Tiger Woods may be resting his texting finger as he prepares to compete for his fifth green jacket, but Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, and Phil Mickelson are among several stars in the Shell Houston Open field of 156 who hope to roll into Augusta on the wave of a one-game winning streak in what for many will be their final Masters drill.
Despite the absence of the recently re-crowned No. 1, this week’s field at the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas, does not lack for star power, as these marquee groupings would indicate:
McIlroy, Bradley, Dustin Johnson (Thursday @12: 50 p.m. local time off No. 1; Friday, 7:50 a.m., No. 10) -- Now the second-best golfer in the world, McIlroy would depose Woods from the catbird seat with a win on Sunday -- if he can follow Tiger’s rather graphic instructions, that is. Having played just seven competitive stroke-play rounds all year, the two-time major champion hopes to contend for the title, though Bradley, who finished T3 at Bay Hill may have something to say about that.
Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas, Steve Stricker (Thursday, 1 p.m., No. 1; Friday, 8 a.m., No. 10) -- Snedeker was on his way to cadging Player of the Year honors before he injured his rib and Woods began compiling Ws the way he did in his salad days. Wonder if Tiger -- who leads the league in the all-important strokes gained-putting stat -- has shared any of his flat stick secrets with Ryder cup pal and new short-game coach Stricker?
Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Geoff Ogilvy (Thursday, 7:50 a.m., No. 10; Friday, 12:50 p.m., No. 1) -- Mahan’s the defending champ and Mickelson won the event in 2011. Though Lefty missed the cut at Arnie’s Place, so far this season he has a win (Waste Management Phoenix Open), a T3 (WGC-Cadillac Championship), and this trick shot in his bag (even with the latest installment of Phil Mickelson’s “Playing Lessons With the Pros”, do not try this at home):