Shell Houston Open Preview & Groups To Watch

By Mike Wolfe
3/31/2012 9:28:04 AM

Between Tiger Woods' win last week and The Masters next week it's easy to overlook the Shell Houston Open. The final event before the first major of the season gives players one last chance to tune up before taking on Augusta National. Phil Mickelson will look to defend his 2011 against a strong field.

(Can Mickelson Defend His 2011 Title? Photo Credit)

Mickelson is one of six players in the field this week with a win in 2012. He's joined by Steve Stricker, Johnson Wagner, Kyle Stanley, John Huh, and Hunter Mahan as players who look to secure a second win before heading to Augusta next week. Wagner joins Mickelson and five other players in the field who have won the Shell Houston Open before. The players are Anthony Kim (2010), Paul Casey (2009), Fred Couples (2003), Robert Allenby (2000) and Stuart Appleby who has won the event twice (1999 & 2006).

Mickelson looking to defend his title is just one story but most of the focus is on Ernie Els who needs to win this week in order to qualify for The Masters. Els has been in The Masters field every year since 1994 and needs a win to keep his streak alive. He's played great golf of late, finishing in the top 5 in his last two tournaments.

Three Groups To Watch At The Shell Houston Open

3. Keegan Bradley, Lee Westwood & Graeme McDowell: Westwood is the top ranked player in the field and finished in the top 10 here in 2010. He's joined by two major championship winners in Bradley and McDowell. Bradley has finished in the top 25 in every start this season while McDowell finished second to Tiger last week.

2. Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples & Charl Schwartzel: I'm curious to see if Schwartzel will play well or if he has The Masters champions dinner on his mind. The real reason I want to watch this group is the pairing of Mickelson and Couples. They are two great golfers who have both won here before and it's going to be fun to watch them play golf together.

1. Kyle Stanley, Ernie Els & Anthony Kim: Stanley has a win in 2012 and Kim has won here before but the story of the 2012 Shell Houston Open is Ernie Els. Can he play well enough to win and qualify for The Masters? I hope so because he's my pick to win this week.

@WAMGolfs Pick to Win: Ernie Els

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