One of the Houston area's biggest yearly events kicks off Thursday. The Shell Houston Open invades Redstone Golf Club on the north side of Houston starting Thursday through Sunday with some of the best in the PGA set to tee it up.
Some of the best players, like Tiger Woods, will skip the event to prepare for the Masters, but there are plenty of very good PGA players still active and ready to compete in this one. Take Chris Stroud, the former Lamar golfer who's suddenly made a habit of living in the Top 15 this season.
Stroud seems to have turned a corner this season, but as Bob West of the Port Arthur News points out, he's going to be making an equipment change before this event:
"At Redstone, you need to be able to move the ball right to left," Stroud said. "You absolutely can't miss to the right. If you do, you are going to make double bogeys and worse. My normal driver, the one with the purple shaft, is difficult to turn over. My miss is almost always to the right.
"I've put a lot of thought into this. With Redstone in mind, I've been working with Kevin Kirk (his instructor) on drawing the ball. Every shot after No. 3 you need to draw the ball. I have one driver that's decent as far as trying to hit a draw. But it's still not what I want. We'll be working on what I need early in the week."
There's plenty more good information in there, as West is one of the best golf writers around and has known Stroud for many, many years now. Still, with the home field advantage, it makes sense that Stroud has a very good shot at winning this tournament, especially considering how well he's playing right now.
Another golfer who's already had success at Redstone is former champion Johnson Wagner, who was profiled by the Houston Chronicle's Steve Campbell here. Wagner also feels he's playing very well right now:
Wagner, 32, has never looked so good next to his competition. He leads the tour's playoff points race. The Sony victory is one of four top-10 finishes - doubling his best total for an entire season since he joined the tour in 2007 - in nine starts. Wagner is 12th on the tour in scoring average (69.88) and coming off a fourth-place finish at Bay Hill that moved him to a career-high 63rd in the world rankings.
He's also got a kicking moustache that's also garnering plenty of attention. I want him to win for that reason alone.
Now that you've had your fill of some of the names to watch, let's break down the stats for this week:
The fan-friendly home of the Shell Houston Open is the Tournament Course -- Redstone Golf Club. It was designed especially to host a PGA TOUR event by renowned architect Rees Jones and player consultant David Toms.
The 7,457-yard, par-72 layout was carved out of woodlands lush with oak, pine and cypress trees. It is an open-to-all, daily fee course, which gives every golf fan the opportunity to tee it up where the pros play.
Free of commercial or residential real estate development, the course has wetlands filled with native plants and flowers. The routing plan of the course gives fans easy access via fairway crosswalks to move from front nine to back nine in order to follow tournament action.
Jones, noted for his work on U.S. Open venues, has now designed three courses in Houston for Redstone Golf Management. The other courses include ShadowHawk Golf Club and The Houstonian Country Club.
Construction on the Rees Jones course began in November of 2003 and the grand opening took place in August of 2005. Another plus about the facility is its proximity to The First Tee of Greater Houston/Redstone Chapter, operated by the Houston Golf Association. That facility, which includes a three-hole, par-3 course and a 6,720-square foot Learning Center named after the late Dick Harmon, is located adjacent to the HGA offices and Tournament Course..