Beyond Carlos Ortiz’s impressive first PGA Tour victory, the Vivint Houston Open delivered another hard-to-ignore element:
Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama look ready for the Masters.
That’s part of what playing in Houston is about – putting the finishing touches on pre-Masters prep, which is significantly different in this COVID-interrupted year.
For Johnson (No. 1 in the world), Koepka (No. 12) and Matsuyama (No. 20), top-five finishes at redone Memorial Park reinforced premonitions that one of them could be wearing a green jacket Sunday evening in Augusta.
Johnson was returning to action after stepping away following a positive COVID-19 test and he looked every bit the part of an Augusta contender. After a flat opening round, Johnson finished 66-66-65 in Houston and was tied for the lead until Ortiz separated himself with two closing birdies.
“(I’m) seeing a lot of similarities of how I was playing back when I was playing really well a couple months ago,” Johnson said in Houston.
Matsuyama, whose final-round 63 earned him a tie for second with Johnson behind Ortiz, has played steadily in the early part of the wraparound season but he will be trying to post his first top-10 finish in a major since a T5 in the 2017 PGA Championship.
“My game is getting better and it's definitely going to give me a lot of confidence going forward,” Matsuyama said.
For Koepka, trying to play himself back into form after battling injury issues for the past year, his fifth-place finish sends him to Augusta with good vibes.
Koepka changed drivers after the first two rounds, putting his old driver back in the bag on the weekend, and it seemed to flip a switch for him.
“The first two days, it’s a shame I put in a new driver. Never should have done that, probably cost me the tournament, but at the same time playing well ... just got to play well next week,” Koepka said.
As for how much Memorial Park played like Augusta National, well, it was more about the competition than the playing conditions.
“I think the greens, how quick they are, it’s nice to go into next week,” Koepka said. “Other than that, it doesn’t really resemble Augusta. There's not really much you could use here that you’re going to use around Augusta. Augusta’s a little bit more lush and the fairways are quite a bit wider, but it is what it is.”
Ron Green Jr.