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BlogHonda Classic Preview and Picks

Honda Classic

February 26 – March 1, 2015

PGA National Resort (Champion Course)

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,140

Purse: $6.1 million

with $1,098,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Russell Henley

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 26 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with only four players form the top-ten: #1 Rory McIlroy, #6 Sergio Garcia,  #8 Justin Rose and #10 Martin Kaymer. The other top 50 players are #12 Rickie Fowler, #14 Hideki Matsuyama, #15 Dustin Johnson, #16 Patrick Reed, #17 Victor Dubuisson, #18 Billy Horschel, #19 Phil Mickelson, #20 Brooks Koepka, #21 Graeme McDowell, #22 Chris Kirk, #23 Zach Johnson, #26 Jamie Donaldson, #27 Lee Westwood, #28 Ryan Palmer #29 Charl Schwartzel, #31 Keegan Bradley, #32 Stephen Gallacher, #36 Ian Poulter, #37 Joost Luiten, #43 Thomas Bjorn, #34 Louis Oosthuizen and #47 Jason Dufner.

Last year there was also 26 top-50 in the field.

The field includes 12 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2015.  Those players are #3 Robert Streb, #4 Sang-Moon Bae, #9 Hideki Matsuyama, #10 Brooks Koepka, #11 Patrick Reed, #13 Ben Martin, #15 Shawn Stefani, #16 Scott Piercy, #17 Harris English, #18 Nick Watney, #21 Brendon de Jonge and #25 Brendan Steele.

The field includes 13 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #4 Sang-Moon Bae, #6 Robert Streb, #8 Hideki Matsuyama, #9 Brooks Koepka, #12 Ben Martin, #13 Patrick Reed, #15 Nick Watney, #16 Shawn Stefani, #17 Scott Piercy, #19 Harris English, #22 Gary Woodland, #23 Dustin Johnson and #25 Sergio Garcia.

The field includes 12 past champions: Russell Henley (2014), Michael Thompson (2013), Rory McIlroy (2012), Rory Sabbatini (2011), Camilo Villegas (2010), Y.E. Yang (2009), Ernie Els (2008), Mark Wilson (2007), Luke Donald (2006), Padraig Harrington (2005), Dudley Hart (2000) and Vijay Singh (1999).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Honda field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Honda in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Honda.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

 

**NOTE**

We have made a lot of changes in Golfstats and one of the biggest is that every on-going event gets updated every hour.  It’s not real time scoring, but after each day you will see our database change.  This will help look at things like good scores in a row and how each player does after every round.

Another change is our new feature, “Who will win on Sunday”.  Just like our previews, this will not only preview the final round but also look at players who shoud win.  All of these will enhance GOLFstats and encourage you to check our stuff over the weekend and during play.

Another thing to look for in the next couple of weeks is 24/7 Golf.  This is a new app that you can get with your Iphone so that you can take a lot of GOLFstats which you when your away from your computer.

So join us a couple of hours after play on Saturday night or Sunday morning for our “Who will win on Sunday” feature in which you can see who shall win during the final nine.

 

