This week we start our Florida swing on tour with the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL at the PGA National Resort & Spa – Champion Course. PGA National boasts two of the hardest three stretch holes in golf, most famously the Bear Trap designed by Jack Nicklaus himself on holes 15, 16, 17. There’s not as many big names as usual here, but this is always a fun tournament to watch.
- Thursday February 28th: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM CST on Golf Channel
- Friday March 1st: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM CST on Golf Channel
- Saturday March 2nd: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST on Golf Channel
- Saturday March 2nd: 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM CST on NBC
- Sunday March 3rd: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM CST on Golf Channel
- Sunday March 3rd: 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM CST on NBC
Whose Teeing Off
This tournament does have some big names in it but because of the schedule changes this year, there really hasn’t been a “smaller” tournament since the start of February that the majority of guys will skip. Many guys picked between this tournament, and Bay Hill next week like Tiger Woods who chose Bay Hill. Not only that, The Players is in two weeks and then another WGC event is at the end of March. Lots off good golf to be played and decisions needed to be made by some players about when to rest up.
There still are some big names teeing it up this weekend, Rickie Fowler who won in 2017 is here, Justin Thomas who won last year is here, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Cameron Smith, and Webb Simpson among other second or third tier names you might recognize.
The big names will obviously be the favorites, but this is the type of course that can get anybody with all the water and how difficult the course plays, especially if its windy. Don’t be surprised if the top the leader-board is some names you’ve never heard of.
We have 11 years of history too look at as the The Honda Classic has been played a PGA National since 2007. Only three times since then has the winning score broke -10 or better. Let’s look back to 2010 and look at the past winners and their scores (* notes win in playoff):
- 2018: Justin Thomas (-8)*
- 2017: Rickie Fowler (-12)
- 2016: Adam Scott (-9)
- 2015: Padraig Harrington (-6)*
- 2014: Russell Henley (-8)*
- 2013: Michael Thompson (-9)
- 2012: Rory McIlroy (-12)
- 2011: Rory Sabbatini (-9)
- 2010: Camilo Villegas (-13)
Because of how players can get out of hand on this course, there are very few guys who are consistent at this course at putting up top 20-30 finishes year in and year out. We’ll look at the notable names here and some guys who do have good track records here.
- Justin Thomas won in 2018 and finished 3rd in 2016 but missed the cut in 2017 and 2015.
- Rickie Fowler has his win in 2017, two other top 10s in 2012 and 2016, but missed the cut last year, and has a 41st finish in 2015.
- Sergio Garcia finished 2nd in 2016, 8th in 2014, but 33rd last year, 14th in 2017, and 31st in 2015.
- Adam Scott is the most consistent guy here: 12th in 2014, 1st in 2016, 14th in 2017, and 13th in 2018.
- Brooks Koepka didn’t play in this last year, missed the cut in 2017, and has other finishes of 26th, 51st, and 33rd.
- Graeme McDowell has played very well here also despite a missed cut last year, 14th in 2017, 5th in 2016, 9th in 2013 and 2012, and 6th in 2011.
- Jason Dufner has never missed a cut year since 2011, but he also hasn’t finished any higher than 14th.
- Gary Woodland also hasn’t missed a cut here had did get 2nd in 2017, but finished 19th last year, and 61st in 2016.
PGA National is a 7,110 yard Par 70 course. The course was originally designed by Tom and George Fazio in 1981 and was redesigned in 1990 and 2014 by Jack Nicklaus. Water is in play on 13 holes, especially on the back nine including the Bear Trap. The course also boasts some thicker rough and 107 bunkers. This course is consistently one of the harder courses on tour year in and year out. If you love chaos on Saturday and Sundays, this is fun tournament to watch. Time to look at at some of the holes.
Hole #1: 365 yard Par 4
Depending on where the tees are and how the wind is blowing, this is a reachable green off the tee. Guys have to be aware of the lake on the left hand side, and the two bunkers that protect the front of this green on the front. This should be a good birdie opportunity for guys right off the bat.
