Harrington and McDowell expecting a Major test in Houston

John Craven
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Harrington and McDowell expecting a Major test in Houston

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell were in agreement that this week’s Houston Open venue at Memorial Park Golf Course is about as tough as it gets on the PGA Tour.

Architect Tom Doak took on the project with four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka acting as a player consultant and the result is a long, brute of a golf course with firm, fast greens and lots of run-offs sure to test both the ball-striking capabilities and short-game shot-making of the game’s elite.

“This is going to be an interesting one this week,” said Harrington on his twitter preview, coming in off the back of a tied-26th result at the Bermuda Championship. “It’s a big, tough golf course. It’s a long course, Bermuda rough and some of the toughest greens I think I’ve ever seen in tournament golf.

“Obviously I would expect a reasonably easy set-up by the tournament referees here this week but certainly a really tough challenge, especially around the greens. The greens are fast, they’re firm to chip on, and there’s lots of run-offs with steep banks around the greens. This is definitely going to be a week for patience and a lot of good golf too. It will be interesting to see how long the course plays… we play it in practice off the back tees but I would expect some of these tees will get pushed up. You should tune in this week – there’ll be plenty of drama, that’s for sure! There’ll be some good golf but some tricky situations that players will find themselves in and it is a week for patience.

“I’m kind of looking forward to it. My own game seems reasonably solid. No reason to panic about it yet. I’ll wait to see what turns out Thursday morning but I seem to be hitting it well – the same as I was last week – so let’s hope I can keep my head together and get a few nice breaks.”

McDowell tees up in Houston ahead of playing five of the next six events, not least next week at Augusta National. And although the former US Open winner shared Harrington’s view about the demands of this week’s challenge, he sees it as an ideal tune-up for what should a Masters set-up sure to play extra long in November, but with the sub-air systems around Augusta guaranteeing its typically firm greens.

“I played it yesterday and it’s long, very long,” said McDowell, who hasn’t been seen in competition since the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. “Brooks Koepka had an input into it and it is amazing how players build golf courses to the style of play they like to play. Four of the fairways are about 260-yards to get to the fairway so it is a long golf course off the tee and green complexes are very complex, being the word, as they are very undulating.

“It looks like it’s going to be dry up there [at Augusta]; the drier the better for guys like me so the golf course can play a little shorter. We’re getting a good workout this week here in Houston, getting the four or five iron warmed up because I feel like there’ll be plenty of those next week at Augusta. It is very firm in Houston too so again, from a chipping point of view, from a green speed and firmness point of view, the greens are pretty quick this week so it will be a good little tune-up for next week as well.”

IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time) – Houston Open

  • Shane Lowry – 1.15pm
  • Padraig Harrington – 2.05pm
  • Graeme McDowell – 6.25pm

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