Florida will present some different challenges than the events on the West Coast and the Champion Course at PGA National will never be confused as easy.
Rickie Fowler defends and should be on your short list again this week.
My take on those who are playing this week with Tiger is below.
The Honda Classic
PGA National Resort & Spa (Champion Course)
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Yards: 7,140 per the official scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Tifeagle Bermudagrass running 11.5-12′
Rough: Bermudagrasss and ryegrass at 3″
Water Hazards: 12
Course Architect(s): Tom and George Fazio (1981); Nicklaus Design (2013).
Purse: $6.6 million; $1.188 million (winner); 500 FedExCup Points.
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler lapped the field to win by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland.
- 144 players; Stroke play; top 70 professionals and ties play the weekend
- This event moved to the Champion Course in 2007 so any event history prior needs to be ignored this week.
Frys.com: Brendan Steele
CIMB: Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC: Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms: Ryan Armour*
Shriners: Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba: Patton Kizzire*
RSM Classic: Austin Cook*
Sentry TOC: Dustin Johnson
Sony Open: Patton Kizzire
CB Challenge: Jon Rahm
Farmers: Jason Day
WMPO: Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach: Ted Potter, Jr.
Genesis: Bubba Watson
**First-time winner AND rookie winner
Time to read The Confidence Factor linked here.
Previous Champions (since the move to the Champion Course 2007)
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
2009: Y.E. Yang -9
2008: Ernie Els -8
2007: Mark Wilson -5
# not playing this week
Facts and Figures:
- Tournament Record: 267, Villegas (2010)
- Course Record: 61, Brian Harman (2012)
- Of the last 11 winners, seven have been internationals.
- Every victory has been by a margin of one or two shots with the exception of Vegas and Fowler.
- Harrington became the first sponsor’s exemption to win on TOUR since Lee Westwood at FESJC in 2010.
- First-time winners on Tour include Wilson (2007), Yang (2009; before HSBC was a Tour event), Thompson (2013).
- Thompson is the only winner of this event not to have multiple TOUR wins.
- Jack Nicklaus is the only man to defend his title at this event.
- No multiple winners at PGA National since the move.
- Kenny Knox shot 80 on Saturday at this event in 1986 but still won. #Breezy
in order of preference for this week and this tournament
Rickie Fowler: Read The Confidence Factor. This isn’t hard. Gamers tart on him after WMPO should have squashed that and moved on by now. Full, deep bag gives him the advantage, again, this week.
Rory McIlroy: I’m bullish this week because he’s NOT playing with Tiger Woods and can get on with it. Playing with Scott and Harrington should set him up for a big opening act. The grainy Bermuda of south Florida will be more familiar than the Poa of the West Coast so he should roll in a few more putts.
Gary Woodland: He couldn’t carry over the momentum from WMPO to Pebble Beach but that’s hardly a surprise after going through what he went through last year. Speaking of last year, he was in the fight late before rinsing a couple down the stretch to fall into a tie for second. Nice confluence this plus almost a home game for the Miami resident.
Justin Thomas: He posted all four rounds here in the 60’s in 2016 and that’s only one of four times that’s happened here since 2013. He was T5 GIR last week at a difficult place to hit GIR so I’m expecting that to carryover.
Sergio Garcia: #NappyFactor. He’s loving life and continues to look comfortable in all facets. Gamers were lamenting his final round defeat to Adam Scott here two years ago. Since then he’s picked up five wins worldwide and his first major. If the requirements this week are playing in the wind and a tidy short game, he has you covered.
Brian Harman: He leads the TOUR in top-10 finishes with five and holds the course record, 61. He’s also posted 64 here as well but has never popped into the top 10. He’s proven in the last 15 months that he can play any style of course and contend with any kind of field.
Graeme McDowell: This was a tough, but easy selection. Gamers are always looking for “perfect” but I’ll settle for “really good”. GMAC was in the fight last weekend before crapping out on Sunday. He couldn’t have found a softer landing spot than PGA National where he’s cashed for solo fifth in 2016 and T14 last year. I’m going to try and catch this before, not after.
Tyrell Hatton: One try here, played in the final group with Fowler and fired 72 for T4. More evidence that class can trump experience here. He’s started the season T15 and third in the Middle East.
Tommy Fleetwood: See above if you’re worried about not having many reps on this track! My only concern about him is not his ball-striking; his worst finishes anywhere in the world are ALL in the United States. His T37 should chase a few off this week but he hits too many GIR to ignore.
Alex Noren: His two best finishes on TOUR this winter are P2 at Torrey Pines and T16 at Riviera. Chuck in T21 at WMPO and there’s your proof he knows how to get the ball around TOUR courses in only three starts. Would you like to guess which week out of the three listed above that I used him in OAD? Go on, then! ONE guess!
Chesson Hadley: He’s posted four top-10 finishes this season and has only one round above par in 2018. He’s hitting plenty of GIR and has enough short game to be a nuisance this week. He’ll have the confidence of a pair of top-25 finishes in three tries.
Jason Dufner: He’s never missed in NOYNE tries here reinforcing that being a premium putter rarely matters here or on TOUR. He embraces the breeze with his iron game and should be well-rested after not playing since CareerBuilder Challenge.
