This week’s Houston Open is likely the last to be played in the pre-Masters calendar slot made famous by … the Houston Open.
The PGA Tour’s worst-kept secret has the Valero Texas Open moving to Houston’s place on the calendar in 2019 and staying there as part of a long-term commitment by Valero.
The Forecaddie is befuddled. While Houston is sponsor-less and possibly in danger of disappearing altogether, a real head-scratcher given the city (fourth largest in America), tournament history (since 1946) and golf course setup (Augusta National green speeds). Once considered a tough week on the schedule to draw a good field, the Houston Golf Association has turned the week into a must-play for those who like tournament golf as a Masters warm-up. That’s thanks in large part to Golf Club of Houston mirroring Augusta’s Stimpmeter readings and light-rough approach.
Meanwhile, Valero has made the Texas Open successful and built its own following in late April, making The Man Out Front skeptical of players embracing TPC San Antonio’s tight, Bermuda grass landing areas as a good prep for Augusta’s wide, rye grass-overseeded landing areas.
Maybe cooler heads will prevail, but TMOF knows money talks and the PGA Tour understandably gives preference to tournaments with sponsors. But don’t be surprised if a year from now players are begging for a more appropriate lead-in to The Masters. Gwk