Scottie Scheffler reacts to his chip shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.
Scottie Scheffler reacts to his chip shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. |Rogelio V. Solis | Associated Press

Golf: Kern picks the Houston Open, where Henrik Stenson is the favorite, but also likes Scottie Scheffler and others

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

We came about as close as you can to getting our third winner in the last six PGA events going back to the Tour Championship, when Patrick Cantlay (the second favorite at 12-1) barely missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation in Las Vegas. He would go on to lose in the playoff to Kevin Na. And yes, it does happen. It’s just very frustrating when it hits home. But I can’t feel badly about the play.

Now it’s on to the Houston Open, which for many years was held the week before the Masters in April. But a sponsorship issue kept it off the schedule last season. It’s back, as part of the fall swing. And the field is, well, not much. And that’s being kind. That’s how it is sometimes, at this time of the year.

Henrik Stenson is the obvious favorite, at 9-1. He’s No. 37 in the world, and that makes him the highest-ranked player teeing it up. Plus he’s played well at this event, with two seconds (in 2013 and ’16), a third (2009) and a sixth (last year). So there is all that. Still, you can find much better values on the board. That being said, and it could be a sucker bet, but sometimes it’s too easy to just overthink things.

Brian Harman is next, at 20-1. As is Daniel Berger and. Cameron Champ, who won two weeks ago, is 22-1, along with Russell Henley, the 2017 winner. See, I told you this one isn’t about household names. Rookie Scottie Scheffler, who starred on the Korn Ferry Tour and has played well so far at the major-league level, is 25-1.

Pat Perez is 28-1. Russell Knox and Denny McCarthy are 33-1. Ditto Kyle Stanley. Sebastian Munoz, who also has won this season, is 40-1. So is Keegan Bradley, who’s ranked 43rd on the planet. I could go on, but somewhat of note I’ll mention Beau Hossler, Luke List and Harris English at 50-1, Jhonattan Vegas at 60-1 and Nick Watney, Robbie Shelton and Aaron Baddeley at 66-1. There are more names, but to be honest I don’t know enough about most of them to pass them along. Call it a character flaw.

So here goes. But I have to admit I felt a lot more confident last week with Cantlay.

Henrik Stenson, 9-1

I know, it’s the chalk. And an overwhelming choice at that. For good reasons. That doesn’t mean he is going to hoist a trophy. Just means he should at least be a factor come Sunday. We’ll see. I just think his resume here is such that you can’t pass. But don’t get carried away. He has finished in the Top 10 in four of his last seven worldwide starts. He just hasn’t played much over here lately.

Scottie Scheffler, 25-1

Shop around, you might be able to get even a little bit better odds. I’ve been on him a few times already, and he’s given me pretty decent efforts. Didn’t have a good weekend in Vegas, but I’m hoping he can bounce right back with another good performance. This guy is going to be decent — it takes time.

Beau Hossler and Harris English, both 50-1

I’m going to throw out two longshots. You don’t have to put much on them, just enough to make it interesting in case my hunch comes up big.

Hossler, who played collegiately at Texas, lost here in a playoff in 2018, after Ian Poulter made a 20-foot putt to force an overtime. It might be asking a lot for him to play that well here once again, but I’ll take that chance. Particularly at that number.

English, who admittedly I don’t know a whole lot about, has a tie for third (at The Greenbrier) and a tie for sixth (Sanderson Farms) already this year. That’s enough for me to toss a few bucks his way. Particularly in this kind of field.

Next week’s tournament will be played in South Korea, which begins a month-long series of stops all outside the United States. That includes trips to Japan, China, Bermuda and Mexico. Don’t forget to pack your passport.


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