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Honda Classic

Player Northern Trust AT&T Pebble Farmers Malaysian Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Humana Qatar Masters Sony Open Abu Dhabi Hyundai T of C South African
Nick Watney
(200.33 pts)
T22
(28)
2
(100)
T7
(55)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 14
(24)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Harris English
(200 pts)
T30
(20)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP
Dustin Johnson
(170 pts)
T2
(100)
T4
(80)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(166.67 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP T78
(0)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP
Rory McIlroy
(154.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP DNP
Brendan Steele
(123.67 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP T45
(5)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Alex Prugh
(123.33 pts)
T30
(20)
T10
(40)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP T64
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Martin Kaymer
(113.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP 3
(60)
DNP DNP
Keegan Bradley
(112.33 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP T41
(9)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP T48
(1.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Daniel Berger
(110.67 pts)
DNP T10
(40)
T24
(26)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Ryan Palmer
(105.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP DNP
Scott Stallings
(105.33 pts)
66
(0)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP
Lee Westwood
(100 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Justin Thomas
(97.67 pts)
T41
(9)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP
Brooks Koepka
(97 pts)
DNP DNP T41
(9)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Paul Casey
(96.67 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Graham Delaet
(93.33 pts)
T8
(50)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Patrick Reed
(89 pts)
DNP T29
(21)
DNP DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP T24
(17.33)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP
Charles Howell III
(86 pts)
T61
(0)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP T71
(0)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP DNP
Sang-Moon Bae
(81.33 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP T32
(18)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T51
(0)
DNP 6
(20)
DNP
Colt Knost
(80.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T41
(9)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP DNP
Shawn Stefani
(76.67 pts)
T56
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP
Sergio Garcia
(76 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Charlie Beljan
(73.33 pts)
T69
(0)
3
(90)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
William McGirt
(71.67 pts)
T14
(36)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP T30
(13.33)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T71
(0)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Honda Classic

Player Northern Trust AT&T Pebble Farmers Malaysian Phoenix Open Dubai Desert Humana Qatar Masters Sony Open Abu Dhabi Hyundai T of C South African
Jim Renner
(-50 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Derek Ernst
(-43.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Tim Wilkinson
(-40 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Mike Weir
(-38.33 pts)
WD
(-5)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ryo Ishikawa
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Woody Austin
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Scott Brown
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
62
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Brice Garnett
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Robert Allenby
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Kevin Kisner
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 84
(0)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

What a great west coast swing.  To bad that Dustin Johnson couldn’t of won, if he did it would of been the most marquee west coast swing since 2005  For James Hahn it’s a big bonanza.  He moves up from 297th in the world rankings to 86 and with it will be looking for another great finish to get him into the top-50.  That gets him into the WGC-Match Play, U.S. Open, British Open and WGC-Bridgestone.  The good news for Hahn he gets into these events: 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2015 Masters Tournament, 2015 RBC Heritage, 2015 Players Championship, 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, 2015 Memorial Tournament, 2015 PGA Championship and 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

While Hahn is happy for Paul Casey losing the playoff did move him from 85 to 65 in the rankings.  But that leaves him short for getting into the WGC-Cadillac in a couple of weeks and he is still knocking on the door for a return trip to Augusta.  So he also will be looking for a good finish on the Florida swing.

For me it feels a bit weird not having the Match Play end the west coast swing, but it makes sense on it’s placement.  Having the week before the Players will give more European players an excuse to play in the Players, making a two week swing through the Match Play, which is in San Francisco and then the Players in Florida.

Tour moves from west to east

So the 7 week west coast swing is finished and the tour moves east playing the next four weeks in Florida and Puerto Rico.  It’s like night and day, with the difference in weather and grasses we will see more folks with Florida roots winning and those that grew up and learned to play on Bermuda grasses will shine.  Also those that play well in wind will have their day as it tends to be very windy on the Florida swing.  This is also the final stretch run toward the Masters which is six weeks away.  With that the only players that can qualify for the Masters are the winners of the next six events and those that fight there way into the top-50 by the end of the Valero Texas Open.  It may seem hard to believe but for the FedEx Cup series the year is a third finish, time flies fast.

Things you need to know about the Honda Classic

This will be the 43rd Honda Classic.  The tournament got started in 1972 as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic and was played at Inverrary Golf & C.C. in Lauderhill, Florida.  In 1981 Jackie Gleason was dropped from the tournament and the following year Honda came aboard as the tournament sponsor, today they are the longest running sponsor on the PGA Tour. After playing at several courses for 15 years, the tournament switched courses again in 2007. This time to the Champion Course at PGA National, site of the 1987 PGA Championship.  It became an instant success and has upgraded the tournament with more marquee and higher ranked players attending. In 1976 the Players Championship, which back then moved around to different courses, chose Inverrary Golf & C.C., and the Inverrary Classic wasn’t played that year.  The event is the first event in the Florida swing.

