players are in the field. Headlined by: Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama.
Scheffler can regain the world No.1 spot with a win this week.
Justin Rose (OWGR 75th)
Justin Rose returned to action last week at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. It was Rose’s first start since mid-September when he withdrew from the BMW PGA Championship due to a back injury. Rose missed the cut last week at Mayakoba but will look to bounce back here in Houston.
Kelly Kraft (OWGR 483rd)
Kelly Kraft pulled out of the field for Mayakoba last week for an undisclosed reason. He’s not played in a PGA Tour event since September at the Fortinet Championship. That said, Kraft is currently listed in the field for this week’s Houston Open where he finished in a tie for 29th a year ago.
Peter Malnati (OWGR 327th)
Peter Malnati has withdrawn prior to the start of two events recently. The first was prior to his round one tee time at the Shriners Children’s Open, and then two weeks ago he pulled out of the Bermuda Championship before it started. It’s unclear what Malanti’s been dealing with, but he is in the field for this week’s Houston Open.
Taylor Moore (OWGR 116th)
Taylor Moore is set to return to action this week after pulling out of Mayakoba last week. No reason was given for Moore deciding not to play in Mexico. In his two previous starts Moore finished T-23 (The CJ Cup) and T-12 (ZOZO Championship).
Brandon Matthews (OWGR 272nd)
Brandon Matthews withdrew during the middle of the second round at Mayakoba. Matthews was four-over par through his first six holes and clearly not playing his best golf. Additionally, Matthews was seven-over par for the tournament and well on his way to missing the cut. We don't currently know what caused the WD for Matthews, though he did withdraw from an event in September with a back issue, so it's possible that he was dealing with the same injury.
OUT OF FIELD
Sam Ryder (OWGR 245th)
Sam Ryder withdrew from the Houston Open on Monday; no reason was given for the WD. Ryder is coming off of a top-10 finish at last week’s event and also shot 65 (-6) on Sunday, so this is unlikely to be injury related for Ryder. Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor his status.
Nate Lashley (OWGR 340th)
Nate Lashley withdrew from the Houston Open on Monday. No information was provided on Lashley’s WD. He played at Mayakoba last week but only for the first two days as Lashley missed the cut.
Vince Whaley (OWGR 305th)
Vince Whaley withdrew from the Houston Open on Monday morning for an undisclosed reason. This is the second Monday in a row that Whaley has pulled out a tournament, and he’s not played in an event since the Shriners Children’s Open. We’ll continue to monitor Whaley’s health status.
Brendon Todd (OWGR 106th)
Brendon Todd was in the initial field list for the Houston Open but decided to pull out of the event on Saturday. Todd ended up finishing his weekend rounds at Mayakoba, seemingly with no health issues as he shot a 67 (-4) on Sunday at El Camaleon. It’s more than likely that Todd just changed his mind about playing in Houston.
Greyson Sigg (OWGR 192nd)
Greyson Sigg withdrew from the Houston Open on Tuesday morning. We have no information on why Sigg decided to WD. He played the last two weeks at Mayakoba and Bermuda, making the cut in both events.
Houston Open golfers with the highest "True Strokes Gained" (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Memorial Park Golf Club:
8 Rounds Played (2 Starts)
Sam Burns (+2.33)
Adam Long (+2.08)
Scottie Scheffler (+1.95)
Russell Henley (+1.70)
Mackenzie Hughes (+1.70)
Aaron Wise (+1.70)
4 Rounds Played (1 Start)
Hideki Matsuyama (+3.46)
Joel Dahmen (+2.45)
Robert Streb (+2.20)
Alex Smalley (+1.70)
Austin Cook (+1.46)
Aaron Rai (+1.45)
Max McGreevy (+1.45)
*Please note that this is an extremely small sample size. Golfers with tournament experience at this week's course have either played it just once or twice between the past two seasons.
*46 golfers in the field have never played at the Memorial Park GC version of the Houston Open.