Houston Open offers Masters-style tuneup for Augusta

This week’s Shell Houston Open should provide golfers with the perfect tuneup for the season’s first Major tournament, the US Masters, with organisers purposely setting up the course to mimic Augusta.

The tournament has also been brought forward by a month so it can act as a preparation event for the Masters, which is being held from April 5-8 with Phil Mickelson as defending champion.

Rees Jones, who combined with PGA Tour player David Toms to design the Redstone Golf Club Tournament Course, said on pgatour.com.

“I think it’s going to be a very strong setup, and, yes, it’s going to have a lot of the same kinds of shots you’d see at Augusta,”

Just like in Augusta, Houston’s rough is cut to around four centimeters while many parts of the greens are shaved down. Organisers also expect the greens to be faster than in previous years given the earlier date.

Last year’s event was won by Stuart Appleby, who triumphed by a record six shots for his second Houston title.

The big-name golfers at this year’s event include Australian Adam Scott, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal, New Zealand’s Michael Campbell and Englishman David Howell.

England’s Justin Rose has been forced to withdraw after aggravating a back injury. Another notable absentee is Fiji’s Vijay Singh, a winner of three of the past five Houston Opens and who has never missed the cut. Rose and Singh hope to be fighting fit for the Masters, though.

Meanwhile, as the heavyweights gear up for the Masters, four golfers from the Asian Tour have fulfilled their dreams of playing in July’s British Open in Carnoustie.

Australian Adam Groom led the way with rounds of 66 and 69 at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore to win the Open International Final Qualifying tournament on Wednesday.

His 135 total, interrupted on Wednesday by rain, was one stroke better than Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing (70, 66), Scotland’s Ross Bain (72, 64) and another Aussie, David Gleeson (68, 68). All four have booked their tickets to Carnoustie from a field of 73 golfers.

Groom, playing in his second qualifier, was delighted with his achievement, as he said on asiantour.com:

“This is fantastic being able to make it for my first ever major. There is going to be some change in my schedule but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Lam, playing on a familiar course, will also be competing in his first Open, which takes place just one month after he marries fiancé Sophie. Said Lam:

“I will spend my honeymoon with Sophie in South Africa before my trip to Scotland. I can’t wait as it has always been my dream to play in a Major. I hope to bring Sophie and my family along to Scotland. I’ve never been to Scotland.”

Australia’s Lee Woon-jon (67, 70) and South Korean Park Jun-won (69, 68) missed out on qualification by one stroke, on 137, with Japan’s Sushi Ishigaki (67, 71) finishing on 138.

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