Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2022 Honda Classic Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from PGA National.
2022 Honda Classic: Field
Field: 144 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, Feb. 24
Defending Champ: Matt Jones
The Florida swing kicks off with more of a whimper than a bang, but the 2022 Honda Classic has a stronger field than it appears at first glance. Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Tringale, Billy Horschel, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Keith Mitchell, Matthew Wolff, Gary Woodland, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Alex Noren, Lucas Herbert and Garrick Higgo headline the field at Palm Beach Gardens.
It’s propped up by the infusion internationals finally making their trek stateside. Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Nicolai Hojgaard, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Paddy Harrington and Danny Willett will all make their 2022 PGA TOUR debuts this week.
Chase Koepka is also in on one of his brother exemptions.
There have been substantial crossover leaderboards between the Honda Classic and Sony Open over the years; both are shorter (par 70), wind-influenced tracks. Russell Henley, Mark Wilson, Ernie Els and Justin Thomas have all won at Waialae CC (Sony Open) and PGA National (Honda Classic).
These are the leaders in SG: Total of players in the field over their last 24 rounds between both courses:
2022 Honda Classic: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained
Total Driving Gained (Spilt 70% DD + 30% DA)
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2022 Honda Classic: Course
PGA National (Champion)
2022 Honda Classic: Past Winners
2021: Matt Jones -12
2020: Sungjae Im -6
2019: Keith Mitchell -9
2018: Justin Thomas -8
2017: Rickie Fowler -12
2016: Adam Scott -9
2015: Paddy Harrington -6
2022 Honda Classic: Notes
A difficult course, finally? I can’t wait to be disappointed when someone fires a -20 now.
PGA National is annually one of the toughest courses on TOUR. Water is in play on 15 holes at PGA National which means the pro shop could triple the price of sleeves and still sell out before noon. Over 6,200 balls have plunged into the water since 2007. If Florida had beavers they’d have an intricate dam constituted at this point to water the grounds without electronic irrigation. There are also 67 sand traps scattered across the grounds, and they’re not the simple up-and-down bunkers. They’re going to cause problems.
Oh, and the wind. No, not the Arlen boys soccer team, the swirling and gusting of air fostered by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun in combination with its own rotation. The wind generally rears its gusty head in Palm Beach Gardens, which transforms a tough course into one with scorecard colors not normally seen on our reflection spectrum.
The water/sand combo makes this an extremely difficult scrambling course. The GIR rate is only 60% (against the TOUR average of 66%) and the historic scrambling percentage is just 55% for the field. Normally, you’d assume short game would be a defining trail of winners at PGA National, but you’re not thinking scrambling in the proper context. Yes, being solid around the greens is important. As it turns out, however, no amount of chipping wizardry can mitigate wet tee shots. A missed GIR this week doesn’t mean putting from the fringe, it means attempting to get it up and down from 163 yards after a drop. And yes, not every time, but you get the pointing I’m making.
While the omnipresent aqua lurks menacingly like the mysterious, new boyfriend in every true-crime series, there are ungodly difficult stretches on the scorecard. That’s plural, btw. The Bear Trap, (holes 15/16/17) gets its own dedicated TV feed, so obviously everyone knows how tough that plays. However, holes 5/6/7 have played equally arduous. Like, to the number. Since 2007. both troikas come in at an identical +0.638 over par. Tied for the fourth most difficult three-hole stretches on the PGA TOUR (non-majors, of course). They just don’t have a catchy name or Insta-friendly statue, but when you scan your lineups Thursday and wonder how a guy you rostered fired an 80, go take a quick gander at these six holes. The Bear Trap is death by a thousand paper cuts, while holes 5-7 just beat you over the head with crooked numbers.
A total of 1,604 balls have been hit into the water in The Bear Trap since 2007. For the first time in course history, no player made it through The Bear Trap without making a bogey in 2021. It didn’t play as tough as it could have, though. Yes, the field was a combined +230 for the week, which was down from +277 in 2020 and the all-time high of +516 in 2018.
You’d think a course under 7,200 yards would favor almost any skill set. Logically, the more accurate, shorting-hitting players would have an advantage by not always being in the water. That hasn’t been the case, however. Recent history actually has leaned toward the longer hitters by the time Sunday concludes. Like with the low scrambling number, PGA National has one of the lowest driving distance averages of any course: 272 yards compared to the TOUR average of 283 yards. The thing is since the deep drivers must lay up, their accuracy greatly improves, yet they still have the benefit of the short clubs onto greens. It makes the two par 5s far more gettable, and longer hitters may have an advantage cutting through the wind if it picks up.
There is a mini-hack for DraftKings lineups. Since birdie streaks are going to be sparse this week, players starting on hole No. 10 have a slightly better chance of running three in a row together and earning those very valuable bonus points. Hole No. 18, the par 5, is the second easiest on the course. Hole No. 1 is the third easiest (18% birdie rate), so if you can get lucky on No. 2, you’re going streaking.
The past few years the cut line has been +2/+4/+3/+6.
2022 Honda Classic Picks
With the recent string of winners who have shed the label of “can’t close,” it’s time to take a plunge on Louis. The South African was solid in his season debut in Phoenix, churning out a T14 despite faltering in the final round. Now, in a weaker field, with a difficult layout, Louis is primed to finally get that ever-elusive first win on U.S. soil. The main concern this week will be his short game. Despite gaining +1.4 SG: ATG per start over his past 20, he’s been dismal across his four career appearances at PGA National, losing an average of -1.4 SG: ATG. Clean that up, and he’s live.
At a course with extreme variance, why not lean into a guy whose results have been all over the map in 2022. The 2013 Honda Classic champ Thompson has a finish list worthy of Si Woo Kim so far this year: T5/MC/T11/MC/MC. That top 5 came at the corollary Sony Open, and he has made four consecutive cuts at PGA National, so that’s a positive. As is the primary reason for his poor results, primarily putting related. Thompson has dropped an average of -1.32 SG: PUTT over his past six measured rounds despite gaining with the driver and irons in four of them. While the putter has been cold overall, it’s been anything but on these greens over the last half-decade, Thompson is averaging almost +3.0 SG: PUTT over his past five appearances at the Honda Classic.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2022 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 24 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time.
Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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