The first of four tournaments in the Florida Swing is next - The Honda Classic, which will play on the Champion Course at PGA National. The course is a par 70, measuring 7,125 yards, and will be on TifEagle bermudagrass greens. Last season, the tournament was the last of the four in the Sunshine State, with Matt Jones (+5000, $9,000) taking home the trophy.
PGA National is a Tom Fazio design renovated a few times over the last couple of decades by Jack Nicklaus. Past winners include Keith Mitchell (+3500, $9,100), Rickie Fowler (+6500, $7,600), Russell Henley, twice by Padraig Harrington (+13000, $6,700) and Adam Scott.
In scoring relative to par, The Honda Classic has ranked inside the top 5 most difficult courses over the last few years, one of the few non-major tournaments to rank this high annually. One of the more evident and consequential changes was in 2018, when the greens increased close to 30% in size to around 7,000 feet on average. Still, the greens have consistently played difficult, recording about 59 percent hit in regulation rate, which is more than 10 percent less than the PGA TOUR average. A ton of water, which is in play on virtually every hole, and the potential for windy conditions play a pivotal role in why the average driving distance is 11 yards less here than the PGA TOUR average. It would seem that shorter hitters who are accurate with their drives play well, and the long hitters don’t. That is not the case. Mitchell, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have all won here and are lengthy Off-the-Tee. Getting the ball as close as you can to these difficult-to-hit greens, especially if the conditions are windy, can be a huge advantage.
The infamous “Bear Trap,” holes 15 through 17, is a daunting set of holes coming in the final stretch. Per SHOT LINK data, these three rank as the fourth-toughest stretch on TOUR of courses that have been played in at least 10 or more seasons since 2007 (non-majors). Two of the holes are par 3s, which have ranked top-5 toughest on the course in the season’s past. Those who finish inside the top 5 are gaining more strokes on the par 3s than the fours and fives, but Par 4 efficiency will be vital as it is with all par 70s.
Louis Oosthuizen (+1600 to Win, $10,800 on DraftKings)
If this week is going to be tough, then few are more experienced than Oosthuizen in said conditions. Even though he’s yet to win on U.S. soil, Oosthy is the 13th-ranked golfer in the world and consistently one of the best ball-strikers on the PGA TOUR. Louis posted a top-15 in his first start this season at the WM Phoenix Open, gaining 5.7 strokes Tee-to-Green. Struggles Around-the-Green have kept him away from top finishes here, but he has two top-25s despite losing strokes chipping in all four starts. Still, two top-10 finishes and a runner-up at Innisbrook (Valspar), to go with countless top-10s at Majors, make him live this week.
Aaron Wise (+5000 to Win, $8,400 on DraftKings)
He was a letdown in Phoenix but was hitting the ball better in Los Angeles, gaining 2.74 strokes with his irons and not losing strokes Off-the-Tee at Genesis. A 13th at last year’s Honda Classic and no worse than a 35th at PGA National indicates he’s capable of navigating this difficult course well. Wise opened with two rounds of 64 here last season and has the Off-the-Tee game necessary for PGA National, ranking 33rd over the previous 24 rounds. Also, take a look at Brian Harman (+4000, $8,700) this week. Challenging courses bring out the best in him, finishing top-20 in last season’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot and runner up in 2017 at Erin Hills. With any par 70, SG: Par 4 is paramount to success, and Harman ranks fourth over the last two dozen rounds. A third-place at the American Express and a top-15 at WM are results from positive tournaments in SG: Approach-the-Green, which is what you need to succeed this week.
Adam Svensson (+13000 to Win, $7,000 on DraftKings)
We’ve seen sleepers with deep odds win, and while Svensson doesn’t wow you statistically, the potential is there. A top-7 at the Sony Open earlier this season resulted from positive iron-play, something he’s done in three of his previous four events, ranking seventh in approach over the last 12 rounds. This week he’s more of a DFS and derivative play in the betting market as someone who can outperform his cost. A 64 in Round 2 at the 2019 Honda Classic put him firmly inside the top-5 at the halfway point, but he could not create the same magic over the weekend, finishing 59th.
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