To play or not to play, that is the question for Golf's top players ahead of the Masters

Rest up or tune up?

To play or not to play, that is the question for Golf's top players ahead of the Masters

That’s the now-traditional poser facing golf’s top players in the week before the Masters.

And they remain pretty much divided, with around half of the top 50 players in the current FedExCup standings teeing off at the Shell Houston Open today.

It’s 10 years since the tournament moved from its late April start date to become the Masters warm-up.

“We felt like that gave us a fighting chance to be a week before Augusta. Some guys like to play their way in. We were thinking specifically about Phil,” tournament director Steve Timms told The Golf Channel this week.

He meant Phil Mickelson, whose policy of playing his way into Masters form has earned him three green jackets and six other top-three finishes.

Angel Cabrera (2009) and Charl Schwartzel (2011) also followed that route to Masters success.

On the other hand, Tiger Woods has never played the week before the Masters and won four.

Reigning Masters champion Jordan Spieth is another who believes in staying busy. He lost in a play-off to JB Holmes last year before winning at Augusta and returns this year.

It helps, no doubt, that the Houston Open sells itself as a Masters primer, with the rough closely shaved and the greens attempting to mimic the speeds of Augusta National. The course will also be mown in the same direction as the fairways and rough at Augusta.

“Now it’s become our identity,’’ Timms said. ‘”And we’ve had the good fortune of having a number of players that have played here and won the next week.’’

It is also the last chance for players to earn an invite to Augusta National. Whoever wins this week will find themselves in the field to contest the green jacket next week.

Recent WGC-Dell Match Play Championship winner Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson join Spieth and Mickelson in a strong field that includes nine past champions in the event.

Recalling his 2015 win, Holmes said “That day just started off great. I birdied the first five holes out, was seven under through nine and nine under, I think, through 12 and I was just fortunate enough to come out on top.”

Spieth will be joined by a familiar face with his room-mate Kramer Hickok making his PGA Tour debut after coming through the qualifier on Monday.

Hickok and Spieth are friends from Dallas and the former caddied for the latter at the 2011 Byron Nelson Championship.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood wants the chance to captain Europe at the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits after saying he has only another two to three years left as a player.

“I’d like to go on a little longer,” Westwood.

“Two or three years, then think about the Ryder Cup captaincy.

“If I put my name in for the captaincy in four years’ time then I can think about joining the Seniors Tour after that.”

Westwood is keen to play in September’s Ryder Cup in Hazeltine, Minnesota but has reassured current captain Darren Clarke he need not worry their friendship would be damaged if he was not selected due to poor form.

“Hazeltine is in my mind for different reasons and naturally I want to play,” he said.

“But I read somewhere that Darren is worried about friendships and making picks. I can put his mind at rest.

“Your past record only counts if you are playing well. I’d say to Darren, even before he contemplated it, not to select me if I wasn’t playing well.”

“My goal is to qualify — you only need one or two good weeks and you’re right in there,” he said.

“If not, I’m happy to go along and get some captaincy experience as vice-captain.

“When you’ve played in nine Ryder Cups you’ve got the respect of the players and you feel you can help.”

Sorenstam to captain Europe in 2017 Solheim Cup

Annika Sorenstam has been appointed as Europe’s captain for the 2017 Solheim Cup.

Sorensen was a vice-captain when the US regained the trophy last year in Germany, and she will lead Europe in the next meeting at Des Moines Golf Club in Iowa next August.

The 45-year-old Swede is looking forward to the experience as she looks to help Europe regain the trophy on American soil.

“I can not tell you how excited I am,” Sorenstam said at the press conference yesterday to announce her captaincy during the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in California.

“I had hoped and dreamed that this opportunity would come along and if I look back in my career the Solheim Cup has always been an important part of it. We play as individuals for 99% of the time but when we do get together it is just something special.

“A lot of my memories in my career go back to the Solheim Cup so when I stopped playing I was hoping that I would be able to continue to be involved and getting the chance to be a vice-captain was really eye-opening, but I thought you know what, someday, when I’m ready, I would love to get this opportunity — and I felt that in 2017, I would be ready.

“This is really going to be a lot of fun — certainly a different role than I’m used to but I’m really looking forward to getting to work and getting to know the players.

“It’s all about the competition, it’s all about building memories and that really I think is our goal — to grow the game through the Solheim Cup.

“It’s already started really well but we have got to continue and take advantage of the opportunity we have.”

No player has won more matches for Europe than Sorenstam. Her record of 22 victories is only equalled by Britain’s Laura Davies, but she has played in nine more matches than the Swede.

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