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BlogHonda Classic Preview and Picks

The Honda Classic

February 22nd – 25th, 2018

PGA National Champion Course

Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Par: 70 / Yardage:

Purse: $6.6 million

with $1,188,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Rickie Fowler

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 46 of the top 100 and 21 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with three players form the top-ten: #4 Justin Thomas, #7 Rickie Fowler and #10 Rory McIlroy. The other top 50 players are #11 Sergio Garcia, #12 Tommy Fleetwood, #15 Tyrrell Hatton, #16 Alex Noren, #20 Rafael Cabrera Bello, #21 Brian Harman, #25 Patrick Reed, #26 Gary Woodland, #29 Louis Oosthuizen, #31 Kevin Kisner, #35 Daniel Berger, #38 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, #42 Thomas Pieters, #44 Jason Dufner, #45 Webb Simpson, #47 Dylan Frittelli and #49 Jhonattan Vegas.

Last year there was also 21 top-50 in the field.

The field includes 10 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  Those players are #1 Patton Kizzire, #9 Justin Thomas, #11 Gary Woodland, #13 Brian Harman, #15 Chesson Hadley, #17 Ted Potter, Jr., #22 Andrew Landry, #23 Rickie Fowler, #24 J.J. Spaun, #25 Ryan Armour.

The field includes 8 past champions: Rickie Fowler (2017), Adam Scott (2016), Padraig Harrington (2015 & ’05), Russell Henley (2014), Michael Thompson (2013), Rory McIlroy (2012), Rory Sabbatini (2011), Camilo Villegas (2010) and Luke Donald (2006).

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.

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

Who’s Hot in the field for the The Honda Classic

Player Genesis Open AT&T Pebble Super 6 Perth Phoenix Open Maybank Open Farmers Insurance Dubai Desert Classic CareerBuilder Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open Sentry T of C
Gary Woodland
(184 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP DNP DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
(173.67 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T27
(23)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP
Scott Stallings
(148.67 pts)
T4
(80)
7
(55)
DNP T23
(27)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Rory McIlroy
(146.67 pts)
T20
(30)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(141 pts)
T37
(13)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP
Dylan Frittelli
(130.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP
Alex Noren
(129.67 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP T21
(29)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Patton Kizzire
(124 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T31
(19)
DNP DNP DNP T42
(5.33)
DNP Win
(88)
T15
(11.67)
Justin Thomas
(111.33 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T14
(24)
T22
(9.33)
Ollie Schniederjans
(110 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T3
(90)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP
Ted Potter, Jr.
(108.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T73
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Chesson Hadley
(108.33 pts)
DNP T35
(15)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP T23
(18)
DNP T42
(5.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Sam Saunders
(98 pts)
T26
(24)
T26
(24)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP T25
(16.67)
DNP
Brian Harman
(96.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP T4
(53.33)
3
(30)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(94.67 pts)
T26
(24)
T26
(24)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP DNP
John Huh
(92.67 pts)
T26
(24)
DNP DNP T38
(12)
DNP T45
(3.33)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Brian Gay
(90.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T8
(50)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T42
(5.33)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP
Charles Howell III
(85 pts)
T37
(13)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP T32
(12)
DNP
Tyrrell Hatton
(83.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP
Grayson Murray
(83.33 pts)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP T70
(0)
DNP T75
(0)
DNP T14
(24)
DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
Russell Knox
(79.67 pts)
DNP T15
(35)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T29
(14)
DNP T29
(14)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP
Scott Piercy
(76.67 pts)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP T25
(16.67)
DNP
Ryan Palmer
(76.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP T20
(20)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP
Byeong Hun An
(73.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(27)
DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP DNP
Daniel Berger
(66 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T14
(24)
T11
(13)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player Genesis Open AT&T Pebble Super 6 Perth Phoenix Open Maybank Open Farmers Insurance Dubai Desert Classic CareerBuilder Challenge Abu Dhabi Sony Open Sentry T of C
Tyler Duncan
(-50 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Fabian Gomez
(-43.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Mac Hughes
(-40 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Robert Streb
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP 66
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Billy Hurley III
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T69
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Matt Every
(-36.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP 75
(0)
DNP
Smylie Kaufman
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Danny Lee
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Greg Chalmers
(-33.33 pts)
T68
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Shawn Stefani
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

