Editor’s note: Daniel Berger (rib) has withdrawn from The Honda Classic.
The field this week loses a lot of star power with only three of the world’s top-20 golfers in attendance this week. Headlining things will be
Daniel Berger, who has a win already in 2021 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Berger has some local ties to this week’s event and lost in a playoff here in 2015. Joining him will be No. 18 SungJae Im — the defending champion of this event — and world No. 19 Lee Westwood, who put up a valiant second-place finish last week at Sawgrass. Other former winners in the field here include the likes of Russell Henley (2014) and Rickie Fowler (2017), the latter of which is searching for some kind of consistency after a horrid start to 2021.
The field here is set right around 150-players and will feature the PGA’s regular cut-line rule, with the top-65 players and ties making the weekend after Friday. This has typically been a tough event and venue for scoring, so don’t expect big fantasy numbers since birdies will be at an absolute premium.
PGA National—Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Par 70, 7100-7200 yards; Greens: Bermudagrass
PGA National was redesigned in 1990 by Jack Nicklaus and has been the host of this event since 2007. The course always plays as one of the toughest on TOUR and was ranked the fifth-hardest venue on TOUR in 2019, and the second-hardest in 2018. To give you some idea of what’s in store this week: since 2012, the winning score at PGA National has failed to pass 9-under-par. Weather is also almost always a factor here, and wind combined some unseasonable cold temperatures will likely make this venue play more difficult this year than it already is.
As for setup, PGA National plays as a par 70 that comes in around 7200 yards, or just over that at its longest setup. The greens are Tifeagle Bermuda and can play quite fast if the weather gets hot. There are only two par 5’s in play this week, and both will need to be taken advantage of if players want to end the tournament under par. The course is really a tail of two nines — the front nine is much easier and features a couple “scoring holes” with less penalization for mistakes, while the back is basically one challenging shot after another with water in play around almost every green. Water is in play on 13 holes and is featured prominently in the famous “Bear Trap” (a three hole finishing stretch—15, 16, 17) that requires players to hit three quality shots into open greens surrounded by water and hard-to-escape sand traps.
This course also has a lot of sand on it — close to 100 bunkers in total, and like the water, these traps penalize players who miss off the tee or on their approaches into the green. Driving distance is less important here, but good iron play is essential since winners have typically gained more on approaches here than at other PGA venues. The last two winners here (Keith Mitchell ($7,200) and Sungjae Im ($11,000)) gained over +6.0 strokes on their approaches and over +3.5 strokes around the greens on their path to victory.
2021 weather outlook: The weather this week looks like it could get interesting. Winds on Thursday are set to be over 10 mph for most of the day and could climb into the 15-mph range in the afternoon. Considering the setup and amount of water in play on PGA National, this could turn things into a war of attrition fast. Things are set to let up a bit on Friday, but scattered thunderstorms are possible, as well, and could halt play or bring in gusts. The weekend cools down a bit with Sunday featuring highs in the mid-70s and constant winds in the 10-mph range (as of writing). Expect PGA National to play tough again, and watch the Thursday weather reports this week in case a wave split develops.
Last 5 winners
2020—Sungjae Im -6 (over Mackenzie Hughes -5)
2019—Keith Mitchell -9 (over Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka -8)
2018—Justin Thomas -8 (over Luke List playoff)
2017—Rickie Fowler -9 (over Gary Woodland -8)
2016—Adam Scott -9 (over Sergio Garcia -8)
- Seven of the last nine winners ranked 44th or better in sand save percentage in the year of their victory at PGA National (2018 champion Rickie Fowler was ranked first in this stat for 2017).
- Seven of the past 10 winners had a finish of 13th or better at this event before their win.
- Nine of the last 10 winners here had made the cut at PGA National at least once before their win.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2020 Winner: SungJae Im (6-under par)
2020 lead-in form (T29-MC-T34-T36-T10)
· Strokes Gained: Approach and Approach Proximity are both stats to emphasize here. In 2015, two of the top-five finishers at this event (Paul Casey and Russell Knox) ranked inside the top ten for the year in approach proximity on TOUR, while 2016 winner Adam Scott actually led the TOUR in that stat for the year in 2016. Sungjae Im gained over +6.0 strokes on his approaches alone last year en route to the win.
· Im also gained strokes throughout the bag last year, and it’s worth noting his ATG green was very sharp. PGA National has hard to hit greens and a lot of greenside bunkers that act as bailouts. As noted above, recent winners have almost all been strong bunker players, with Im ranking 15th in sand save percentage last season on TOUR.
· Winners tend see either their ATG or putting stats pop here, too. So, good recent form around the greens or with the putter is something to look at. The last five winners here all gained strokes ATG for the week, and the last two (Mitchell and Im), both gained +3.5 strokes ATG for the week.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Rickie Fowler ($8,900; best finishes: win-2017, T2-2019): Fowler enters this year’s event having finished T6 or better in three of his last five starts at PGA National. The 2017 champion is in poor form right now but has only missed the cut here twice in nine starts and was runner-up here in 2019, as well. He’s a risky course horse to target, but this venue has seen players with experience dominate at times.
2. Adam Scott ($10,100; best finishes: win-2016): Scott enters The Honda Classic this year coming off a couple of subpar starts. He’s been fruitful for DFS play at this venue, though, posting top-15 finishes in four of his last five visits to the venue, including a win here in 2016. He could bounce-back here at one of his favorite stops, but Scott needs to get his driver under control.