Hole #5: 217 Yard Par 3
The first par 3 on the course that is a little lengthy for the normal golfer. The key to this hole is where they place the pin. If the place it to the left side of the green, right off the water there is going to be a lot of safe shots to the middle of the green.
The Bear Trap: (#15: 179 Yard Par 3, #16 434 Yard Par 4, #17 190 Yard Par 3)
We can’t talk about this course and not feature the Bear Trap. One of the hardest three hole stretches in golf because of the water that surrounds all these shots off the tee, and the green approach on #16. Guys have come to this stretch of golf playing well, and quickly shoot +3 over these holes.
Hole #15 features a tee shot that pretty much flies all the way over the water to the green. You hit this short at all you are going to be in the drink, you can count on that. Hit the shot too far and you could end up in the sand trap that doesn’t leave you an easy shot. You have to control the ball out of the sand trap or else it might rolls right off the green into the water.
Hole #16 is a decent sized par 4 but almost everybody will play an iron off the tee here. The fairway runs out to a narrow strip of rough where water is on both sides. Guys will layup here in the fairway, trying to avoid the sand traps on both sides of the fairways and the water on the right. From there they have another green protected by the water and a bunker short of the green. Errant tee short here really fucks your chances of a good score.
#17 is the second par three on the Bear Trap, where the players tee shot will be over the water the whole way. Anything short, is obviously fucked. There is a bunker on the back side of the green that will come into play if the pin placement is back towards the left of the green.
Hole #18: 604 Yard Par 5
The finishing hole is exciting. Guys can get here in two if they hit a monster and accurate drive off the tee. This hole is always unique in that it features a double dog leg, left then right. Players will have to avoid bunkers right off the tee, bunkers all along the left side of the fairway, and three different bunkers surrounding the green. Oh and of course, if your going for the green here in two, chances are your flying the ball over water, again.
One & Done: This is a hard tournament to pick because of how quickly this course can get away from players. I wanted to take a guy whose come in playing some good golf, and has a good track record of making cuts, and finishing in the top 20 here. There are a few guys that fit that mold, Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Gary Woodland, Adam Scott, among others. All those guys are relatively big names and I’m going to take Sergio Garcia from that list. Sergio imploded last year during the Masters and never recovered, I don’t envision myself taking him later on this year unless he got really hot so we’ll use him this week. He’s got three top 15s here and finished 6th last week in a loaded field. Here’s hoping for a top 5 finish from Sergio. Other guys I really considered were Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson.
Betting Winners: Brooks Koepka (+1100), Adam Scott (+1400), Billy Horschel (+3500), Ryan Palmer (+10000)
Adam Scott as we mentioned before has wonderful track record here. Koepka had a rough last week putting, but Koepka loves a tough course and he’s one of the best in the world. Horschel has made all 8 cuts this year and has two top 10s here including a 5th in 2017. Palmer is the long shot here, only missed the cut once since 2012 and does have a 2nd place finish in 2014.
Top 5: Gary Woodland (+400), Graeme McDowell (+1200), Jaquin Niemann (+2000)
Gary Woodland is on fire and has played well here, McDowell has a great track record here with consistently being in the top 20. Niemann is a long shot and hasn’t played here before but he’s one of the best young golfers around. He’s always a good long shot guy for the Top 5 and Top 10 bets.
Top 10: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (+500), Harold Varner III (+1000), Anirban Lahri (+1200)
Aphibarnrat played well last year but only has one year under his belt here. Varner and Lahri are straight up feel plays. I’ll say it again, this tournament can blow up on guys and we’eve seen a lot of long shots do well here. So let’s pick two random long shots to make the top 10.
- Ben Crane ($6,000)
- Sergio Garcia ($10,000)
- Brian Gay ($7,100)
- Adam Scott ($10,300)
- Jhonattan Vegas ($6,800)
- Gary Woodland ($9,800)
One & Done History
- Waste Management Open: Matt Kuchar – $293,467 (T4)
- Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Shane Lowry – $0.00 (Missed Cut)
- Genesis Open: Hideki Matsuyama – $177,600 (T9)
- WGC-Mexico: Jon Rahm –$65,000 (T45)
- The Honda Classic: Sergio Garcia