What a great west coast swing and the start of the season.  In the seven events, all of the winners are in the top-80 of the world rankings with three of them, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Jason Day in the top-ten.  One shocking stat to come at is that of the seven winners, five of them Johnson, Rahm, Day, Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland are long hitters showing that length is getting players more of an advantage.  Now for Patton Kizzire and Ted Potter, Jr, Kizzire does rank 92nd while Potter is 181st.  We saw the return of our star players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, and for Bubba Watson, Jason Day and Gary Woodland it was a welcome back to the winner’s circle after a few years off.  We will discuss Watson a bit later, but for Day he got back to the winners circle after a hard 2017 when he not only was injured most of the year, along with dealing with his mother’s near death from cancer had to endure his wife Ellie suffering from a miscarriage.  As for Woodland, 2017 was a devilish year in which his wife Gabby lost one of the twins that she was carrying.  When the other twin was born, he was 10 weeks premature and went through some tough first weeks before putting on enough weight and being in better shape.

As we left the west coast, two players showed that they could be ready to break out and win very soon, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.  Mickelson finished his west coast swing with three, top-six finishes a T-5th in Phoenix, T-2nd at the AT&T and T-6th at the Genesis.  This is excellent news as we now can hope that he will not only be a factor in the Masters, but he returns to Shinnecock Hills in July, a course he was runner-up at in 2004 and a tournament he needs to win to complete the Grand Slam of golf

Now the dirty little secret about this week’s move from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, just because you played well in January and February doesn’t mean you will play well the next five weeks.  Players will go from lot’s of Poa Annua and plush fairways in the desert too, Bermuda greens and robust Rye rough.  The weather the last seven weeks have been near perfect with very little wind; players will now start to cope with humidity and lots of wind.  Playing courses like Pebble Beach, TPC Scottsdale, Torrey Pines and Riviera will be different than PGA National, Innisbrook and Bay Hill.  Players will have to cope from going from Florida to Mexico and then back to Florida and for many like Rory McIlroy who got sick in Mexico last year they now have to deal with making sure they don’t get any bad food in Mexico.  Things were so bad for McIlroy, who got sick in Mexico last year he is taking a pass on the WGC-Mexico, even though it’s just a notch below a major.

For players like Andrew Landry, Tom Hoge, Brandon Harkins, Alex Cejka, Martin Piller, Peter Uihlein and Beau Hossler they have experienced a great couple of months in Hawaii, Arizona, and California but there are no guarantees that the good times will continue to roll in the months to come.  Just ask Billy Hurley III and Shane Lowry.  Both were in good position after last year’s Genesis to make it onto the PGA Tour for the rest of 2018.  But both struggled and found themselves in the Web.Com Tour playoffs to try and regain their tour cards.

One last thing about this week.  Until last year the tour went to the Honda and the next week went 70 miles down the road to Doral.  It was a perfect arrangement, and many of the top players participated in both events.  Now that Doral has been replaced by Mexico, a lot of players won’t be at the Honda.  The good news, Valspar is showing that they are getting a better field after Mexico so I guess maybe this is good and bad news.

Some thoughts on Bubba

Boy have I heard from you folks over the last couple of days.

I have not been very high on Watson this year, his game has been terrible over the last year and frankly was very surprised to see him winning again.  Watson’s game was so bad that he even thought about retirement, but his wife talked him out of it.  But all of that talk is gone now that he has won again, his tenth PGA Tour victory.  So the big question is, does that mean Bubba is back?  Yes and no.  The thing about Watson, he is a fan favorite because he hits it long and is very creative in some of his shot design.  But let’s face one significant fact about Watson, he is not what you call an overall great player.

Here is why.  He has played in 279 events on the PGA Tour with 57 top-tens with earnings of close to $38 million.  But lets’ break this up, of the $38 million, $11 million or just about 35% of his earnings have come in three events, The Masters, Genesis and Travelers Championship.  Of his ten wins, seven have come in these events along with ten, top-tens.  Now Watson also has an excellent record in World Golf Championship events with earnings of $7.75 million with a win and 11 top-tens.

