This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open
Course: Memorial Park Golf Course (7,412 yards, par 70)
Winner: $1,350,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points
Memorial Park will play host to the Houston Open for the second consecutive year. The municipal course underwent a massive renovation prior to the event moving to the fall in 2020. Previously Memorial Park hosted the Houston Open from 1951-1963. The Golf Club of Houston hosted 13 straight times when it was traditionally the week before the Masters and the course was directly set up to prep players to what they would face at Augusta National the next week. This will be the penultimate event of the fall portion of the 2021 schedule and another great opportunity to rack up some FedExCup points to put yourself into a comfortable position heading into 2022.
Last year Carlos Ortiz was able to hold off challenges from Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama to notch his first career victory on the PGA Tour. The field this year isn't nearly as star-studded as last year when the postponed 2020 Masters was moved to the week after the Houston Open in November. There is still eight of the top-25 in the OWGR teeing it up at Memorial Park this week, however. That includes winners this season like Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, and Max Homa. U.S. Ryder Cup team members Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, and Brooks Koepka are also teeing it up in Houston. Cameron Smith, Tyrrell Hatton, Joaquin Niemann, Adam Scott, and Marc Leishman lead a strong international contingent as well.
The weather forecast for the tournament looks great with a very small threat of rain, which should keep the fairways and greens firm. Temperatures will hover around the low-70's for each of the four rounds. Winds should be low the first two rounds and then kick up a bit on the weekend after the 36-hole cut takes place. Carlos Ortiz won by two strokes last year at 13-under-par, which is around where I would expect the winning score to be again in 2021.
2020 – Carlos Ortiz
2019 – Lanto Griffin
2018 – Ian Poulter
2017 – Russell Henley
2016 – Jim Herman
2015 – J.B. Holmes
2014 – Matt Jones
2013 – D.A. Points
2012 – Hunter Mahan
2011 – Phil Mickelson
2010 – Anthony Kim
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Putting
- Total Driving
Memorial Park was no pushover last season in its return as host of the Houston Open. In fact it's 71.03 scoring average last season was the second highest of all par-70's in non-majors last season. The course demands precision both off the tee and into the greens, as last year it ranked inside the top-10 of most challenging fairways to hit and proximity to the hole numbers. Memorial Park features five par-3's, which will put added emphasis on being sharp with your irons. Bermudagrass is featured all over the property, but should be most prevalent around the greens where players may struggle to chip the ball close to the hole on some of the tightly mown areas. The putting surfaces will be prepped to run around 12 on the Stimpmeter. This should be a pure test of accurate ball striking and converting on the greens. Last season Carlos Ortiz ranked T8 in greens in regulation and was fifth in SG: Putting en route to his win at Memorial Park.
FanDuel Value Picks
Sam Burns ($12,00)
Even as the highest salaried player in the field this week, Burns is well worth his $12,000 price tag. He has gone 1st-T15-T5 in three starts this season, and was the 54-hole leader in this event last year en route to settling for a T7. Burns ranks 13th in SG: Off-the-Tee, fifth in total driving, third in SG: Approach, third in GIR percentage, first in SG: Tee-to-Green, and third in birdie average this season.
Matthew Wolff ($11,300)
2021 has mostly been a disappointment for Wolff, but the fall portion of the schedule has been really good to him. The former Oklahoma State standout has finished T17-2nd-T5 in three starts this season. Wolff ranks top-30 this season in SG: Approach, SG: Around-the-Green, SG: Putting, and SG: Tee-to-Green. He is also 11th in GIR percentage, 23rd in scrambling, and second in scoring average.
Aaron Wise ($10,700)
Wise has tremendous value once again this week. In four starts this season he has gone T26-T8-T5-T15. The former Oregon product has been much more consistent throughout the bag, and that has thus led to far more consistent results. Wise is gaining at least .229 strokes in every category, and ranks eight in SG: Tee-to-Green, 16th in birdie average, 32nd in scrambling, and 17th in putts per GIR. He also finished T11 in last year's Houston Open.
Maverick McNealy ($10,400)
McNealy is off to a strong start this season, notching his third top-25 in the form of a T11 last week at Mayakoba. He enters the week ranking 29th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 32nd in SG: Tee-to-Green, 32nd in GIR percentage, and 10th in proximity to the hole. McNealy also closed 67-67 on the weekend a year ago in Houston to post a top-20 finish.
Longer Shots with Value
Harold Varner III ($9,600)
Varner will be looking to shake off a missed cut at Mayakoba after starting the year going T16-T11-T32. The East Carolina product finished T15 last year at Memorial park behind an excellent iron display, ranking fifth in SG: Approach, third in SG: Tee-to-Green, and fifth in GIR percentage. Varner has been solid early this season again from a ball-striking standpoint, but now he is inside the top-35 in scrambling, putts per round, and one-putt percentage.
Mackenzie Hughes ($9,600)
Hughes filled it up at Memorial Park last year, leading the field in SG: Putting en route to a T7 finish behind a final-round 63. Hughes has gone T35-T25-T4 in three starts so far this season. The Canadian won't have the same ball-striking numbers as most of the players highlighted, but his putting and short game are so strong that he has made up for it on several occasions over the last couple years.
Joel Dahmen ($9,000)
Dahmen has made the cut in all three of his starts this season. He is making 5.17 birdies per round, but he just needs to avoid the big numbers. Dahmen has shown strong iron play this season, ranking top-45 in SG: Approach, GIR percentage, and proximity to the hole. Dahmen is also fourth in birdie-or-better percentage on par-3s this season and he will face five of them this week at Memorial Park.
Henrik Norlander ($8,500)
Norlander is 4-for-4 this season with a T4 in Jackson and a T18 in Japan. He is one of the best iron players for your buck, ranking eighth in SG: Approach. The Swede has also gone from 164th to 31st in SG: Around-the-Green this season.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
There are quite a few strong options this week above the $9,500 threshold, but below it things seems to dry up pretty quickly. Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, and Patrick Reed are all players who haven't shown much this season that I would avoid this week, as there are significantly better options at similar prices. Overall, Memorial Park sets up as mostly a ball-striking test, but the reason Carlos Ortiz won last year was his putting over the weekend. Players in form and who have played three-plus times this season are probably the way to go this week.