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BlogWho will win the Honda on Sunday?

Honda Classic

February 27 – March 2, 2014

PGA National Champion Course

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,110

Purse: $6 Million

with $1,080,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Michael Thompson

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

Things you need to know for Sunday’s final round at the Honda:

Is anyone surprised at Rory McIlroy’s great play this week?

I know that I’m not surprised.  Last year was all about a 23 year-old with a boat-load of money, raging hormones chasing after a tennis star.  His mind was preoccupied with all of that and golf took a back seat and it showed.  Yes he finished 2nd at the Valero Texas Open but in the majors and big events he was terrible, until he missed the cut at the British Open.  Since then he showed steady improvement and with his win at the Australian Open showed that his game was back and he is ready.  McIlroy came close in Abu Dhabi and then mysteriously feel flat in the final round at Dubai, but he was sick that week.  Yes he lost in the second round of the Accenture, but he played great in his 19 hole defeat against Harris English.

So what looks great about McIlroy’s game?

It all has to do with confidence in himself and a bit of cockiness. In watching him strut between shots look at his quick pace, how his mind is on the next shot, how failure is never around and how he knows exactly what needs to get done and achieves it.  We have seen it on other players this year, but when you see it from Jimmy Walker it’s when he is in the groove and everything is going his way.  For players like McIlroy and Tiger in his prime, you see this every time they tee it up.  I will be shocked if McIlroy doesn’t win a major this year, matter of fact I can see him winning two and five other events.  If McIlroy is healthy, he will dominate just about every time he tees it up.  The most important thing about him is that he gets better with each shot and his confidence and skill level goes to new heights.

So why is McIlroy playing well this week?

First this course is perfect for him, he has a special confidence on this course.  One of the reasons is the Champion Course at PGA National is one of the toughest they play.  Last year it was the toughest course that didn’t hold a major.  McIlroy’s game shines on these kind of courses.  There isn’t any one stat that shows his good play this week.  He is 4th in strokes gained putting, but if you look he is near flawless inside of ten feet.  McIlroy is T14th in greens hit, a stat that shows his game is doing well.  McIlroy is taking a page from Tiger Woods playbook, doing well on par 5s.  The Champion course only has two and in the six times he has played them, made five birdies and one par.  Another thing that McIlroy is doing great is playing the Bear-trap in 3 under.  It’s surprising that he isn’t the best this week, but Russell Knox, who is in third place is also 3 under with not bogeys.

Can anyone catch McIlroy?

Yes, nobody is flawless, even Tiger Woods blew the third round lead to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship.  One thing you will see is the stat that McIlroy has won three times with the third round lead, the last time he lost was at the Masters in 2011.  The stat is really four, if you look at this chart on GolfStats, he also led the 2012 DP World Tour Championship and won it, so it’s four in a row and on both the PGA Tour and European Tour he has won five times with eight third round leads/co-leads.

But back to the question, could McIlroy shot 71 or 72 on Sunday, yes.  If that happens he could lose, someone could shot 64 or 63 (Tiger is seven back) and shot past McIlroy.  I don’t see that happen, I think McIlroy will shot 68 or 69 on Sunday which means that a Russill Henley, who is two back needs a 66 or 67.  Russell Know, who is three back would need to shot 65 or 66.  And going down the list I can’t see Jhonattan Vegas, who has shot 66 the last two rounds doing that again on Sunday.  So the bottom line, it’s in McIlroy’s hands.

If McIlroy flatters could the two Russell’s, Henley and Knox win?

Henley won last year at the Sony Open in Hawaii, but it was totally different.  He was in the lead after the third round played one of those dream final rounds.  He won in his first start as a full-time PGA Tour member, something that doesn’t happen much.  In looking at Golfstats, Henley doesn’t have any kind of track record close to the lead, yes he won at the Sony Open but look how he faltered to a 77 at the Wells Fargo.

Think that Henley won’t have the experience to handle Sunday.  The same with Russell Knox look at how he has done close to the lead.  Not bad but your really didn’t see him in contention.  This is the first time he has been in true contention going into the final round of a PGA Tour event.  He did it on the Web.Com Tour, but was that experience enough to carry him through Sunday?  Probably not.

So who will put the heat on McIlroy?

Probably comes from Tiger, he could shot another 65 but he is too far back. Could it come from Stuart Appleby, Keegan Bradley or Luke Donald who are at 7 under, five back.  Maybe.  That’s why I really think that McIlroy is in the drivers seat on Sunday, don’t see anybody putting true heat on him.

So how far back is too far back?

I can’t see anyone worst than 7 under having much of a chance.  That’s because I don’t see McIlroy shooting worst than 70, those at 7 under would need to shot 65 just to tie McIlroy.  The odds are too high for something like that happening.

