Out of the Rough: The Honda Classic
The PGA tour heads to Florida to take on this year’s Honda Classic at the PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
This year’s field lacks the star power we’d like to see, but with the likes of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players coming up, most of the world’s best are taking the down time before a stretch of competitive and high paying tournaments.
The field is headlined by the likes of Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen, all three of which are the only top-20 golfers to take on this challenging and low scoring course.
Matt Jones is the defending champion of the event where he shot a -12, the best of the past five year scores. World #24 Sungjae Im won the event in 2020 and will compete in this year’s installment along with Jones and Rickie Fowler as defending champions of the event.
PGA National is a Jack Nicklaus designed course and has been the home of the Honda Classic since 2007.
As previously mentioned, PGA National is annually one of the toughest courses on tour, as it ranked as the tour’s third toughest course a year ago. Expect low scoring this week. If anyone gets into the negative double digits, they’ll be in the driver’s seat most likely. Jones won last year by five strokes. Annually the leader will be lucky to get to -8.
As always with golf, the weather will be a big factor, especially in coastal courses in February in Florida. We’ll see high winds combined with lower than normal temperatures.
PGA national is a par 70 course that plays at 7,200 yards. There are only two par fives on the course and golfers must take advantage if they want to compete into Sunday.
Greens are Tifeagle Bermuda which would normally play fast, but with the cooler temperatures (high 70’s, low 80’s) they should play moderately, which will take some getting used to.
Water is in play on 13 of the 18 holes. The featured stretch is the “Bear Trap” which includes holes 15, 16 and 17 with water heavily in play and deep sand traps. Speaking of sand traps, there are over 100 on the course.
Statistics to look into for this week include sand save percentage, strokes gained: approach, strokes gained: around the green and past results.
There are just five players over the $10,000 mark on DraftKings (where I primarily play my golf DFS.) Former champion Sungjae Im ($11,000) leads the way and that’s for good reason. On top of being a former champion, he’s made nine-of-ten cuts and four top-tens thus far this season and currently ranks second on the tour in strokes gained: around the green. Im is also tied for 12th on tour in sand save percentage. He falls in line with a lot of the important statistics and has the history at the course to boot. I’ll be spending up on Im this week. Also consider Daniel Berger ($10,100) who has had a bit of a slow start to the season. He’s first on tour in sand save percentage and seventh in strokes gained: approach.
The obvious answer in this price range is Matt Jones ($9,000) who is the defending champion. He’s at the bottom of the price range which helps justify the spending up for Im. It’s obvious that he has recent success at this event and course along with being fourth on the tour in strokes gained: around the green. Also consider Billy Horschel ($9,600.) Horschel currently ranks 13th on the tour in strokes gained: around the green and tied-47th in sand save percentage. Horschel is one of the hottest golfers right now heading into the event with a sixth and 11th place finish at the WM Phoenix Open and Farmers Insurance Open respectively.
Christian Bezuidenhout ($8,000) is my choice here. I think he’s being criminally underrated for this event despite the semi slow start to the season. He has made seven-of-nine cuts thus far this season but hasn’t recorded a top ten. He does have two top 15 and three top 17 finishes since November of last year. He’s 34th on the tour in strokes gained: approach and seventh in sand save percentage. I like what he brings to this depleted field this week. Also consider Mackenzie Hughes ($8,300.) Hughes is hit-or-miss right now. He sandwiched a second place finish at The RSM Classic and a T16 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am between missed cuts at the Farmers Insurance Open and The Genesis Invitational. He’s also tied-27th in sand save percentage and 41st in strokes gained: around the green.
This is where you win your money in DFS. Finding the hidden gems in this price range can really set you apart. The first name I’ll offer here is Jim Knous ($6,000.) Now I know this is a stretch, but hear me out. Although it’s only 17 rounds, he’s tops of the tour in strokes gained: around the green. That’s about all he has going for him though. Prior to back-to-back missed cuts at the Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he had decent results at three straight events: the highlight of which was a T11 finish at the Fortinet Championship. Also consider Vaughn Taylor ($6,800.) For his price, you’re getting a lot out of Taylor. For this type of course, it fits him well. Taylor is currently third on tour in strokes gained: around the green, 68th in strokes gained: approach and 19th in sand save percentage. Taylor most recently finished T28th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Strokes Gained: Proximity to Course
This is the patented statistic developed by Lenny of the Out of the Rough Podcast. Each week he will determine his SG: PTC pick that I will include in this article series. We will also talk about his last week’s results. This week, he’s going with “The Floridian Brooks Koepka” Chase Seiffert.