After these events, the pickings get even thinner.  Yes, he has two wins, nine runner-ups and four top-threes in other events but in the U.S. Open he only has one top-15 finish and missed the cut six times in 11 starts.  At the PGA Championship he was runner-up in 2010 at Whistling Straits and T-11th at Kiawah, but in 11 starts he only has made 7 cuts.  And in the British Open, he probably should save the time and money and not play in it, in 9 starts his best finish was T-23rd, and he has made five cuts.

The point on Bubba is that he is right on certain courses, Augusta National, TPC at River Highlands, Riviera C.C., TPC Scottsdale.  As for the weeks ahead, in 39 Florida starts he has seven top-ten finishes, but unfortunately four of them were at Doral which isn’t on tour anymore.  But he has three top-15s at Bay Hill and frankly the Masters is just right around the block and we have to think he will go to Augusta with a lot of momentum.

Oh for those that think how wrong I was, yes I was wrong on Bubba at Riviera.  But the fact is that even Bubba said that he doesn’t have much shelf life left in him, he feels great for places like Augusta, but you just have to think that he could be ok for the WGC-Mexico and WGC-Dell Match Play but should be very careful in other events.

One last word about Tiger Woods

I was very disappointed in the way Tiger played at Riviera.  Not only was I wrong with Bubba, but I was wrong with Tiger.  Maybe it’s the course; he talked about it in his Tuesday press conference on how he just can’t seem to master the course, hey he is only human.  The facts of his first two starts at Torrey and Riviera is that his driving is terrible, but some good putting and scrambling saved him, until the second round at Riviera in which he missed the cut after shooting 76.  The facts are this; Tiger right now doesn’t look like the Tiger of old, he is struggling with his tee-to-green game.  But the good news is that Tiger it seems he is healthy and has no pain.  No matter how good you are playing, if you’re in pain and are hurt, you can sustain good playing only so far.  But if Tiger is healthy it’s down to him getting enough reps in competition to get better.  Even Tiger admitted that he needs tournament play and it’s good to see him play the Honda.  We will not see him at the two WGC events, but hopefully, he will compete at the Valspar and Bay Hill.  I can say this; if he continues to stay healthy, he will make strides each week and get better.  Can I say he will win the Masters, no.  But I still feel he can contend on the weekend, and if he gets a bit lucky, you never know.

Things you need to know about the Honda Classic

This will be the 46th 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.  A bit strange and nobody will bother to care, but next Monday Gleason would have been the 102 years old.  Most of the players don’t even know who he was and how great the old Honeymooner shows were. Maybe I am old and remember him, he was a hilarious guy and loved golf.  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 1983 Ryder Cup and 1987 PGA Championship.  It became an instant success and had 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
  • The course has a 75.3 rating and slope rating of 147 from 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.
  • Last year PGA National Champions Course played to a 70.58 average and was ranked 16th hardest.  In 2016 it played to a 71,77 average and was ranked the 5th hardest.  The year before it had a 71.83 average, ranking 4th. In 2014 the Champion Course 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 had since joining the tour in 2007.
  • The 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 eleven Honda Classic’s, it’s held the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship and was home to 18 Senior PGA Championships.  It has 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.

Let’s take a look at vital stats that are important for those playing on the PGA National:

This is based on the most important stats for PGA National Champion Course, based on data from last years Honda Classic, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2018. What we do is take their rank for each stat and then add up the four categories.
The scoring average of the field at PGA National in 2017 was 70.56, so with par being 70, that means the average score was a half a shot over par, making PGA National the 18th hardest course to score on in 2017. This was remarkable because the course had winds in the 8 to 20 mph each of the four days. In 2016 the course played to a 71.77 average, fifth hardest and in 2015 it played to a 71.83 average, 4th hardest. Some of the reason for the change, in both ’16 & ’15 winds got into the 25 to 30 mph range, which makes the course tough. This year the weather will be a lot like it was last year perfect with the course playing fast and dry.

