Sahith Theegala could prove Scottie Scheffler’s biggest problem in Houston

Rising star can put in big challenge for second PGA Tour title in Texas

Sahith Theegala can underline his reputation as a rising star on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open (Lynne Sladky/AP)

YOU know a sportsperson or team is becoming dominant when bookies start to dangle the ‘without’ markets under the noses of punters.

At the start of the Premier League season the ‘without Manchester City’ betting proved popular, while anyone looking for an interest in F1 races in the last couple of years might well have been looking to punt without Max Verstappen.

And now some firms are starting to introduce betting without Scottie Scheffler, so impressive has he been in his last couple of outings.

With his putter finally starting to behave, Scheffler has been rewarded with the victories his long game has merited, romping to success in the Arnold Palmer Invitational before successfully defending his title at the The Players Championship despite a neck injury.

After a week’s rest, Scheffler is back in action at the Houston Open in his native Texas from Thursday, and clearly he goes to post as a hot favourite, with no bigger than 11/4 on offer.

That price is due to superb form, but also course pedigree at Memorial Park Golf Club, where the world number one set the course record of 62 in 2021, yet could only finish second to Jason Kokrak when the prizes were handed out on Sunday night.

He was ninth a year later when Tony Finau won during his own purple patch, and that was the last Houston Open, held in November 2022.

The switch back to the formerly traditional Spring slot for this event has led to an 18-month gap, and in that time Scheffler has strode further ahead at the top of the world rankings.

And, put simply, if he plays as well as he has been doing he will win again this week, although there is little appeal – or fun – in backing an 11/4 chance, especially with The Masters just a fortnight away and at least some of his focus on being primed to win a second Green Jacket.

Without Scheffler, Wyndham Clark would have picked up a couple more titles in Florida, finishing second at Bay Hill and Sawgrass, when an agonising lip-out on the final green cost the US Open champion a play-off.

He goes to post as a 12/1 chance here and was 16th at Memorial Park 18 months ago, when a rapidly-improving Sahith Theegala was 22nd.

And it is the latter who looks like the best bet in his adopted hometown of Houston this time around.

Memorial Park is a long par-70 that won’t punish errant drives but does put an emphasis on good iron play into undulating greens, and has rewarded the best putters in the three renewals played there.

There are few better on the greens than Theegala, who led the field at Sawgrass in that regard on his way to ninth.

Having previously finished sixth at Bay Hill and fifth at the Phoenix Open, the world number 15′s form is there for all to see, while he warmed to the Memorial Park test as the week went on in 2022, finishing with a best of the day 64 on the Sunday.

Theegala has become a PGA Tour winner since then and the feeling is his second title must just be around the corner, and while Scheffler is a big hurdle to clear this week, he should be backed at 20/1 with Paddy Power.

Alex Noren leads the way in the Nedbank Challenge after a second round of 67 at Sun City yesterday. Picture by PA
Alex Noren can build on a strong Florida Swing by performing well in Houston

Alex Noren also had a strong Florida Swing with ninth at the Cognizant Classic followed by 19th in a high-class field at Sawgrass, and the former European Ryder Cup man should be relishing a return to a venue where he was fourth in 2022.

The Swede is still waiting on a first PGA Tour title after a few near misses, but he is a classy operator who does everything well, and could be a good putting week away from that breakthrough.

Noren is worth backing at 33/1 here, as is Mackenzie Hughes, who went close to winning the Valspar Championship on Sunday night and putted superbly all week.

The Canadian held a share of the lead going into the back nine before a visit to the water saw him fade to third as Peter Malnati ran out an unlikely winner.

If that hasn’t derailed Hughes, he should be an each-way contender as he was seventh at Memorial Park in 2020 and 16th in 2022.

He looks a decent runner at 50/1, while KH Lee could also be worth following at 80s after a couple of strong performances in Florida.

The Korean was fourth at the Cognizant Classic and ninth at Valspar either side of a missed cut at Sawgrass, and he should be excited about moving on to Texas, where he won consecutive Byron Nelson Classics in 2021 and ‘22.

Lee might well prove the pick of the outsiders, and is well worth an each-way interest, with or without Scheffler.


Sahith Theegala, e/w, 20/1 (Paddy Power);

Alex Noren, e/w, 33/1 (General);

Mackenzie Hughes, e/w, 50/1 (William Hill);

KH Lee, e/w, 80/1 (Betway)