EIGHT Aussie golfers will be hoping for a win at this week’s Shell Houston Open as their only remaining avenue of gaining a coveted spot at the 2012 US Masters.
But just one week out from the year’s first golfing major there will be a host of talent standing in their way.
The Redstone Golf Club in Houston has been set up as much as possible to replicate Augusta National and just like the real thing features tall pines, lightning-fast undulating greens, light rough, fairways mown toward the tee boxes and shaved banks around the water hazards.
That has attracted 31 of the 2012 Masters field, including two Australian starters in Aaron Baddeley and John Senden, who will use the event to fine tune their games.
The 31 Masters starters at Redstone include defending champion Phil Mickelson, defending Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, runner up to Tiger Woods last weekend Graeme McDowell, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Lee Westwood, Johnson Wagner and two-time Houston Open and Masters winner Fred Couples.
The eight Australians looking for a win in Houston to torpedo them into the Masters are Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Nathan Green, Marc Leishman, Nick O’Hern, Rod Pampling, Mathew Goggin and Gavin Coles.
Apart from Baddeley and Senden the other current Australian Georgia starters – all using various other means of preparing for Augusta – are Jason Day, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and amateur Bryden Macpherson.
Baddeley believes he’s made the right decision to play this week rather than arrive at Augusta earlier and prepare on location.
“Playing the week before a major gives you insight on where you need to improve so you can be better prepared and completely ready,” he said this week. “You can either play here or take a week off and go to Augusta early but I feel you can get a feel for some of the shots here.
“I have played well here a few times [tied for fourth in 2011] so I enjoy coming to Houston. The golf course fits my eye and they do a really good job trying to get the course as close as they can to Augusta.”
Ernie Els will also be in Houston making a last ditch effort to earn his 19th straight Masters’ tee time.
The three-time major winner twice finished runner up at Augusta in 2000 and 2005 but in his last two tournaments his putter has really let him down at crucial times.
Should he not win this week there have been calls that Els receive a special exemption into the field, similar to that of Greg Norman’s invitation back in 2002.
An international player is often given the chance to compete at the Masters, however this year 20-year-old Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa has already been extended an invite from Augusta National, making Els an unlikely recipient.
The 2012 Shell Houston Open will be telecast in Australia on Fox Sports beginning on Friday from 6am to 9pm.
2012 Shell Houston Open Live Leaderboard2012 Shell Houston Open Live Leaderboard