All Eyes on Couples, Els at Shell Houston Open

Fred Couples has won three of the four Champions Tour events he's entered in 2010Their confidence buoyed by consecutive wins, Ernie Els and Fred Couples have to like their chances at The Masters less than a fortnight from now. But first the red hot tandem will tackle the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club - site of this week's Shell Houston Open.

Els, who picked up wins at the CA Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational in consecutive weeks, is playing his best golf since 2003-2004. During that stretch, Els won five times on the PGA Tour, including back-to-back wins in Hawaii to begin the 2003 campaign.

"I was really playing great golf," said Els of that time period. I was hitting the ball miles. I remember in Hawaii, I was just bombing the ball and I think I went 31-under-par there, and then winning next wee. I went around the world, won some more; it was almost a free-for-all, you know, it was great."

In 2003, the first year the Shell Houston Open was played at Redstone, Couples won the event with a final tally of 267 or 21-under-par. The 50-year-old Champions Tour rookie, who played his college golf at the University of Houston, is enjoying unprecedented success on senior circuit. Last week he recorded another 21-under-par total, this time at Punta Espada Golf Club in the Dominican Republic, to win the Cap Cana Championship by two shots. It was Couples' third Champions Tour win in as many starts.

Couples also has a runner-up finish in his first Champions Tour event, a 14th place finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a T37 at the Northern Trust Open to his credit this season.

"I had a great stretch of golf in 1992," said Couples, who won three tournaments including the Masters that season, "But I must say that these four weeks on the Champions Tour I'm not missing many shots."

Ernie Els picked up his second straight win at Bay Hill

Already installed by many as favorites next week at Augusta National, Els and Couples will look to continue their strong play on a golf course that has been set up as a practice exam for Augusta National.

Last year Els finished T14 in Houston and then missed the cut at The Masters. Couples showed good form in 2009, shooting a cumulative 9-under-par which was good enough for T3.

While Couples has a Green Jacket and Els has been unlucky at Augusta, they do share a common link. In 2006, when Phil Mickelson won his second Masters, the pair tied for third place. Last year both men missed the cut.

Paul Casey is the defending champion this week in Houston; last year's win was his first on the PGA Tour. Other notables include Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim, Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy, Justin Leonard, Rickie Fowler and Davis Love III.

For those players in the field not already qualified for The Masters, a list that includes Fowler and Love III, a win is the only way to get in. Johnson Wagner played his way into The Masters with a victory in 2008.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will have coverage of the event.

Current Shell Houston Open Field

Blake Adams           
Michael Allen           
Stuart Appleby           
Woody Austin           
Aaron Baddeley           
Briny Baird           
Rich Barcelo           
Ricky Barnes           
Chris Baryla           
Cameron Beckman           
Rich Beem               
Matt Bettencourt           
Henrik Bjornstad           
Kris Blanks           
Jason Bohn           
Justin Bolli           
Craig Bowden           
Michael Bradley           
Jonathan Byrd           
Angel Cabrera           
Mark Calcavecchia           
Chad Campbell           
Paul Casey               
Alex Cejka               
Greg Chalmers           
Daniel Chopra           
Michael Connell           
Fred Couples           
Ben Crane               
Ben Curtis               
Brian Davis           
Jason Day               
Brendon de Jonge           
Graham DeLaet           
Luke Donald           
James Driscoll           
Simon Dyson           
Steve Elkington           
Ernie Els               
Bob Estes               
Matt Every               
Brad Faxon           
Martin Flores           
Rickie Fowler           
Harrison Frazar           
Lucas Glover           
Mathew Goggin
Jason Gore
Paul Goydos
Padraig Harrington
J.P. Hayes   
J.J. Henry
Charles Howell III
Fredrik Jacobson
Kevin Johnson
Matt Jones   
Martin Kaymer
Anthony Kim
Soren Kjeldsen
Jeff Klauk   
Greg Kraft   
Matt Kuchar
Martin Laird
Derek Lamely
Justin Leonard
Michael Letzig
Spencer Levin
Davis Love III
Bill Lunde
David Lutterus
Will MacKenzie
Jeff Maggert
Hunter Mahan
John Mallinger
Steve Marino
Billy Mayfair
Scott McCarron
Rory McIlroy
Parker McLachlin
John Merrick
Troy Merritt
Shaun Micheel
Phil Mickelson
Bryce Molder
James Nitties
Nick O'Hern
Joe Ogilvie
Geoff Ogilvy
Jeff Overton
Greg Owen
Ryan Palmer
Rod Pampling
Brenden Pappas   
Cameron Percy
Pat Perez
Tim Petrovic
Carl Pettersson
Scott Piercy
D.A. Points
Alex Prugh
Ted Purdy
Fran Quinn
Jeff Quinney
Chez Reavie
Chris Riley
John Rollins
Andres Romero
Justin Rose
Charl Schwartzel
Adam Scott
Webb Simpson
Vijay Singh
Brandt Snedeker
Kevin Stadler
Kevin Streelman
Chris Stroud
Brian Stuard
Kevin Sutherland
Roger Tambellini
Vaughn Taylor
Josh Teater
Roland Thatcher
Tim Thelen
Nicholas Thompson
Chris Tidland
D.J. Trahan
Jerod Turner
Omar Uresti
Bo Van Pelt
Vance Veazey
Johnson Wagner
Jimmy Walker
Bubba Watson
Lee Westwood
Brett Wetterich
Jay Williamson
Garrett Willis
Chris Wilson
Chris Wood
Y.E. Yang

 

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