The Confidence Factor: The Honda Classic Preview 2019

Jack welcomes a field of 144 at PGA National’s Champion Course.

This guy is lucky Phil isn’t around or he would be a belt or shoes.

 

The Honda Classic

PGA National

Champion Course

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Champion Course Cheat Sheet

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,140
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: 7,000 square feet; Tif-Eagle Bermudagrass.
Stimpmeter: 12′ maximum (wind)
Rough: Tif-Sport Bermuda over-seeded with ryegrass at 2.5″
Bunkers: 67
Water Hazards: On 14 of 18 holes.
Architect(s): Tom and George Fazio (1981); Jack Nicklaus (2018-last).
Purse: $6.8 million; $1.224 million, 500 FedExCup points (winner).
Defending Champion: Justin Thomas, -8 (playoff)
Notes: Moved here in 2007.
Notes II: Brand-new Tif-Eagle Bermuda on the greens. Same grass, new sod.

History Lessons

Previous Winners (since 2014):

Year Winner   Comment
       
2018 Justin Thomas -8 Second podium in three years; won in playoff.
2017 Rickie Fowler -12 Set the 54-hole record by two, won by four.
2016 Adam Scott -9 Led by seven in Round 3 before winning by a shot.
2015 Padraig Harrington -6 Defeated Daniel Berger in a Monday playoff.
2014 Russell Henley -8 Won a four-man playoff after Rory McIlroy went swimming late on Sunday.

Recent History Lessons

2018-19 Winners

Event Winner
   
Safeway Open Kevin Tway**
CIMB Classic Marc Leishman
CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES Brooks Koepka
Sanderson Farms Championship Cameron Champ**
WGC-HSBC Champions Xander Schauffele
Shriners Hospitals for Children Bryson DeChambeau
Mayakoba Golf Classic Matt Kuchar
The RSM Classic Charles Howell III
Hero World Challenge* Jon Rahm
Sentry TOC Xander Schauffele (2)
Sony Open in Hawaii Matt Kuchar (2)
60th Desert Classic Adam Long**
Farmers Insurance Open Justin Rose
Waste Management Rickie Fowler
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Phil Mickelson
Genesis Open J.B. Holmes
WGC-Mexico Championship Dustin Johnson

(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)

Facts and Figures:

Honda is the longest-running sponsor on TOUR as they began their relationship in 1982. Domo arigato.

Tournament Record: 267 (-13); Camilo Villegas, 2010.
Course Records: 61; Brian Harman, Round 2, 2012.
Recent Defending Champion(s): N/A.
Multiple Winners (entered) N/A.
First TOUR Win (since 2007 move): Mark Wilson (2007), Y.E. Yang (2009) and Michael Thompson (2013).
First-time in the field: N/A.
Low Round 2018: 65; Four players (Thomas, Noren, An all T5 or better; all in the field this week).
Odd Fact: Since the move, nobody had defended or won on their maiden.

The Confidence Factor was the weekly column I wrote for PGATOUR.COM. It has evolved into Horses for Courses. I’ve included the link here for you. It can also be found in The Confidence Factor section at my website. For now. Until I make a new category. Relax.

Inside the ropes

Jack’s at it again! Since last year he’s re-carpeted all of the greens with brand-new Tif-Eagle, added square footage to greens that were lost to fairway expansion and adjusted a tee box on No. 17.

The key this week is always the weather. The wind ALWAYS BLOWS HERE. Always.

Always.

Except when it doesn’t.

The winning scores are posted above so the evidence is clear that this course isn’t a pushover.

Big fairways? You betcha. Also BIG PENALTIES for missing them as there is plenty of water and sand, just in case the wind doesn’t blow.

Same goes for the greens. At 7,000 square feet there is PLENTY of landing area, but if you miss…plenty of water, plenty of sand.

The greens have new grass but not DIFFERENT grass so that shouldn’t be a huge issue. Pro gamers will tell you that new greens will be firmer than the old, worn-in ones so adding the bounce and speed will add another level of skill this week. Remember another rule, Nicklaus’ courses get harder as you get closer to the hole. Nobody made 20 birdies last year and only seven players made less than 10 bogeys.

I’d tell you about the “Bear Trap” but then you won’t learn anything when you’re watching over the four rounds!

Trend or Not a Trend?

