Clarke is a gamble, but a good one

Updated: April 19, 2006, 1:11 PM ET
By John Hawkins | Golf World

After flunking the Florida swing, we're back in business with a win at The Masters and a solo second in Hilton Head. While Jim Furyk was a relatively easy pick at Harbour Town, this week's Shell Houston Open is a blind shot because the tournament moves to Redstone's Tournament Course after three years at the club's bomber-friendly members track.

One obvious pick is Vijay Singh, who has won here three times in four years. Without any venue history to work with, you have to look at a player's form in recent weeks and how often they've been playing. It's also worth noting that the new Redstone layout was designed with input from David Toms, a medium-length hitter who surely had architect Rees Jones plant lots of fairway bunkers in the 300- to 320-yard range.

But I'm going with Darren Clarke. He entered Sunday at The Masters in excellent position but played poorly (77), fading to a T-22. He followed that up with a big fat 76 Thursday, missing the cut at Harbour Town, a tournament he choked away in 2005. Clarke has played in two Houston Opens in his career -- he finished second in 2002 and grabbed a T-4 last year.

Even when he's playing well, Clarke is a gamble. His 3½ seasons on tour have been frighteningly inconsistent, but he's a talented guy in a weak field. I think he'll see this week as a chance to get his spring moving in the right direction.

John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.

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