Originally created 04/25/06

Course evokes golfers' gripes



HUMBLE, Texas - The Shell Houston Open will move to the weekend before the Masters Tournament next year, a change organizers hope will lure a more star-studded field.

It's not the date, but the course that could keep many away.

The Tournament Course at Redstone, where Stuart Appleby shot 19-under par last weekend to win the event, got a lukewarm response from the players, most of whom were seeing it for the first time.

Vijay Singh won the previous two Houston Opens at the adjacent Jacobsen/Hardy course at Redstone. The event moved to the 7,457-yard Rees Jones layout this year.

Singh said too many of the holes look the same.

"The golf course did not grow on me," said Singh, the 2000 Masters winner. "Normally, the more you play, the more it grows on you. I just hope they go back to the old golf course next year. I think that's the consensus of most of the players."

Bob Estes, who finished second to Appleby, didn't like the distance between holes. The second tee was more than a quarter mile from the first green and though players had carts waiting to shuttle them, Estes said the process backed up play.

"It's just so spread out, the rounds were really long, and that's the downside of it," Estes said.

Appleby led wire-to-wire and won by six shots. Naturally, he liked the course, but said it was not the ideal tuneup for Augusta. But he added that no course really is and said most players only play the week before majors for the competition.

"Certainly, if I play like this next year going into Augusta, I'll have the next event to gain the momentum and the vibe going in," he said.

Others did have compliments for the new course north of Houston, which former PGA champion David Toms helped Jones design.

John Daly, who drew the largest galleries last week despite only tying for 59th, said the new course was more demanding than the old one off the tee.

"The other one, you can rip driver on all the par 4s and par 5s and this one here, you can't," he said. "But I do like it. It's an awesome golf course."

The Houston Open was often played the week before the Masters in the late 1980s and early '90s.

It got the late April time slot in 2003, and tournament director Steve Timms said organizers asked the PGA Tour for a change.