Stats 2018 2017 2016 2015
  Justin Thomas Rickie Fowler Adam

Scott

Padraig Harrington
Winning Score -8 -12 -9 -6
         
Distance of All Drives 2 7 7 38
Driving Accuracy T60 T17 T10 T52
Greens in Regulation T14 T18 1 T24
Ball-Striking T16 10 T1 23
Proximity to the Hole T9 T11 2 2
Putting: Birdie-or-Better % 26 1 11 1
SG: Off-the-Tee 13 10 5 52
SG: Approach-the-Green 1 16 2 2
SG: Around-the-Green 15 38 34 7
SG: Putting 28 2 23 37
SG: Tee-to-Green 1 10 3 2
Scrambling 1 T9 6 6
Bogey Avoidance 2 T4 T1 8
Par-3 Scoring T2 T7 T29 T27
Par-4 Scoring T12 T5 1 3
Par-5 Scoring T3 T2 T3 T30

Horses for Courses

It’s a home game this week for too many guys to count but they all can’t win! Back on Bermuda will definitely bring smiles to the faces of guys from here and who live here. You don’t move to this part of the world if you’re not down to clown on the slick and grainy!

Player Cuts Top Top Last Best (Others)
  Made 10s 25s    
           
Justin Thomas 2/4 2 2 Win (2018) T3 (2016), MC other 2
Luke List 2/4 2 2 P2 (2018) T10 (2016), MC other 2
Alex Noren 1/2 1 1 3 (2018) MC
Webb Simpson 2/4 1 2 T5 (2018) T24 (2011)
Byeong-Hun An 1/1 1 1 T5 (2018)  
Emiliano Grillo 3/3 1 1 T8 (2018) improved each year
Sam Burns 1/1 1 1 T8 (2018)  
Kelly Kraft 1/2 1 1 T8 (2018)  
           
Rickie Fowler 6/9 3 5 Win (2017) T6 (2016), T7 (2012)
Gary Woodland 6/6 2 2 T2 (2017) T6 (2011)
Billy Horschel 3/7 2 2 T4 (2017) T8 (2016)
Jhonattan Vegas 5/6 1 2 T4 (2017) T12 (2014)
Martin Kaymer 3/5 1 1 T4 (2017) nothing inside the top 40
           
Adam Scott 4/5 1 4 Win (2016) T12 (2014), T13 (2018) and T14 (2017)
Sergio Garcia 8/8 2 4 2 (2016) T8 (2014)
Graeme McDowell 7/9 4 5 5 (2016) Top 10 2011-13
Scott Brown 4/5 1 1 T10 (2016) Nothing inside T45
Sung Kang 2/5 1 1 T10 (2016) T52 is other
           
Padraig Harrington 5/8 1 2 Win (2015) T13 in 2007, first year at PGA National
Daniel Berger 2/4 1 1 P2 (2015) T29 (2018)
Russell Knox 3/5 2 2 T3 (2015) P2 (2014); two podiums
Jim Herman 2/3 1 1 T7 (2015) T27 (2017) last time
           
           
Player Cuts Top Top Last Best (Others)
  Made 10s 25s    
           
Russell Henley 5/6 1 3 Win (2014) T13 (2013)
Ryan Palmer 7/10 1 2 T2 (2014) T25 (2015), T26 (2016)
           
Michael Thompson 5/7 1 2 Win (2013) T24 (2018)
Lucas Glover 5/9 1 3 T4 (2013) T17 (2018), T21 (2017)
Charl Schwartzel 3/5 2 3 T9 (2013) T14 (2011), T5 (2012)
           
Chris Stroud 7/10 1 3 T9 (2012) T13 (2013), T12 (2014)
           
Rory Sabbatini 5/8 1 3 Win (2011) T11 (2015), T17 (2018)
           
Freddie Jacobson 7/9 2 5 T6 (2010) T5 (2009),
Scott Piercy 4/6 1 2 T5 (2009) T17 (2018)
Jason Dufner 9/9 1 5 T9 (2009) T17 (2018), T14 (2017)
Ernie Els 7/9 1 3 Win (2008) T21 (2012)

Chalk

Justin Thomas: In his last 29 worldwide events he’s been cut once. Only Jack has defended this event but with four top-10 finishes in his last five including three straight, The Golden Bear might have company this week.

Rickie Fowler: Big call for gamers this week but I think it’s over-thought: Yes, GET IN. He loves the Bahamas, T5 there. He hasn’t played well at Torrey Pines in five years, T66. Close at Scottsdale multiple times, WINS. Nothing inside the top 15 at Mexico in two previous tries? T36. This is a square peg and a square hole!

Webb Simpson: I love him on Tif-Eagle. Check last year’s stats or PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP for details!

Gary Woodland: With a streak of 20 made cuts in a row and six top 10’s in nine events, I don’t need much convincing.

