This week's tournament: Shell Houston Open.
Horse for the Course
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Chris Kirk. Most people have forgotten that last year he was the only guy who shot in the 60s all four rounds at this tournament. This year he's made five out of seven cuts and already has a top-10 finish in the bag. Not bad for a guy in his second year on tour.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson. Last year at the Shell Houston Open, Mickelson had rounds of 63 and 65 on the weekend at the Redstone GC Tournament Course on his way to a three-shot win.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Johnson Wagner. One of his two PGA Tour victories came at the Shell Houston Open, and Wagner is coming off a nice tournament at Bay Hill in which he was among the leaders.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Steve Stricker. Who needs to play often to stay in competitive form? Stricker has teed it up only four times so far this year on the PGA Tour yet owns three top-10s, including a win. Four of his last five starts at the Shell Houston Open provided finishes of T-11 or better.
Michael Collins: Padraig Harrington. OK, he's had enough time to lick his wounds after dropping a bomb in the first round of Transitions, a 10-under 61, where said bomb exploded on the rest of his game for the week after finishing tied for 20th. He's had a week off and comes back to a place he finished eighth last year.
Farrell Evans: Johnson Wagner. Since getting his maiden PGA Tour win in 2008 at the Shell Houston Open, the 32-year-old former Virginia Tech star has added two more wins, including the Sony Open in January. At Bay Hill, he earned his fourth top-10 of the year with a tie for fourth. Wagner is ranked first in the FedEx Cup standings.
Bob Harig: Graeme McDowell. His second-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which he shot 63 on Friday but couldn't quite hang with Tiger Woods on Sunday, came amid some difficult conditions.
Kevin Maguire: Justin Rose. The Englishman found a nice bit of form of late, including a victory at Doral a couple of weeks ago. Expect him to be on many short lists for contenders at Augusta in a week's time.
Michael Collins: Brian Harman. He told me on the practice green on Saturday after his round that the only way the tour is going get rid of him is with a gun, and even then. ... He then proceeded to tie for the low round on Sunday (68) in conditions he's going to see this week in Houston. Don't worry, Brian, the tour ain't getting rid of you anytime soon.
Farrell Evans: Bud Cauley. At Bay Hill, the 22-year-old rookie had his first top-10 of the year with a tie for fourth. That good showing came a week after the former Alabama star had a T-16 at the Transitions Championship.
Bob Harig: Fred Couples. Houston is his adopted hometown, and his last PGA Tour victory came at this event nine years ago. It's a lot to ask for a Champions Tour player to win, but Couples is playing well, having just captured the senior event in Mississippi.
Kevin Maguire: Anthony Kim. He's a previous champion at this event not so long ago (2010) and did start well at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week with a 69. We'll pass over how he played the rest of the week (74-72-83) at Bay Hill and just focus on the positives of his second made cut of the year.
Michael Collins: Lee Westwood. So many close calls at Augusta, and now he's going to a course that is set up to mimic it. Last year he finished tied for 30th in Houston. This year he does his impression of Phil Mickelson & win the Shell Houston Open and then not win at Augusta.
Farrell Evans: Hunter Mahan. The 29-year-old former Oklahoma State star beat Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 in February at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Last year he tied for eighth in Houston. In 2009, he had a tie for sixth at the tournament, one week before he earned his first top-10 at the Masters.
Bob Harig: Ernie Els. This is undoubtedly a sentimental pick. With a Masters exemption apparently not forthcoming, Els' only way into next week's tournament is to win in Houston. He has not played particularly well in the event, but he's had a nice run of recent success. It would be the feel-good story of Masters week if he pulled it off.
Kevin Maguire: Ben Crane.
Keeping with the theme of no repeat winners so far this year on the PGA Tour, look for Crane to pick up the win in Humble, Texas, as he's playing with house money. Why? He snuck into next week's Masters field after being No. 49 in the world rankings after Bay Hill.