Below is a list of the top-23 players on the leader board going to 5 under showing how they have done of late to see who has played the best:

Of the top-23 on the leaderboard, who’s playing the best?

Player Northern Trust AT&T Pebble Joburg Open Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Farmers Insurance Qatar Masters Humana Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open Volvo Golf WGC-Accenture Hyundai T of C
Zach Johnson
(116.17 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(30)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP T33
(25.5)
Win
(44)
Rory McIlroy
(112.83 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T17
(49.5)
DNP
Thomas Bjorn
(94.17 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP T10
(13.33)
T17
(49.5)
DNP
Matt Every
(91 pts)
T6
(60)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T37
(8.67)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Cameron Tringale
(88.67 pts)
T12
(38)
T13
(24.67)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP T38
(4)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Keegan Bradley
(82.17 pts)
T20
(30)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T16
(22.67)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(25.5)
DNP
Will MacKenzie
(70.33 pts)
T52
(0)
T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Ryan Palmer
(63.33 pts)
DNP T32
(12)
DNP T48
(1.33)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Brian Stuard
(48 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T53
(0)
DNP T28
(14.67)
DNP 5
(23.33)
DNP 6
(20)
DNP DNP DNP
Russell Knox
(41 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T27
(15.33)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Daniel Summerhays
(36.33 pts)
T29
(21)
T19
(20.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T58
(0)
DNP T46
(1.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Stuart Appleby
(34.67 pts)
T45
(5)
T35
(10)
DNP DNP DNP T43
(4.67)
DNP T9
(15)
DNP T65
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Luke Guthrie
(32 pts)
T40
(10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T23
(18)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Luke Donald
(29.83 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP T33
(25.5)
DNP
David Lingmerth
(25 pts)
T29
(21)
DNP DNP T42
(5.33)
DNP T47
(2)
DNP T78
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Of those in the top-23, who isn’t playing well coming into this week?

Player Northern Trust AT&T Pebble Joburg Open Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Farmers Insurance Qatar Masters Humana Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open Volvo Golf WGC-Accenture Hyundai T of C
Ted Potter, Jr.
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Nicholas Thompson
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T71
(0)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Freddie Jacobson
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP WD
(-3.33)
DNP T76
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Russell Henley
(-15.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T52
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP 27
(7.67)
Billy Hurley III
(0.67 pts)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T38
(4)
DNP DNP DNP
Tiger Woods
(6 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T41
(6)
T80
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jhonattan Vegas
(11.33 pts)
T40
(10)
DNP DNP T48
(1.33)
DNP T59
(0)
DNP 84
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rory Sabbatini
(12 pts)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T23
(18)
DNP T38
(4)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

In conclusion:

I can see only one player winning this and it’s Rory McIlroy.  He is too solid and playing a course that he does well on.  You can bet the farm on McIlroy coming through.

There is also a lot at stake, a victory for McIlroy puts him in a good frame of mind to win next week at Doral and then get ready for the Masters.  That has to be very high on his mind, he wants to make up for his terrible final nine holes from 2011 and this is all of prelude to all of that.  Each good hole builds up McIlroy’s confidence level to the point of like it was with Tiger Woods, players just give up and play for second place.

Another important stat, that probably doesn’t mean much but should be mention is that in the seven years this event has been held at PGA National, six of the seven third round leaders won and the winner that didn’t have the third round lead was Ernie Els in 2008.

 

Who should win the Honda on Sunday?

Best Bet:

Rory McIlroy

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
WD Win T70 T40 T13

He is in the drivers seat, can’t see him losing because those close to him have not been in the position to win in the past and don’t see this happening this week

Why they won’t win:

Russell Henley

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T13

Saturday was a day of a lot of long putts and holing out from the fairway. Think that he used up too much of that pixie dust on Saturday.

Russell Knox

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
First time playing in this event

Never been in this position, hard to win with no experience.  Also playing this event for the first time.

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
First time playing in this event

Who could back themselves into a win:

Luke Donald

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T10 2 T46 Win T21 T30

Has been in this position before, the big question since he’s five back can he shot 65?

Keegan Bradley

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T4 T12 CUT

I can see him shooting 64, he has the game to go low and could surprise a lot of folks.

Stuart Appleby

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T21 T10 T67 CUT CUT

Been a while for him, but remember his last win at Greenbrier? Shot a final round 59 to win. Can’t see him shooting 59 on this course but he could shot a 64 and if McIlroy stumbles, Appleby will back into another win.

Will another 65 be enough?

Tiger Woods

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T37 T2

His game seems to be better with each round, so he could do it again.  But a 65 doesn’t do the deal,   he has to shot 63 on Sunday.  That’s the only chance he will have against McIlroy, we haven’t seen Tiger make up seven shots in….. Yes it’s never been done by Tiger.

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