In looking at the stats for PGA National last year Greens hit, Rough Proximity to hole and Scambling are essential. Last year the course ranked 15th in greens hit with a 61.15 average. Winner Rickie Fowler was T-18th in greens hit, but the year before winner Adam Scott was 1st in greens hit. Now hitting fairways isn’t that important, the course ranked 28th last year while Fowler was T-17th in fairways hit. But the importance comes when you miss the fairways, the course has very tough Bermuda rough with perennial ryegrass is some of the hardest to get out of, last year the course ranked 7th in getting it close to the hole from the rough, while Fowler had a tough time ranking 30th. Our third stat is scrambling last year PGA National was the 15th hardest on tour while Fowler was T-9th in scrambling.
Last we pick Par Breakers because in the past it’s hard to make a lot of birdies and eagles. Even though last year PGA Tour was T-18th in that stat, it was 8th in 2016 and 5th in 2015, so you can see historically it’s tough. As for winner Rickie Fowler, he was T-1st in par breakers as he made 21 birdies.

Now in looking at our chart of all the players, remember that this week they are moving from the west coast to the east coast with entirely different conditions and grasses, so even though some players didn’t do well in the last seven weeks, things will be different the next five weeks.

SO HERE ARE OUR FOUR CHOICES FOR THE MOST CRITICAL STATS FROM PLAYERS TO DO WELL AT PGA NATIONAL:

*Greens in Regulation: Since the greens average 6,400 square feet they usually would be easy to hit. But since there is a lot of undulation, hitting it to the perfect place is important. Last year on the PGA Tour, the greens of PGA National were the 15th hardest to hit while in 2016 they were the 12th hardest to hit. This has been the norm for PGA National, in 2015 it ranked 6th, in 2014 it ranked 18th, but in 2013 5th, in 2012 11th and 6th in 2011. So a player that hits lots of greens will have an advantage.

*Rough Proximity: How close you can get the ball on the green when you’re in the rough off the tee, last year PGA National finished 7th while the year before it was 3rd in this stat.

*Scrambling: No matter how good your game is, missing greens always happen so it’s important to salvage par. Last year PGA National ranked 15th hardest while in 2016 it was 5th hardest in scrambling. In 2015 was 7th hardest so it’s a hard stat for players on this course.

*Par Breakers: The course is so demanding that making a lot of birdies and eagles aren’t possible. So players that can make a lot will do well on this course which ranked T-18th last year, 8th in 2016 and 5th in this stat on tour in 2015.

126 of the 144 players from this year’s field with stats from this year:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here is the link to the other 116 players with stats for 2018

 

DraftKings tips

Of the 144 in the field, 113 have played at least once in the Honda.  Here are the players with the most under par totals at the Honda since 2010:

  • Tiger Woods is -11 under in 11 rounds playing 3 years
  • Graeme McDowell is -10 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Rickie Fowler is -9 under in 28 rounds playing 8 years
  • Sergio Garcia is -9 under in 20 rounds playing 5 years
  • Tyrrell Hatton is -7 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • Wesley Bryan is -7 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • Russell Knox is -6 under in 14 rounds playing 4 years
  • Luke Donald is -4 under in 20 rounds playing 5 years
  • J.J. Spaun is -3 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • Nick Watney is -3 under in 12 rounds playing 3 years
  • Rafael Cabrera-Bello is -1 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • C.T. Pan is -1 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • Ryan Blaum is -1 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • Bronson Burgoon is 0 under in 4 rounds playing 1 years
  • Sam Saunders is 0 under in 8 rounds playing 2 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

Tiger Woods is -11 under playing 3 years (-1.00)

Sergio Garcia is -9 under playing 5 years (-0.45)

Russell Knox is -6 under playing 4 years (-0.43)

Graeme McDowell is -10 under playing 8 years (-0.33)

Rickie Fowler is -9 under playing 8 years (-0.32)

Nick Watney is -3 under playing 3 years (-0.25)

Luke Donald is -4 under playing 5 years (-0.20)

Sam Saunders is 0 under playing 2 years (0.00)

Ted Potter, Jr. is 1 under playing 3 years (0.10)

Russell Henley is 2 under playing 5 years (0.11)

Sung Kang is 1 under playing 2 years (0.13)

