Honda Classic Recap

02-27-17

Rickie Fowler picked up Tour win No. 4 by four shots at The Honda Classic.

He becomes only the second player to win this event by posting double-digits under-par.

Rickie Fowler scratched and clawed through the Champion course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to win The Honda Classic. Fowler posted 12-under par 268 to comfortably hold off bombers Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland by four shots.

 

 

Key Moment(s):

  • Staking himself to a four-shot lead entering Sunday, Fowler was 0-4 with the 54-hole lead. He’s now 1-5.
  • Without his best stuff in demanding conditions, Fowler ground out three putts over 20 feet for birdie, including a pair from 30-plus when things got tight on Sunday.
  • After a four-hole run of bogey, par, double and par, his five-shot lead was almost gone. His first 30-footer steadied the ship.
  • Entering The Bear Trap on Sunday, he was already two-under on the back nine so he had the cushion necessary. His staked iron and three-foot birdie on No. 16 removed all doubt.

 

Scorecard:

  • 21 birdies led the field.
  • Made only three bogeys the first three rounds and was bogey-free on Saturday.
  • 71 on Sunday included a double and two bogeys going out plus a bogey-bogey finish. That’s how good he was this week.
  • Led the field in scrambling before Sunday’s bumpy ride.
  • Racked up 48 of 72 GIR (T-18) while only finding 38 of 56 fairways (T-17).
  • Putter was on fire as he was second SGP and T-10 PPGIR.

 

 

Past history at PGA National:

  • Now has played six of eight weekends, including the last six in a row.
  • This is his third top 10 and fifth top 25.
  • The last two years he’s played Thursday and Friday in 66 shots each time.
  • Of his last eight rounds, three are bogey-free performances. There were six, bogey-free rounds this year.

 

 

Fantasy Forecast:

 

  • In four events he now has a win, T-4 and T-6.
  • His only MC is at his “home event” at Torrey Pines where he’s the brand ambassador for Farmers Insurance Open.
  • His new, shorter driver is finding more fairways that the older, longer one. Playing from the fairway > not.
  • He’s one of a dozen or so those needs to be hyper-analyzed every time he tees it up as his numbers across the board are excellent.
  • Gamers will have plenty of options to burn off his starts but TPC Sawgrass, TPC Boston and Quail Hollow, site of this year’s PGA Championship, are sites of his previous wins.
  • After finishing in the top five of all four majors in 2014, he’s only made the cut in five of his last eight with T-12 his only top 25.
  • In 2015, he won twice, the only season he’s done that.
  • At 28, he’s in his prime and I see nothing in the near future to disrupt his game moving forward.

 

 

With this win:

 

  • Collects $1,152,000.
  • 500 FEC points
  • Checks in at No. 9, up from No. 14 in the OWGR.
  • Now ranked 10th in the FedExCup standings.

 

 

Honda Classic Hindsight:

Trends and stats from the week for next week and next year

 

  • Fowler’s 12-under was the second-lowest winning total since the move to PGA National full time in 2007.
  • Course record 61 wasn’t sniffed this week even with ball-in-hand in use the first two rounds.
  • Low round of the week was 64 by Cody Gribble (last), Wesley Bryan (T-4), Brandon Hagy (T-23) and Jhonattan Vegas (T-4).
  • Adam Scott’s defense was buoyed by a Sunday 68 to move up 25 spots to T-14.
  • No player has ever defended.
  • There are no multiple winners since 2007.
  • Fowler is only the fourth USA winner in 11 events.
  • Every winner here minus Michael Thompson has been a multiple winner on Tour.
  • For the second year in a row there was only one player to put all four rounds in the 60’s. Last year Justin Thomas was T-3 while this year Morgan Hoffman was T-2.
  • Windy conditions led to only six, bogey-free rounds this year.
  • Fowler joins Villegas as the only victor to win by more than two shots.

 

Wet conditions early in the week rewarded the accurate and lengthened the course. Wind on the weekend, especially on Sunday, kept par a very respectable score. The top 10 was full of bombers minus Fowler and Chad Collins. It was also full of guys who usually play well at Riviera and Innisbrook. #Clues.

 

 

Scorecard: 

A look inside the rest of the top 10.

 

Morgan Hoffmann (T-2): The last time Hoffmann crossed the path of gamers was after T-3 at the JDC last summer. Before that it was T-9 at Harbour Town in 2015. His 62-63 finish at Cherry Hills for the BMW Championship in 2014 seems a lifetime ago. He MC only eight times in 2015 but number jumped to 14 last year. At 28 he’s hardly passed it but he hasn’t any consistency to keep my eyes in his direction. Known for his power and putting, keeping the golf ball on the planet has been the issue. He led the field in bogeys this week with five and was in the top three in both putting measurements. He’s put five of his last seven rounds here under par.

 

Gary Woodland (T-2): Fantastic week along all the metrics but bogeys at the final two holes cost him solo second place cash. He’s never MC in five tries with a pair of top 10’s and three T-61 or worse. In five events in 2017 four are T-20 or better and three are T-6 or better. #GiddyUp.

 

Jhonattan Vegas (T-4): After finishing T-30 in a 32-man field at Kapalua, Vegas has turned it around in 2017. His T-34 was followed by T-28 before his final round 69, one of the day’s best last Sunday at Riviera, saw him poach T-15. His closing round of 64 at PGA National was T-lowest of the week and moved him up 46 spots on Sunday. He led the field in SGOT was third in SGTTG. His career-year last year is carrying over nicely to the new season.

 

Wesley Bryan (T-4): For the second week in a row the three-time Web winner has blasted his way into the top four on Tour. His T-4 at Riviera included the low round of the week, 63, on Saturday. His T-4 at PGA National included the low round of the week, 64. Those are two big finishes in a row on two difficult courses for a guy who had previously nothing better than T-41 in his rookie year. His super short game is saving him strokes and it’s obvious he has no problem getting low.

