The Shell Houston Open is definitely not known for historic prestige or a top tournament of the season. In fact it gets overlooked most of the time because it is a week before The Masters, but as you will see below it has had its fair share of great moments and memorable battles.
5. A Star is Born – In 1980 Lee Trevino was already established as a legend of the game. “Happy Mex” had 4 out of his 6 majors and 24 wins on tour. Curtis Strange had won just one time on tour and was only 25 years old. That young boy took on the legend himself Lee Trevino and beat him in a playoff. You have to think this built a lot of confidence for Curtis’s Hall of Fame career. That was not the only time Curtis made himself known in Houston though.
4. Confidence is Key! – March of 2015 Jordan Spieth was not a household name. He had a fantastic Winter winning The Australian Open and Hero World Challenge back to back weeks, but was still questioned if he could win big on tour. I heard Trip Eisenhower one time put Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas ahead of him before the 2015 Masters. Note to self, never listen to a word Trip has to say again. Back to the Houston Open though. Jordan Spieth found himself in a playoff with J.B. Holmes and Johnson Wagner. He lost that first playoff hole, and J.B. Holmes went on to win the tournament. Jordan had the last laugh winning some tournament called The Masters the next week. I believe this tournament gave Jordan the confidence and hunger moving forward to get revenge on the course that had taken him down on the 12th hole the year before. Yes, he went water in 2014 as well as 2016. Oh yeah and 2017.
3. Singh vs. Daly – In 2005 these were two of golf’s hottest names. John Daly was the bad boy, and Vijay had just come off one of the greatest season’s in golf history winning 9 times. That never mattered to John though, a guy who has never been intimidated by anybody. JD made birdies on the last two holes to force Vijay into a playoff. JD fell short with Vijay hitting a long birdie putt to beat him in a playoff. This was the last time John Daly was ever in a playoff and could have been the last time he would ever win on tour. Everybody pour one out for the wild thing.
2. We Undefeated – In 1988 Curtis Strange won 4 times on tour with 3 being in playoffs. The 1988 Houston Open was the first of the three and Curtis took on The Shark himself Greg Norman. The Shark was #1 in the world at this time and everyone feared him, but that didn’t bother Curtis. Curtis took the Shark out in 1988 in a playoff and it was the start of his 3-0 playoff record in the summer of 88. Later that year he would take on another golf legend in Nick Faldo for the U.S. Open at Brookline, Francis Ouimet’s course. You don’t think Francis brought some magic to the American 75 years later? Curtis never did get the credit he deserved for his Hall of Fame career, taking out Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Tom Kite all in playoff’s–now that is some special stuff!
1. We’re all a kid from somewhere – At the age of 14, two of golf’s top 10 legends in the history of the game met each other caddying. 52 time tour winner and 5x major champion “Lord” Byron Nelson and 64 time tour winner and 9x major champion “The Hawk” Ben Hogan. Two completely different men, but both just as competitive as the other. Growing up Lord Byron was the happy go lucky kid who found friends easily and was always seen to have a smile on. The Hawk on the other hand dealt with tragedy early, his father committed suicide when Ben was only 9 and that fueled Ben until he laid rest in 1997. These two would be rivals their entire lives, it started in a caddie tournament where Byron beat Ben Hogan by one stroke in a 9 hole playoff. 20 years later they would meet again in their hometown state of Texas with a hometown crowd and these two battled as they always did. Once again “Lord” Byron came atop by 2 strokes.