Adam Scott is 2 under playing 4 years (0.14)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that are very costly:

  • Rickie Fowler- $11,700
  • Rory McIlroy – $11,500
  • Justin Thomas – $11,300
  • Sergio Garcia – $10,500
  • Alex Noren – $10,100
  • Gary Woodland – $9,700
  • Tyrrell Hatton – $9,500
  • Tommy Fleetwood – $9,400
  • Patrick Reed – $9,100
  • Russell Knox – $9,000
  • Brian Harman – $8,900

We are now in a tournament that frankly nobody has dominated on a course that is hard to dominate.  Yes, Rickie Fowler won last year, but that doesn’t mean he will win again.  The same with Rory McIlroy, he won in 2012 but since then has missed two cuts and withdrew once. Still, both McIlroy and Fowler are good choices. Also, Justin Thomas is a good pick; his game has steadily gotten better week after week.  Last week he was T-9th at the Genesis.  Sergio Garcia is a tough choice, he hasn’t played that much in the previous two months, but won in Singapore and was T-32nd in Dubai. In looking at his record in the Honda, it shows a lot of consistency but other than in 2016 when he was runner-up, he hasn’t been in contention on the back nine any other time.  Still, I like him this week, but again you have a lot of choices.  Adding to the problem, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood are also good picks, Hatton was T-4th last year, Woodland was runner-up last year.  Tommy Fleetwood hasn’t played in this event but has had a good year including a win in Abu Dhabi.  One thing that makes me think he will do well, he was T-3rd at the Hero, now that course isn’t harsh like PGA National, but the conditions and grasses are the same.  As for Patrick Reed, Russell Knox, and Brian Harman, those are easy decisions I am taking a pass on them.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,800 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

Because Tiger Woods missed the cut last week in Los Angeles, DraftKings has downgraded him, and he is only $8,200.  Think that is a high price and that he will play better this week and content.  Also, don’t pass up on Rafael Cabrera Bello, he may have only finished T-26th at Pebble and L.A., but has had a good year including a T-6th in Dubai and T-2nd in Hong Kong.  Last year he finished T-37th, and I think he will be better.  One person poss on that looks like a bargain is Scott Stallings, he is $8,000, and the price seems excellent after finishing 7th at Pebble and T-4th at the Genesis Open.  But his record is terrible in Florida, in his last 14 starts he missed nine cuts.  Now one pick that could be good is Adam Scott at $7,700.  He missed the cut at Pebble and improved each day at the Genesis, but you take him because he does well at PGA National.  He won in 2016 and was T-14th last year, so I would say he is a good pick.  Another good buy is Kevin Kisner at $8,500, he has never been great in this event but plays well on Bermuda and will make the cut.  Another good buy is Kiradech Aphibarnrat at $7,800 he won in his last start in Australia and had a good record playing on Bermuda.  Another European Tour regular to watch this week is Dylan Frittelli at $7,600.  He finished T-5th in Maybank and T-6th at Dubai.  He hasn’t played much in the United States, but still at his price is a good gamble.

Are there any “Bargains” out there?

Yes, there are the best one, and a sure pick is Graeme McDowell at $7,300.  He has one of the best records of anyone that hasn’t won at PGA National.  He has finished in the top-10 in four of his last seven starts.  After missing four straight cuts he was in contention going into the final round at the Genesis, he shot 77 and finished T-26th.  Think he is ready for a great week and he will be one of my six picks.  Another excellent  pick is Ian Poulter at $7,200.  His game has improved now that he is healthy and he has played well at PGA National.  Also, like Billy Horschel at $7,100, he was T-4th last year and T-8th in 2016.  Rounding things out for other good picks is Peter Uihlein and Ryan Moore at $7,400.  Moore played well last week, and Uihlein has been ok.  Another bargain is Sam Saunders at $7,100; he has had a good year finishing in the top-26 in all of his 2018 starts.   Our last pick is Stewart Cink at $6,700, he isn’t going to win and probably finish out of the top-ten, but he will make the cut and get you some points.

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 and in the next four weeks will hold three events. 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 particular breed of player that does better on Bermuda than bent or poa annua.

