Freddy Couples, Phil Mickelson Tee Off at Shell Houston Open

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Hear the buzz around Redstone Golf Club?  Feel the excitement?  The Masters is only a week away, and a rather fortuitous position on the PGA calendar infuses this year's Shell Houston Open with a little extra oomph.  Current world number two Lee Westwood and the always-dangerous Phil Mickelson headline a packed roster of participants in the final warm-up before the trip to Augusta.  And without the added burden of the Tiger Woods Traveling Circus, this promises to be a lively tournament.

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Players will be tackling the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, which possesses one of the toughest three-hole finishes on the PGA tour. 

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↵↵Rees Jones' Redstone GC Tournament Course is carved out of trees and wetlands, the result being a beefy 7,457-yard test that is especially tough on and around the greens

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The marquee group for the first two days contains the aforementioned Westwood and Mickelson as well as tour schizophrenic and last year's SHO winner Anthony Kim.  Don't be surprised to see this year's victor emerge from this loaded group, but there are plenty of other names to keep an eye on.  Major winners Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington are in the mix, as well as last weekend's Arnold Palmer Invitational runner-up Steve Marino.  And of course never write off former University of Houston golfer and 2003 SHO winner Freddy Couples.

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With Woods continuing to struggle, there's no truly dominant golfer on the circuit at the moment, and the absence of current world number one Martin Kaymer leaves the field wide open.  Getting on the greens in regulation will be key as scrambling from the rough is difficult at Redstone.  Though with challenging greens, once up there the players will find little quarter.

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I like Steve Marino to continue his good form and finally breakthrough for a victory in 2011, with Westwood and Couples also in the top five.  Lets hope for an exciting send-off in Humble this weekend.  The Masters is right around the corner, golf fans!

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