As if some golfers entered in the Houston Open needed any more motivation to win the PGA Tour event, an invitation to the Masters dangles for anyone not already qualified. That is the case for several of the 144 players who are competing this week at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas, for their share of a $7 million purse.

Charles Howell
Charles Howell III is from Augusta and hasn’t played in the Masters since 2012, but he has a chance to go if he wins this week’s Houston Open. (Image: Gettty)

Several of the top golfers in Official World Golf Rankings are skipping the tournament to concentrate or rest up for the first major championship of the year. No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 Justin Thomas, No. 3 Jon Rahm, No. 6 Hideki Matsuyama, No. 7 Rory McIlroy, No. 9 Sergio Garcia, and No. 10 Brooks Koepka all have decided to stay home.

The highest ranked golfer in the event is No. 4 Jordan Spieth. He is one of the favorites, along with No. 8 Rickie Fowler. The duo are both listed at 17/2 with Sportsbook.ag. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has those two, and No. 5 Justin Rose, at 10/1. Those three can breathe easy since they have already qualified to play at Augusta National.

Fighting for Right to Drive Up Magnolia Lane

For some of the golfiers, this week represents the last opportunity to get in to the prestigious Master’s tournament. One of the golfers with the lowest odds who needs to win to go to Augusta is Luke List. List is a 21/1 choice to win the Houston Open.

List finished tied for third last year and has four finishes in the top 20, including a second-place finish at the Honda Classic the third week of February.

Two other golfers that would love to win this week are Charles Howell III and Keegan Bradley. Bradley is at 45/1 and hasn’t done much since a tie for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open the end of January. He has had success at Houston, finishing in the top 5 twice and adding a pair of top 15 finishes since 2012.

Howell has the most motivation to return to Augusta. Born in that city, he hasn’t played in the Masters since 2012, where he tied for 19th. He has tied for sixth at the Farmers Insurance Open and was tied for 14th two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Stricker Surprise

The one golfer that could shock the field is 51-year-old Steve Stricker, who’s been splitting his time between the PGA and Champions tours, and has found success at both.

So far this season, he’s won twice on the Champions Tour, including last week at the Rapiscan Systems Classic, making him the leading money winner despite having played only three events.

Stricker has also played in three events on the PGA Tour, and in his last one, the Valspar Championship, he tied for 12th. He’s a 55/1 longshot to win in Houston, but if he did, it would give him an automatic berth to the Masters. He told the Houston Chronicle he isn’t ready to give up the PGA Tour just yet.

“I still feel like I’ve got game enough to win and play well out here, and that’s what keeps me coming back out here,” Stricker said. “I would dearly love to win again out here on this tour. That’s my goal so that’s why I continue to come out here.’’

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