Good morning. *Joke about whether you all watched anything interesting on TV last night.* Let’s talk golf!
One for the municipality
This one is going to be fun. Memorial Park, a municipal golf course in the heart of Houston, is set to host the Vivint Houston Open this weekend. Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, and Adam Scott are in the field, preparing for next week’s Masters Tournament. Houston Open Tee Times
While there are plenty of big names in attendance, the golf course is going to be the star of the show. Over the past 18 months, Memorial Park underwent a $34-million renovation guided by Tom Doak. The course has hosted many Houston Opens, though none within the past 50 years.
The Houston Open has been a staple of the PGA Tour since the 1940s, but the event was left in limbo when oil giant Shell pulled its sponsorship in 2017. In stepped Jim Crane and the Astros Golf Foundation, which funded the renovation of Memorial Park. For the past seven years, the event had been held 20 miles outside the city center at the Golf Club of Houston. The move back to an urban locale promises to attract a larger fanbase in the future.
Memorial Park is much more than a tournament host. The course does 60,000 rounds a year and supports the rest of the city’s golf system. After the recent alterations, it’s now one of the most architecturally intriguing municipal courses in the country. For instance, in a rejection of the “Open Doctor” tradition, Doak removed more than half of the bunkers. There are now just 20 bunkers at Memorial Park, far less than you find a typical PGA Tour venue. Not only will this move help speed up public play, but it will also subject the pros to a different type of test.
Of course, we’re likely to see low scores this weekend; the new Memorial Park doesn’t intend to “protect par.” But it should confront players with the kinds of in-between shots that reward thoughtful shotmaking.
For more on Memorial Park and Tom Doak’s renovation, listen to our podcast with Tom from January 2019 on Spotify, iTunes, and Stitcher. Tom and Andy talk about what it was like to work with Brooks Koepka and how the course will go about challenging the best in the world. Sean Martin also wrote a great piece for PGATour.com about Memorial Park and the Houston Open.
What’s better than one event with kilns and olive presses in the fairways? Two events with kilns and olive presses in the fairways, obviously. The Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown, not to be confused with last weekend’s Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open, kicks off Thursday morning on the European Tour. Tee Times
Harry Higgs withdrew from the Houston Open after a positive Covid-19 test. He later tweeted out the reassuring news that he is not currently experiencing symptoms.
Phil Mickelson plans on using a 47.5-inch driver at Augusta National. Take that, Bryson.
Speaking of Bryson DeChambeau, the big man officially signed on as a DraftKings ambassador this week and will sport the betting company’s logo on his hat starting at the Masters. Where DraftKings will fit in his post-victory “I would be remiss not to mention”-athon is yet to be determined.
The Latest from The Fried Egg
Paulie’s Picks: 2020 Vivint Houston Open – Don’t complicate things too much. There’s a big favorite at Memorial Park this week. Check out Paulie’s full picks for the Houston Open!
Shotgun Start: A jacketless Masters, A re-born Houston Open, and the legend of Toby Tree
This Election Day episode begins with Brendan and Andy rehashing some amusing answers from past anonymous players’ polls. Then they transition to the Masters Fact of the Day based off a tip about a potential change in jacket policy coming this year. The shhhhedule for the week begins with the Houston Open, featuring an extended discussion on the new venue, Memorial Park, and the work done by Tom Doak. What was Brooksy’s input in the work and how will it play for a Tour event? Also, has the Tour stopped caring about par, and living under it? There’s amusement over the format for the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown, where scores will be reset multiple times and could expose some hypocrisy in future Net Tour Championship critiques. Discussion of this Euro Tour event also leads to the discovery of the English golfer Toby Tree, a new SGS favorite. The Champions Tour season-ender is also briefly covered as a potential coronation for Ernie, who “feels like a rookie again.” News hits on Bryson’s deal with DraftKings and if he’d be the worst possible pro to get a lesson from, which is part of that activation (and who would be the best pro to get a lesson from, which is an excuse for a spotlight on #WestysWisdom). Lastly, they chat about a pro describing his use of a 48-inch driver “like a sledgehammer.” Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.