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SHO and Tell: Quotes, Notes from Wednesday

on 28 March 2012.

HUMBLE, Texas—It’s the calm before the storm here at the Shell Houston Open. Scores of amateurs are hacking up The Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club while the PGA Tour pros make their final adjustments.

A handful of notables made their way through the media center today. Here are some highlights:

Fred Couples, the 2003 SHO champion and 1992 Masters champ, says he’ll stick to the Champions Tour after this week and next…

“This is it. I’ll play Augusta next week as a last hurrah, and then I’ll let these guys have their fun and I’ll go play some on the Champions Tour. Hopefully, if I don’t embarrass myself, I’ll get a spot here next year and come back and play. But as far as me thinking I can come out here and compete on this Tour, I just do it to come out and see everyone. I still feel like I can play well, but in the back of my mind… You know, I went to school here, I’ve won here, I played a lot of years here, and they’re very nice to give me a sponsor’s exemption before the Masters.”

Charl Schwartzel finished tied for 30th last year at the SHO. Then he went out the next week and birdied the final four holes at Augusta National to win the Masters. He said he’s “excited” and “nervous” about the return trip to August—but not about defending his title. He’s been thinking a lot about the annual Champions Dinner the night before the first round…

“It is on my mind. It’s something that I’m very excited about and yet very nervous. You’re going to be around legends and past champions in a room. It will probably be the best evening ever in my life, but I’m not quite sure what to expect.”

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champ and European squad Ryder Cup star, says he’s fine with being “under the radar” at the Masters this year…

“No one will expect me to play well next week, but I’ll certainly be expecting to compete if I can chip and putt well. I did hit the ball well there, very well last year. I think I was in the top five in greens in regulation through Friday. But I was going home on Friday night because I didn’t putt very well. Like I say, no one will expect me to compete there next week. Inside, I know I can.”

MARQUEE PAIRINGS

There is a lot of star power grouped together for the first two rounds of the SHO. But none is bigger than the threesome of former Masters champions going off the first tee at 12:40 p.m.

Crowd favorite Phil Mickelson will begin his SHO title defense along with Fred Couples and Charl Shwartzel. The group tees off No. 10 Friday at 7:50 a.m.

Right behind Lefty, Couples and Schwartzel is three-time major champion Ernie Els, 2010 SHO winner Anthony Kim and reigning Waste Management Phoenix Open champ Kyle Stanley. They’re off on No. 1 Thursday at 12:50 p.m., and start on No. 10 Friday at 8 a.m.

The 2009 Masters champ Angel Cabrera, student of Redstone Golf Club’s Director of Golf Charlie Epps, plays the first two rounds with former University of Texas standout Jhonattan Vegas and San Antonio resident Cameron Beckman. They start Thursday on the first tee at 8:20 a.m. They’ll go off No. 10 Friday at 1:10 p.m.

Graeme McDowell, reigning PGA Champion Keegan Bradley and World No. 3 Lee Westwood start Thursday on No. 10 at 7:50 a.m. The power trio starts on No. 1 Friday at 12:40 p.m.

For all the tee times, kindly click here.

THREE FOR THE ROAD

• Defending champ Phil Mickelson is the last player to win on the PGA Tour the week before the Masters and go on to win at Augusta National. Lefty won the 2006 BellSouth Classic before donning his second green jacket.

Steve Stricker, who leads the PGA Tour in birdies-per-round (4.67), has made 46 straight cuts. He looks to extend his Tour-best mark here at the SHO.

Fred Couples, who won last week’s Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on the Champions Tour, has made more consecutive cuts at the SHO than anyone. If makes it to the weekend this year, he’ll improve his record to 19.