3. Byeong Hun An ($8,000; best finish: T4-2020 and T5-2018): An had a disastrous week at THE PLAYERS, but has found much better success at PGA National over his career. In three career starts, he’s finished T5-T36-T4 and was in contention coming down the stretch last season. He makes for a risky pay-up option but isn’t without upside at this venue.
Daniel Berger ($10,800; best finish: T4-2020, 2 nd -2015): Berger has tons of experience playing at PGA National, having grown up around this week’s venue. The two-time PGA winner lost in a playoff here on his first competitive visit back in 2015 and has finished T36-T29 here the last two seasons. He enters off a solid West Coast swing and has looked great for much of 2021.
5. Russell Henley ($9,800; best finish: T8-2020, win-2014): Henley is a former winner of this event and has always excelled at this tough, second-shot course. He’s made the cut here four years running now and gained +10.6 strokes on his approaches here last season, which led the field.
1. Lee Westwood ($10,600, win-T42): Westwood has now finished 2nd in each of his last two starts on TOUR. The 47-year-old is in fine form and has gained +6.2 and +4.4 strokes on his approaches the last two weeks.
Daniel Berger ($10,800, win-T42): Berger enters still playing great golf after a win at Pebble Beach in February. He gained +9.2 strokes Tee to Green last week, gaining over +3.0 strokes on APP and ATG.
3. Talor Gooch ($9,300, win-T42): Gooch put in a surprise top-five finish last week at Sawgrass thanks to an excellent final round. He gained +6.8 strokes on approach last week — his best week in that category since 2019. He’s now made three cuts in a row, as well.
4. Sungjae Im ($11,000, win-T42): Im is really firing with the putter right now, gaining +2.8 or more strokes on the greens in six straight starts. He’s only finished outside the top-25 once in his last five starts.
5. Keegan Bradley ($8,400, win-T42): Bradley is starting to pick things up and could be a good dark horse for this week. He’s gained strokes on APP, ATG and putting in two back-to-back start and has made four cuts in a row, including a T10 at the API two weeks ago.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Daniel Berger, Joaquin Niemann the pay-up options in thin field
Editor’s note: Daniel Berger (rib) has withdrawn from The Honda Classic.
Sungjae Im ($11,000) is the defending champion, but there are two players just below him in price this week that have just as good or better upside. Both
Berger ($10,800) and Niemann ($10,400) have good recent form and set up well for second-shot venues like PGA National. Berger lost in a playoff here in 2015 and has some local ties to the area. He also struck the ball better than Im last week, who has been relying a lot on his putter of late. After these two, Shane Lowry ($9,200 — see below) is a solid option to pair with, while Dylan Frittelli ($8,200) also sets up well for a tough second-shot course. Potential value options here include the likes of Zach Johnson ($7,400) and Cameron Percy ($6,900).
Tournaments: Matt Wallace, Keegan Bradley could surprise in tough conditions
Wallace ($8,500) took last week off because he didn’t qualify for THE PLAYERS this year, but he’s coming off a decent API finish, where he wound up T18 and gained strokes across the board. Bradley ($8,400) has a mixed record at PGA National, but he has played better of late and gained strokes on his approaches in seven straight starts. Both make for interesting GPP targets in what could be tough scoring conditions. Further down, Byeong Hun An’s ($8,000) course history here makes him a decent GPP target, and Brandon Wu ($7,800) is a talented player who sticks out in this weakened field. Other potential GPP targets here include the likes of Harry Higgs ($7,100-see below), Wes Bryan ($6,800) and Kelly Kraft ($6,000).
MY PICK: Shane Lowry ($9,200)
Lowry came to life last week at TPC Sawgrass, posting his best finish ever at that event with a T8. He gained strokes in every major category at THE PLAYERS, including +3.0 with his approaches. While he started 2021 a bit slow, Lowry showed some great ball-striking towards the end of 2020, so his rise last week should be noted. A bright spot for him in 2021 has been his around the green game. That’s shown some serious improvement over last season, gaining +3.5 or more strokes ATG in three of his last five starts. This element of Lowry’s game could be a huge benefit around PGA National’s hard-to-hit greens, tough pins and lots of sand.
This year’s Honda Classic marks the fourth time Lowry has played the event in his career. He had his best finish here last year, posting a T21. A little wind and tough conditions should be something he welcomes, too, considering his Open win came in some of the toughest weather conditions we’ve seen over the past decade. At $9.2K, Lowry feels like a pretty solid bargain given the form he showed last week, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get deeper into contention here. He’s my favorite value among the top names and a great anchor play for DraftKings lineups this week.
MY SLEEPER: Harry Higgs ($7,100)
Higgs enters this event off a nice week at THE PLAYERS, where he got himself into a T29 finish. He had missed the previous three cuts, so the result came a little out of nowhere. Looking at the stats, though, Higgs’ finish at THE PLAYERS likely shouldn’t come as too big a surprise since he’s been hitting the ball pretty well over the last few events and has now gained strokes on his approaches in seven straight starts. His good ball-striking has now been paired with some confidence on the greens, gaining +2.4 strokes putting in each of his last two starts. The putting boost here is something to be watched sinceHiggs’ best finishes on TOUR have always come while in good form with the flat-stick.
He’ll be making his second career start at the Honda this week, and last year posted a T58 to make the weekend while gaining +4.1 strokes ball-striking around PGA National’s tough layout. Higgs lost -5.6 strokes putting here last season, but obviously comes in with better form this year with that club. It could result in a big jump in finishing position. He’s a value play I like taking a shot on in GPPs in this weaker field.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
21+ (18+ NH). CO/IL/IN/IA/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/MI only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.