The 2021 Florida swing concludes this week with The Honda Classic. Since 2007, the PGA National Champion Course (par 70, 7,125 yards) of Palm Beach Gardens has hosted this event. Sungjae Im secured the first PGA TOUR victory of his career here last season at -9, and over the last decade, only two Honda Classic champs have cracked double-digit strokes under par. As you can see from this, PGA National is a very difficult test of golf. It annually ranks as one of the toughest courses on the PGA TOUR schedule, mostly thanks to the egregious amount of hazards on site at this Florida venue. Water is in play on 15 of 18 holes and there are a plethora of sand traps scattered around the course. Staying dry is pivotal if you want to contend at PGA National and let’s not forget about the “Bear Trap”, which is holes 15-17. This three-hole stretch is notoriously known for its difficulty and avoiding massive blow ups on these holes is crucial to climbing the leaderboard. Evident from these challenges, we must prioritize players who have been avoiding bogeys at a strong rate. Prior to Im a year ago, the previous five golfers to record a victory in Palm Beach Gardens ranked inside the top-ten in bogeys avoided during their win.
At PGA National, both short and long hitters can succeed. Almost every player elects to club down on most of these holes and your approaches to these Bermuda greens are far more important than your drives. You must be striking the ball at an elite level and over the last five years, we have seen four Honda Classic winners rank in the top-ten in SG APP. As a par 70, PGA National has 12 par fours and only two par fives on the scorecard. This automatically puts a heavy weight on par four scoring and since PGA National became the home of The Honda Classic back in 2007, 13 of the 14 golfers to win this event have finished in the top-ten in SG on the par fours, with four of those players leading their fields.
Following the major like field at the PLAYERS, we saw a dramatic drop off in talent this week at The Honda Classic. Of the 139 players in attendance, only six of them rank as top-50 players in the world. There will be a normal top-65 and ties cut line following the first 36 holes and below, I have featured four of my favorite golfers who are priced at $7,400 or less on DraftKings this week.
Zach Johnson, $7,400
Given the volatility of PGA National, targeting a reliable veteran like Johnson makes a ton of sense this week. His T41 at TPC Sawgrass last week extended his current cut streak to 13 in a row, and the two-time major champion is now 16 for his last 17. While he may not be a statistical monster in most categories, Johnson has been dodging the big numbers on his scorecard, ranking 6th in bogeys avoided across his last 12 rounds.
His safe and steady game has lifted him to a 5/7 record at PGA National, with three finishes of T33 or better, and Johnson’s odds to win this weekend are staggering compared to his DraftKings DFS salary. As of Monday night, the 45-year-old sports +5000 odds to win The Honda Classic this weekend on DraftKings Sportsbook. These are the 15th best odds on the board, but Johnson is the 39th highest priced golfer in the DraftKings DFS pool. To look at this from a different angle, his DraftKings Sportsbook odds to take home the big check are better than Doug Ghim’s, who costs a whopping $1,400 more than Johnson.
Ryan Moore, $7,300
Moore has made his past two cuts at the Honda Classic and his game is trending up right now. After an ugly stretch of missing four consecutive weekends, the 38-year-old finished T26 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and then T35 last week at the PLAYERS. He positively gained strokes tee-to-green in both of these starts and ranks 10th in bogeys avoided during this time.
If Moore can maintain this current form, not only should he make the cut, but a top-20 is definitely possible in this weak field (+275 for a top-20 on DraftKings Sportsbook).
Jhonattan Vegas, $7,300
Very quietly, Vegas has proceeded to the weekend at seven of his last nine events. Prior to his T61 at TPC Sawgrass, the 36-year-old finished runner-up to Brendan Grace at the Puerto Rico Open. When we put all these golfer’s last 12 rounds side by side, Vegas ranks 7th in SG on par fours, 6th in BOB% and 6th in total stokes gained.
Now comes a reunion with PGA National, which is a course Vegas has handled very well throughout his career. In eight starts at the tricky venue, he has only missed one cut and has four top-30s to his name. Three of these top-30s have come the last four years, with the T4 in 2017 being Vegas’ career-best at the track. He was only owned by 2.21% of the field in DraftKings’ Millionaire Maker contest for the PLAYERS last week, and I fully expect Vegas to carry a single-digit ownership for The Honda Classic.
Jason Dufner, $6,700
As it did for many, TPC Sawgrass got the best of Dufner last week and he was sent home before the weekend. But, the veteran did make back-to-back cuts prior to this and more importantly, his track record at PGA National is excellent. Since this par 70 took over as the host of this tournament, Dufner has played here 11 times and never missed a cut, with a notable five top-20 finishes.
Having a spotless record at this course is an extremely impressive accomplishment that only 12 players in this field have on their resumes, when we exclude the golfers who have only competed in one Honda Classic. Dufner has a far better chance of making the cut than most of the sub $7,000 golfers this week, and I highly doubt he will be a popular name in GPPs.
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