Punter’s pointers: The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open returns to Memorial Park

Carlos Ortiz defends the trophy he won in impressive fashion last year fresh off finishing second last week in Mexico.

As a preparation for his defence of this week's Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open goes, Carlos Ortiz's solo second in last week's World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba was not bad.

A lot of tech involved and a lot of good golf, too.

"I'm really proud," he said after a Sunday 66 left him trailing only the winner Viktor Hovland at El Camaleon.

"It was a tough day and I couldn't really find anything on the front nine. I just kept pushing.

"Having all my friends out there, I just found a way to get something going. It's funny how golf works. Once you hit that first shot like you want it, it just clicks."

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He was doubly pleased to find that something ahead of a return to the scene of his breakthrough win on the PGA Tour 12 months ago.

"It's always good timing to be playing well anywhere," he said. "But I'm excited about next week and obviously these two golf courses are some of my favourite. Next week at Memorial Park because it was my first win and this one is just a special one on home soil. I'm happy the way I'm playing and I'm excited about next week."

It will be the second time Memorial Park hosts the event and last year's debut went well for a municipal layout that has been worked on by Tom Doak with assistance from Brooks Koepka.

Let's kick off this week's Punter's Pointers with a look at the course.

A major test

Koepka said ahead of last year's tournament: "I know this golf course is quite difficult. It's quite long. You'll see some high numbers especially if the wind gets up, it kind of resembles a little bit of a US Open, I think some people would say, which I feel like I've done pretty good at."

His thoughts were backed up by Dustin Johnson who said after the practice rounds: "The golf course is good. It's a big golf course, it's long. The greens have got a lot of slope and undulation in them, so you've got to hit it in the right spots if you want to have any kind of look at birdie.

"If you miss greens, you're going to have a really tough time making pars, especially if you're in the wrong spot. So yeah, I mean, the golf course, I think it's going to play fairly difficult. It's a long golf course, you hit a lot of mid to long irons. You don't get many wedges in your hand out here."

Do those words suggest a test that would suit top class performers capable of winning Majors? Maybe, but we're given these thoughts by the field quite often. How did it play out in reality?

Well, Ortiz winning didn't point toward Major winners, but they piled up behind him: Johnson shared second with Hideki Matsuyama, Koepka was tied fifth, Jason Day tied seventh.

That's four men who hit the ball a long way, whose ball flight is high, who hit long irons well, who have sharp short games, and who know how to win Majors.

Of a similar ilk and in this week's field would be Adam ScottPatrick Reed and Gary Woodland.

Texas specialists

There are plenty of golfers who just love playing golf in the Lone Star State.

Charley Hoffman is fairly pre-eminent among that group and the Californian native's fondness is not based on decent form at one or two courses - instead he proves himself a Texan Ranger time and time again.

In all, he has made 58 Korn Ferry and PGA Tour starts in the state across the last 21 years. 56 of those appearances were strokeplay and he's missed only seven cuts which is stunning consistency.

He's landed a top 10 in a quarter of his starts, a top five in 14% of them and he's won on both the second tier and in the PGA Tour's Texas Open.

When this course was used last year for the first time he finished T29th and in 2021 he has played Texas twice, finishing second at the Texas Open and tied third in the Charles Schwab Challenge.

England's Tyrrell Hatton has less experience of playing in Texas, but what he has seen he's liked.

His World Golf Championship Dell Technologies Match Play record is a little ordinary from four visits, but he finished tied eighth at the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2019 and his only other stroke play start in Texas was when tied seventh here last year.

Take the hint that he is playing this week ahead of next week's DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He likes that event and it is lucrative so he'll be playing this week because he wants to.

The form man

Is there a good chance this is a perfect fit for Sam Burns to continue his rise in the game?

The 25-year-old from Shreveport, Louisiana enjoyed a stellar 2020/21 season and has maintained that form into the new campaign.

This time last year he twice got himself bang in the hunt at the close of events and he did it twice again early in 2021. He didn't convert the win but he was learning and proved it with victory in the Valspar Championship in May.

He rattled off plenty of good finishes through the summer, including among elite company at the WGC St Jude Invitational and in the FedExCup Playoffs, before winning the Sanderson Farms Championship to kick off 2021/22 in perfect style.

Within all that good golf are some great omens for this week.

The two wins came on Bermuda grass (which Memorial Park has), at Innisbrook ad Jackson. So, too, did play-off defeat in the St Jude.

The last time he was in Texas? He led the Byron Nelson Championship through 54 holes before finishing second.

And course form? Last year he was (again) the 54 hole leader. A final round 72 saw him end the week tied seventh, but it was one of the lesson learned.

He's a more rounded and confident golfer now and can get into contention again.

READ MORE: Snakes and ladders: AVIV Dubai Championship is the last regular European Tour event of 2021 season

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