Course information:

  • PGA National (Champion Course)
  • Palm Beach Gardens, Fl.
  • 7,140 yards     Par 35-35–70
  • Course has a 75.3 rating and slope rating of 147 fron the championship tees. The course is part of a resort and is open to those that stay at the course.  It also sells local memberships.
  • In 2014 the Champion was the 17th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 70.408 average.  Because of the lack of wind and perfect weather all four days, it played the easiest it ever has since joining the tour in 2007.
  • In 2013 the Champion was the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 71.318 average making it the hardest non-major course on the PGA Tour last year.
  • Course has 78 bunkers and 26 water hazards in which 13 holes have water in play for the professionals.
  • Originally designed by George and Tom Fazio and opened in 1981, Jack Nicklaus redesigned the Champion in 1990, adding the feared “Bear Trap” grouping of holes 15, 16 and 17. In the summer of 2013, The Champion underwent an entire bunker renovation with Nicklaus Design.
  • The average size of the greens is 6,400 square feet.  The most famous part of the course is the “Bear Trap”, holes 15, 16 and 17, two par 3s and a par 4 that will bring a lot of drama and excitement to the finish of the tournament.  The 18th hole also creates a lot of drama, it’s a long par 5 that is close to impossible to hit in two, it’s a true par 5.
  • PGA National has a lot of experience holding golf tournaments.  Along with the last eight Honda Classic’s, it’s held the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship and was home to 18 Senior PGA Championships.  It also been the site of the 1982 PGA Grand Slam of Golf, the PGA Junior Championships from 1980-1987, 1989-1992, and 1994-2000 and the PGA Club Professional Championships in 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1993

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Honda Classic:

Key stat for the winner:

The tour moves from the west coast to Florida for the next four weeks. Look for a lot of different things as the difference between playing in California/Arizona/Hawaii is like night and day compared to playing in Florida. There is a special breed of player that does better on Bermuda than bent.

At the Honda and PGA National, historically all of the winners have some connection to playing well on Bermuda by either being born in Florida, South Africa or Australia or have moved to the Southeast like Michael Thompson who lives in Birmingham, Alabama or Y.E. Yang who lives in Dallas.  There is also a connection with those like past champions Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas and Rory McIlroy who have homes Jupiter, Florida.  Even guys like 2007 winner Mark Wilson, who was born in Wisconsin and lives in Illinois has a connection.  His is going to school in North Carolina, so you can see why his five PGA Tour has been on Bermuda courses in Florida, Mexico, Hawaii, Phoenix and Palm Springs.  Last year’s winner Russell Henley grew up in Macon, Georgia and lives on Kiawah Island which could understand why his two PGA Tour and three Web.Com tour wins are on courses with Bermuda grass.  So look for players with that Bermuda connections.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

Unbelievable and really weird stat:

PGA National is a typical Florida course with lots of water and sand, look for scores to be a bit high especially if the win blows.  This will be the first time players see Bermuda fairways, rough and greens on the year, so it will take some getting use to.

Accuracy is going to play the key over distance.  The Champions course is lined with tight undulating fairways that is surrounded with water and sand not only along the fairways but in the middle of several of the fairways. Hitting greens is very important, since moving to PGA National in 2007 six of the eight winners and eight of the thirteen runner-ups at Champions were ranked in the top-ten in greens hit.

Very tough par 4s at PGA National, Mark Wilson was 4 under in ’07, Ernie Els was 2 under in ’08, Y.E. Yang was 6 under in ’09 while Camilo Villegas was 9 under par in ’10. Keeping trend going was Rory Sabbatini in 2011 playing them in 7 under, but showing that they are tough was Rory McIlroy who was only 3 under in 2012, Michael Thompson who was only 2 under on them in 2013 and Russell Henley who was 6 under last year.

