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Honda Classic PGA Preview

Honda Classic PGA Preview

HONDA CLASSIC PGA PREVIEW - In a troubling and recurring theme for the season, we had nobody in the hunt at Riviera. With Homa and Rahm dueling at those depressed odds, it was never going to be in the cards for me. 

We are absolutely locked in though as the Tour heads to Florida for the Honda Classic. This tournament is in kind of a funky scheduling spot because it comes on the heels of two of the Tour’s “designated” events that featured increased prize pools and ludicrously strong fields. Most of the top guys are taking the week off, and for good reason. After two weeks of grinding against the best in the world, few guys are signing up to be brutalized by a golf course this week at PGA National.

Let’s dive in.

The Course

PGA National is tough. That’s the bottom line. Think about this: in the last three years, two players have finished at -10 or better. That’s absurd for a regular Tour event.

PGA National isn’t an overly long golf course, clocking in at a touch over 7,100 yards. But it does play to a par-70, which means some of those par-4s have some length to them. 

The rough is going to be deep and nasty, probably measuring in the neighborhood of three inches throughout most of the course. If the length wasn’t enough, they overseed it to make it especially dense. 

The greens are firm and fast, and Bermuda greens are going to be a change of pace from what the guys have been experiencing on the West Coast. 

What else makes PGA National tough, as if those things aren’t enough? Oh, it could be that water comes in to play on 15 of the 18 holes out there. It could also be that the wind will be blowing almost constantly at this time of the year in South Florida. Or that if you try to bail out away from the water hazards, you’ll almost certainly end up in a bunker. Any of those things could make a place challenging on their own, much less in combination. 

When you add all of this together, this tournament turns into more of an endurance test to see who can survive until the end. 

Nobody will tear this course apart for four days. The best finishing score in the last decade is -12, so if your guy manages a 66 out there, he’s doing awesome. 

The Field

The field is pretty weak for this tournament for some of the reasons I outlined in the introduction. 

The odds board is basically Sungjae Im (+1000) and then everyone else. He won here in 2020, and the form has been pretty good so far. Sungjae basically plays any tournament that his agent can book a flight to, so it’s not surprising that one of golf’s ironmen is teeing it up this week. 

Lowry (+1600) relishes playing in the wind and he has a good track record here, so it makes sense that he’s here as well. He was runner-up last year to surprise winner, Sepp Straka, so the course and conditions seem to suit his game.

There are only three guys in the top-20 in the world playing this week. The two guys I’ve already mentioned and Billy Horschel (+2500). There’s five other guys in the top-50.

In the last ten years of this event, half the winners have come at odds of over 100/1, so this is a good week to think hard about taking some fliers on longshots and midrange players.

Putting it All Together

We’ll be back tomorrow with some specific picks, but for now, take a really hard look at some midrange guys who excel at ballstriking. A lot of these weaker field tournaments are often bemoaned as “putting contests,” meaning whoever has the hot putter and pours in a ton of birdies will win. 

That isn’t the case this week. This tournament is a grind and a hot putter will quickly be neutralized by penalty strokes from the myriad hazards at PGA National. 

There are weeks where you can sort of see a path for a variety of different styles to win, but handicapping PGA National is fairly one-dimensional. In the last five years, only one winner hasn’t led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, and that was last year when Sepp Straka finished 4th in that category. In short, your short game and scrambling won’t carry you here if you aren’t hitting it well. A hot putter can only do so much if you can’t find a safe landing spot off the tee. 

Look hard at guys with strong ballstriking stats that have slid down the odds board a little. Check back tomorrow with some of my picks.


Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of February 21st, 2023

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