Ian Poulter: With injuries in the rear-view mirror and the Ryder Cup on the horizon, I’d expect another big week at PGA National. He held the 54-hole lead here in 2015 before a tough final round knocked him to T3. He’s a grinder and this course sets up well for that. He hasn’t gone home early in 13 events on TOUR.
Russell Knox: With four of his five starts in 2018 T29 or better, I’m not letting him slide by. He was one of the four in a playoff here in 2014 when Russell Henley defeated him, McIlroy and Ryan Palmer. All four of these guys should be on your radar this week.
form plays, eye-catchers who make great support staff, not in order
Russell Henley: He broke a two-event MC streak with T15 at Pebble Beach with T15. The 2014 champ is another Bermuda lover.
Patton Kizzire: The only two-time winner on TOUR this season has rattled off eight cuts in a row and four top-10 finishes. I’d point out he fired 64 in his second round the first time he played here. I prefer him on Bermuda and his last win at Waialae was on that surface. I don’t prefer him paired with Tiger Woods for the first two days, hence finding him down here.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: Two weeks ago we saw him win the ISPS Handa Super Six in Australia, his second victory in two months worldwide.
Ryan Moore: He’s had absolutely no love on this track in three previous trips but his top 10 last week at Riviera caught my eye. He’s usually very steady off the tee and can hole putts. Neither of those will hurt this week.
Kevin Kisner: My only rule with Kisner is play him on every track with Bermuda. He was three shots out of second before 77 on Sunday last year blew him all the way to T48. He was six-under-par for the week before swim lessons.
Martin Kaymer: He’s made 18 cuts in a row on the PGA TOUR. His best finish in the last year was T4 here last year.
Patrick Reed: In 14 rounds at Champion he’s posted half at par or better and has a quartet of 67’s in that bunch. His short game has my attention more than his current form.
Jhonattan Vegas: He closed here last year with 64 for T4 and was T12 in 2014.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello: He effortlessly bounces around the globe and collects checks. Back-to-back T26 finishes at Pebble and Riviera suggests I keep an eye on him again this week.
Ryan Palmer: The Texan has never had much problem with the wind here. He’s one of the four to post all four rounds in the 60’s since 2013 (P2, 2014). He opened 66-65 here last year.
Daniel Berger: This is going to be majestic one way or the other so I’ll lean positively as he’ll be playing with Thomas and Garcia. He didn’t fire Sunday at WMPO and then blew out of L.A. early with 75-76. He’ll be game this weekend in front of the home crowd.
Off the Beaten Path
Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings
Luke List: T10 here two years ago with one round in the red and one round at even par. He followed that with T52 last year with two rounds in the red and one at even par. #Trending.
Sung Kang: Tends to thrive on courses he’s had a bit of success on in the past; T10 here two years ago and T16 after 69-69 weekend at Riviera.
John Huh: Here’s another that will just plod along and hole some putts when he finds GIR. He’ll also play from the sprinkler line.
Billy Horschel: He’s 10-under combined his last two weekends at the Champion Course and has taken home T8 and T4 money during that run. His current form is going to test the patience of most this week.
Grayson Murray: He hasn’t MC in 2018 in eight tries and rolls in with T8 at Pebble under his belt.
Bud Cauley: This is a recording. I’m in every week.
Aaron Wise: Almost like Schniederjans “Light” as he is taking gamers up-and-down the roller coaster. His 68-77 at Riviera last week was a microcosm. I’m interested to see how his game translates on Bermuda.
Sam Saunders: Of his eight rounds here, five are in the red. I can’t bury him deep enough this week so the sharks in my league don’t see him. In four events in 2018 his worst finish is T26. #ChooChoo.
Luke Donald: “It’s gonna be THIS WEEK”, I can hear them shout…
Chris Stroud: He used to rake here in the first part of the decade.
Anirban Lahiri: I can’t figure him out week-to-week so kudos to all of you who chucked him on season-long rosters. He opened here 65-68 last year and cashed for T11 after MC in 2016. Yep, sounds about right!
Patrick Rodgers: I whiffed on him last week so I’m gaming ANGRY. I’ve learned over the years that guys burn hot for three to four weeks in a row so there’s not always time to digest it. He’s a must for deep rosters this week.
injured, rusty or not the track this week
Wes Bryan: The driver is back in his bag. I’ll patiently wait and see how that works.
Louis Oosthuizen: If you walked up to me on the street and said “Louis Oosthuizen” I’d probably say top 25. His form is off right now and I’ll wait until next week in Mexico to make a move, if at all.
Stewart Cink: Check The Emergency 9’s from last week. He had a allergy check-up. He’s allergic to Bermuda grass. Do the math.
Brandt Snedeker: If he didn’t fire at Torrey and Pebble Beach, why is he going to at a place he hasn’t played since 2011? If his price is right, by all means. After back-to-back top 20’s, it probably won’t be. It’s all relative. Oh, and he’s playing with THIS GUY (arrow down) for two days. Good luck folks!
Tiger Woods: This wasn’t a haunt of his when he was healthy and the best in the world so why would I play him on it THIS week? I’ll gladly be wrong but there’s water, wind and other stuff that makes me uncomfortable this week.
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