Good putting and scrambling.  The greens are very big and have lots of contours so the winner will be a very good lag putter.

Interesting to note that 12 of the last 21 winners of the Honda are those that are either born Floridians or now live in Florida (including 2012 winner Rory McIlroy, who bought a house down the road in Jupiter).  A perfect example is 2006 champion, Luke Donald.  Even though he was born in Great Britian and spent a good part of his time in Chicago, he has a house just a couple of miles away.  Look for that kind of a connection in the winner.  We don’t count 2013 winner Michael Thompson on our list but he lives in Birmingham, Alabama so he has to deal all the time with Bermuda when he is home.  The same with last year’s winner Russell Henley who lives in Kiawah Island, South Carolina and again with have a bermuda connection.

Good bunker player since there are a lot of strategically placed bunkers on the course.

Look for those that play good in wind, just look at 2005 champion Padraig Harrington, don’t think there is anybody better qualified after learning to play golf in Ireland.  It could be quite windy this time of year and the course is susceptible to winds so look for a good wind player.  The good news wind shouldn’t be a problem the first part of the tournament, but there is a 50% chance of rain on Thursday, 30% chance on Friday, 20% on Saturday and it’s suppose to perfect on Sunday. But the bad news is that winds will blow 17 mph on Saturday and 14 mph on Sunday, that will play havoc.  So look at those that have a good reputation as wind players for the weekend.

 

 

Who to watch for at the Honda Classic

Best Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T2 WD Win T70 T40 T13

Week in and week out always seems to give a good performance. Rory is a lot like Tiger was a decade ago, you always knew he would find a way to content. The big surprise is when he doesn’t get himself in contention, but I don’t see that happening this week.

Sergio Garcia

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 T50 T13 T43

Showed us a lot last week in L.A. Despite a really poor game, was still able to come close. His only problem, he has that Greg Norman stench on him in which Garcia can’t seem to close the deal.

Keegan Bradley

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T12 T4 T12 CUT

Good record at this event, another of those guys that does well on courses with Bermuda.

Best of the rest:

Martin Kaymer

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT T51

Watch him carefully this week, game could be sharp after finishing 3rd in Abu Dhabi and T4th at Dubai.

Paul Casey

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T12 CUT T4

Still looking for a ticket to play at Augusta and Doral, this is his last shot at playing at the Cadillac next week. Game is good and has a good record in this event.

Graeme McDowell

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T46 T9 T9 T6 T31 T65

Look for him to settle in after a year of having a child. Has played well at PGA Nationals with top-tens the last three years.

Hideki Matsuyama

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
WD

Watch him, he was only a shot back of the playoff last week in L.A. and playing well.

Brooks Koepka

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T33

Could he knock on the door again in winning? Course is good for him and I see him contending.

Solid contenders

Ryan Palmer

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T2 T41 T26 CUT T52 CUT T34 T30

Has won three times on courses with palm trees and Bermuda. Look for a good week from him.

Luke Donald

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 T10 2 T46 Win T21

Has had a terrible year, still think he will break out of it, could that come this week?

Dustin Johnson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T46 CUT

His game has drastically gotten better in the three starts he has made, I just don’t think this is the right venue for him. In all six of his rounds he has been over par five times so maybe this just isn’t a place for him.

Justin Rose

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T4 T5 3 CUT T15 T14 T36 T57

Another marquee name I don’t like this week, seems to still be having lingering injuries as his game is not very sharp

Long shots that could come through:

Freddie Jacobsen

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
First time playing in this event

In his first two starts in 2009 & ’10 finished T5th and T6th. Has played ok in 2015.

Russell Knox

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T2

Another converted European that lives in Florida, plays well on Bermuda and came close to winning last year.

Will MacKenzie

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T6 T12 T5 T65 T22 CUT

First start since November due to an injury to his left hand, has a good record in this event which could play in his favor.

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