 

Billy Horschel (T-4): All four rounds were par or better this week including his last three in the 60’s. His T-4 backed up his T-8 last year but hearing that he loves golf in Florida is a myth. He might have grown up in the state but outside of his two finishes here last year, the rest of his record in the state isn’t flattering.

Honda before the last two years was MC, T-46, MC and MC.

Doral: T-50, T-46 and 41st.

Innisbrook: MC and T-56.

Bay Hill: 75th, T-43, T-43 and T-20.

TPC Sawgrass: MC, T-26, T-13 and T-28.

Conclusion: Horschel has played well the last two years at Honda so if that’s love, so be it.

 

Chad Collins (T-4): Indiana kid makes only his third cut from his last 14 starts and his first top 10 since Valero (T-3) last year. Right that down for a long shot in a few weeks! It’s an interesting angle that both of those courses are windy and usually par is a decent score.

 

Martin Kaymer (T-4): T-51, MC and T-44 in three previous tries with two of 10 rounds under par didn’t have my attention this week. Neither did his T-48 and T-23 results from his last two European Tour fixtures. Time to drag out the ol’ saying: Form is temporary; class is permanent.

 

Tyrell Hatton (T-4): His impressive form carried him into the final group on Sunday this week on a course he’s never played. His battling 72 on Sunday should have opened his eyes to gamers late to the party. He has now posted nine consecutive starts in the top 25 worldwide since MC in Italy last fall. His putter hit the top 10 in both putting metrics and was the key this week. Not bad for a first rodeo!

 

Graham DeLaet (10th): The Canadian ball-striker has found a rich vein of form that we haven’t seen since this time last year. After T-9 at TPC Scottsdale he threw up T-17 at Riviera before another top 10 this week. Of his last 12 rounds, 11 have been par or better including all four this week. His bogey-free 66 on Thursday was one of just six on the week.

 

 

 

Eyes Open:

Players outside the top 10 who have caught my eyes in a positive way.

 

Paul Casey (T-11): His streak of improved finishes has now reached four after beginning 2017 with a MC at Sony. He’s a super Two-and-Done for Augusta if he keeps this up.

 

Anirban Lahiri (T-11): It’s obvious that he’s immune to jet lag. The results don’t lie: His game travels.

 

Nick Watney (T-14): He racks up his third top 30 in three tries and second T-14. I was impressed last week at Riviera with his closing 69. He went even lower on Sunday this week with 65. The back injury that kept him out most of last year is starting to fade into the rearview mirror.

 

Graeme McDowell (T-14): In his last seven starts he’s hit T-14 or better in five of them at PGA National. #CourseHorse.

 

Francesco Molinari (T-14): Nice bounce back for the Italian after MC at Riviera. His strong run of form continues and it was reinforced by a solid performance on a track where he hasn’t had any previous successes (MC, T-65).

 

“Whatever happened to…?”

 

Adam Scott (T-14): He’s 17-under here the last three trips with exactly one round over par from 12. His 68 on Sunday moved him up 25 spots.

 

Sergio Garcia (T-14): Plenty of carnage on Sunday was evidenced by Garcia’s 71 moving him up six spots.

 

Daniel Berger (MC): He hasn’t found the magic since losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington in 2015 as he’s MC the last two years. He played The Bear Trap in seven over to MC by three shots.

 

Russell Knox (MC): I read over the weekend that he’s pressed here the last two years because of his playoff loss as rookie followed up by his T-3 the year after. He expects, based on that record, to be in the mix and it just hasn’t worked. He’s now carded four consecutive rounds over par in a row here. A trip to Mexico City will be perfect this week as he’ll see a brand new canvas after back-to-back MCs.

 

Justin Thomas (MC): Since his two wins in a row to open 2017 he has followed with MC, T-39 and MC. A closer look shows he only has one round above 71 in that stretch so it’s hardly dire. Tiger Woods’ streak of consecutive cuts made will never be touched so accept that this is part of the game moving forward.

 

Brendan Steele (T-14): Loves this place as much as his favorite West Coast haunts and Valero and it shows. He’s never missed in seven tries and the last three years are his best (T-11, T-14 and T-14).

 

Russell Henley (T-43): A pair of 68’s to open suggested that skipping the West Coast swing was smart. His 70-74 on the weekend adds T-43 to his T-44 and MC after his playoff win four years ago.

 

Rafael Cabrera Bello (T-37): After three rounds he sat T-20 and ready to pounce but a final round 74 pushed him out. His iron play approaching the green but he missed a few little ones on the greens. He still hasn’t MC since THE PLAYERS last year.

 

Kevin Kisner (T-48): For three rounds he looked like a player that was going to add his third top 10 in four starts in 2017. The double hockey sticks on Sunday took him from T-8 to T-48. He lost over three strokes on the greens on Sunday alone. Last year he shot 76 on Sunday! Gaahhhhhhh.

 

Thomas Pieters (MC): The Belgian couldn’t follow up his big finish last week which is hardly surprising. Again, he only needs 13 points and change to get STM on Tour.

 

Charles Howell, III (T-52): He’s found the top 25 once in eight tries at PGA National. If I would have faded him, he would have probably won!

 

Luke Donald (T-27): Something is there because he’s been lurking in his last three events. The final piece of the puzzle will be finding a way to get it done on Sunday if he’s going to make the final leap. He’s never MC in seven tries at PGA National and five of those are T-27 or better.

 

Stay Tuned:

Keep up @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more details. Tomorrow, I’ll preview the WGC-Mexico Championship and Wednesday I’ll post my gaming column.

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