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 defending champion Rickie Fowler.  There are players 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, Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy who have homes Jupiter, Florida.  Even Adam Scott has a home in the Bahamas, which has the same conditions as Florida courses. Even guys like 2007 winner Mark Wilson, who was born in Wisconsin and lives in Illinois has a connection.  His went 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.  2004 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 for this week:

Unbelievable and bizarre 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 wind blows.  This will be the first time players see Bermuda fairways, rough and greens on the year that haven’t been overseeded with rye so that it will take some getting used to.

Accuracy is going to play the key over distance.  The Champions course is lined with tight undulating fairways that are surrounded by 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 seven of the ten winners and ten of the fifteen 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 the 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 in 2014.  In 2015 Padraig Harrington played them in 5 under while Adam Scott was 4 under in 2016.  Last year Rickie Fowler was 5 under on the par 4s..

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

Interesting to note that 13 of the last 24 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 Britain and spent a good part of his time in Chicago, he had 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 2014 winner Russell Henley who lives in Kiawah Island, South Carolina and again with have a Bermuda connection.  Now we can’t consider Padraig Harrington as a “Floridan” even though he has had a place in Florida and has spent time there, while Adam Scott grew up playing not only on Bermuda grass but also playing in winds that will be around this week.  Oh and last weeks winner Rickie Fowler lives just up the road in Jupiter and plays into the scenario on picking a player with local roots.

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 2015 & ’05 champion Padraig Harrington along with defending champion Rickie Fowler and 2016 winner Adam Scott.  Both are from areas that have winds in Ireland, California and Australia so don’t think there is anybody better qualified after learning to play golf in these areas.  It could be quite windy this time of year, and the course is susceptible to winds so look for a good wind player.  The excellent news wind shouldn’t be a problem for the week and better yet the week seems to be perfect in no rain and perfect temperatures.

 

Who to watch for at The Honda Classic

Best Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT CUT T2 WD Win T70 T40 T13

He is ready to win, the course is good for him he just needs to putt well. But this is the week.

Sergio Garcia

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T14 2 T31 T8 T50 T13 T43

Guy is a new person that is very calm and doesn’t fret about things. Has always played well on the course, just needs to get the right breaks at the right time.

Tommy Fleetwood

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

He is probably the best player on the European Tour right now and he is ready to prove it with a win in America. This is a course he can do it on and don’t be surprised if he does it.

Best of the rest:

RIckie Fowler

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
Win T6 T41 T24 T13 T7 CUT CUT

The defender, he only seems to play well but has problems closing the deal. Maybe the good vibes of last year will help him this week.

Justin Thomas

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T3 CUT

Think that his game is getting better and he is ready to have a great week.

Gary Woodland

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T2 T61 T68 T6 T73

Plays well on this course, his length and accuracy will do him good.

Brian Harman

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T48 CUT T11 T58 CUT T12

Has all of the stats that shows he can do well this week, has been off for a couple of weeks and is ready to do well.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T37

Another European player to watch this week, he can win.

Solid contenders

Graeme McDowell

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T14 5 CUT T46 T9 T9 T6 T31

Has a great record on PGA National and played well last week.

Alex Noren

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT

Be interesting to see how he does on Florida courses and Bermuda. Think this could be a great event for him.

Kevin Kisner

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T48 T70 T51

Think that he will do well this week, he knows how to play well on Bermuda.

Ian Poulter

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T43 T43 T3 T36 T46 T41

Another of those that are healthy and ready to play well this week.

Tiger Woods

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
WD T37 T2

Yes he missed the cut last week but think things will be better this week.

Long shots that could come through:

Tyrrell Hatton

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T4

Guy played great last year in this event, not many Americans know of him and should.

Billy Horschel

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T4 T8 CUT CUT T46 CUT

He was T-4th last year at PGA National and T-8th the year before.

Dylan Frittelli

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

Watch him play well in this event, he is playing good right now.

Sam Saunders

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T14 T17

He is closure to winning than people realize, if he does can see it happening in Florida.

Comments

  1. good article Sal! Very thorough and lots of great tips.

  2. bjoiner@comcast.net says:

    Very Good.

  3. We like Sergio Garcia to do really well this week.

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