Every winner of a PGA Tour event this season has eclipsed double digits under par to do so. But at a difficult golf course like PGA National, that trend is very much in danger this week as the tournament may be more of a grind than a birdie-fest.
- 2018 – Justin Thomas (-8)
- 2017 – Rickie Fowler (-12)
- 2016 – Adam Scott (-9)
- 2015 – Padraig Harrington (-6)
- 2014 – Russell Henley (-8)
- 2013 – Michael Thompson (-9)
In the last six years, only Rickie Fowler took home the trophy with a winning score at double digits under par. With so many ways around the golf course to rack up square after square on the scorecard, even the winner will run into disaster at some point this weekend.
When looking at trends of recent winners of the Honda Classic, only Rickie Fowler and Russell Henley did not rank inside the Top 3 in Strokes Gained – Approach for the week on the way to victory. A hot putter carried Rickie in 2017 and Henley showed good form in all areas of the game on the way to his win. However, while Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott are consistently some of the best ball-strikers on tour, Harrington, Henley and Thompson all ranked very poorly in the years they won the Honda Classic.
How can we explain the wide variety of winners at the Honda Classic? The answer is likely the weather. The wind is the great equalizer on the PGA Tour, as everyone struggles in these conditions and especially when it’s combined with as many water hazards as there are at PGA National. However, when looking at the forecast this week the wind doesn’t appear to be a big factor in both speed or direction. The toughest winds a golfer can face at PGA National is from the ENE, but the winds are forecast to be light and out of the south, which will take a lot of the teeth out of the Bear Trap this weekend.
Therefore, I don’t expect there to be a surprise winner this year at the Honda Classic, and the cream should rise to the top.
Who will win this year? Here are my picks (with odds courtesy of mybookie.ag).
Brooks Koepka – 11/1: Obviously Justin Thomas is the best player and is playing by far the best of anyone in the field this week. But putting down a futures bet at 5.5/1 on anyone not named Tiger Woods from 1999-2008 is insane and terrible value. Instead, I’ll go with Brooks Koepka of the top favorites this week. While PGA National shouldn’t play quite as tough as it normally does, the Honda Classic is still a grind and that’s the type of tournament where Koepka shines. After a slow start in Mexico last weekend, Koepka gained 7.5 shots on the field tee-to-green and heads into this weekend with some momentum in that part of his game. Koepka struggled badly on and around the greens last week, but that’s an area where he’s typically pretty good at. I don’t expect him to have two bad weeks in a row on and around the greens, and if that gets fixed he has a great shot to capture his second title of the season.
Gary Woodland – 20/1: I’d feel a little better about Gary Woodland this week if he hit his approach shots better in Mexico. He lost about a stroke to the field per round on his approaches, which was really uncharacteristic for how well he had been hitting it this year. Given how the altitude screwed with the yardage calculations into the greens, I’m willing to throw that out and back him at PGA National. Even with his struggles with his irons, Woodland still gained about a shot on the field per round tee-to-green, and he’s gained over a shot tee-to-green on the field in six of his last seven events. With the winds not expected to play as much havoc as it has in past years, Woodland has a chance to outclass the field this weekend.
Webb Simpson – 25/1: Last week in Mexico wasn’t a very happy trip for Webb. He recorded his lowest strokes gained tee-to-green figures on the year and struggled to putt on the quick poa annua surfaces. Despite only 55% accuracy off the tee, he still hit 71% of his greens all week, good for 17th in the field and showed that despite the low driving accuracy he didn’t get himself into too much trouble. That’ll be the key for him this week, and he typically putts better on bermuda than he does on poa. If that happens, he’ll be in prime position to take home the trophy.
Daniel Berger – 40/1: While all eyes were on Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy conducting cruise missile tests in Mexico City, Berger quietly finished T2 at the Puerto Rico Open in the opposite field event. Granted, that field was a complete disaster so it’s nothing to write home about, but the good performance might be an indication that he’s ready to jump back into the fray and is finally over his wrist injury. Berger has either been great or a dumpster fire so far in 2019, but at a course where he has a good history at he’s worth a shot at 40/1 with all the talent in his game.
While mybookie.ag hasn’t yet released their tournament matchup props for the week, here are a few I expect to be available on their website based on ones I’ve seen elsewhere:
Jason Kokrak -115 over Kiradech Aphibarnrat: While Aphibarnrat showed well down in Mexico, he’s never been able to translate the success he’s had worldwide to events in the United States on a consistent basis. There’s a huge disparity between his ball-striking statistics on the European Tour and on the PGA Tour for reasons I haven’t been able to identify. Regardless, I’ll look to fade him against Jason Kokrak who’s averaged over a stroke gained tee-to-green in his last four tournaments and hasn’t missed a cut since last July.
Emiliano Grillo -115 over Billy Horschel: Last week I faded Billy Horschel in a matchup prop against Shane Lowry, and while I was correct that Horschel would fare poorly in the event, Lowry was even worse. Despite this, I’ll go back to the well and fade him once again against Grillo. Horschel lost strokes to the field last week tee-to-green, off the tee and on his approach shots, and that continued his trend of mediocre ball-striking this year. As I discussed in the DFS Picks preview, I expect Grillo to bounce back at PGA National, and I also expect him to best Horschel one on one this week.