Adam Scott: The last four years he’s posted all but three rounds at 70 or better and hasn’t cashed worse than T14. Should be chomping at the bit to get back out after his final group 76 at Riviera.

Sergio Garcia: Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd just like that, POOF, the “scandal” of Saudi Arabia is gone and golf is back. After three solid rounds to close in less-than-ideal conditions at Riviera, he gave a sniff in Mexico City (T6). He’s never MC in nine tries here.

Brooks Koepka: At some point he’s gonna flex and bounce back into the winner’s circle. Home games are weird on TOUR as sometimes the creature comforts of home turn off the INTENSITY-O-METER. He hasn’t inspired yet but in this field he won’t need much.

Billy Horschel: OK, #NappyFactor, we’re waiting!

Daniel Berger: Gave it a run here in 2015 when he lost to Harrington in a playoff. Gave it a run last week for T2 in Puerto Rico. He’s posted one round over 71 in 2019 and should know his way around here.

Michael Thompson: Convergence!!!! The 2013 champ is on absolute fire as he enters on a streak of T9, T13, T10 and T7 at Riviera LTO. He’s ninth in SG: ATTG and 18th Total.

Graeme McDowell: My OAD last week in Puerto Rico will feel more comfortable this week on a track where he’s cashed eight times (four top-10 paydays) from 10 starts. Windy, coastal tracks where par is a good score favors his skill set.

Luke List: Gave it sniff here last year as he led after 54 holes. You can’t fake it around Riviera and he posted rounds of 66 and 68 in finishing T15.

Cameron Smith: Only Woodland has made more cuts in a row as the Aussie is up to 15 straight. He’s become unbelievably consistent as he’s cashed six times in the top 22 in eight tries this season.

Lucas Glover: Back in his part of the world I’d expect his sizzling form to continue on Bermuda. In seven events this season he’s cashed T17 or better in all six weekends he’s played.

Emiliano Grillo: Led the field in birdies last year with 19 as he picked up T8, his best from three tries.

Coming in HAWT

Long Shots, Course Horses, Wings, Prayers

Byeong-Hun An: One trip, one T5 last year.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat: Put the brakes on last week with T3 in Mexico City. Plays Florida/Bermuda well as he gets look No. 2 at the Champion Course after T68 last year.

Jason Kokrak: First time outside T20 in four starts at Riviera with T20 as he’s hammering it tee-to-green.

Russell Knox: No early check outs from six tries in 2019 as he’s been solid. Hit the podium in his first two visits but he’s 14-over (MC, MC) in his last two trips.

J.T. Poston: I don’t mind a young, fearless type around here. We’ve witnessed enough of them over the last decade going close. He’s 39th in scoring average and T40 or better in his last five.

Scott Piercy: Veteran is flying under the radar of some. He shouldn’t be.

Bud Cauley: Last five paydays are T29 or better for the Jacksonville native.

Scott Brown: A pair of top-10 checks in his last four on TOUR suggests he’s a calculated flier.

Martin Trainer: His life changed after his win. Let’s see how he backs it up!

Scott Langley: Left-handed Scott Brown.

Blayne Barber: Monday qualifier was T3 in 2016.

Trey Mullinax: If he can keep it up on the planet off the tee, he’s been cashing six checks in a row.

Stewart Cink/Brendan Steele: Eight tries, eight paychecks but the form is troublesome. Worth a last-man tiebreaker!

Roger Sloan: He’s three of five in 2019 with T33, T12 and T2 at PRO LTO.

Jhonattan Vegas: Blows hot and cold but his ball flight works in the breeze and has plenty of power.

Carlos Ortiz: T9 at Riviera on last review.

Chris Stroud: One bad round in February.

Jason Dufner: Never missed in nine starts here with five top-25s.

Brian Harman: Good things happen here when he fires 61 or 64 but I can’t tell you when his last top-25 check was issued.

Patton Kizzire: Bermuda. Yes.

Brian Stuard: Five in a row on TOUR.

Sam Saunders: NEXT week everyone will be on him so I’m going early.

Russell Henley: 2014 champ is maddening. I wouldn’t be surprised with T10 or T144.

Brandon Hagy: Posted a 67 and 64 (T21) on debut in 2017.

Kelly Kraft: Of his six rounds three are in the red and T8 last year. T9 at Riviera suggests he’s found something similar.

C.T. Pan: His calling card last season was fairways and greens. A quiet start to 2019 doesn’t wipe out he’s cashed in eight of his last nine. Avoid the water and sand and make a few putts and he’ll be OK.

Nick Watney: Hasn’t missed in four tries here.

Kyle Jones: Forgettable Sunday at Riviera but eight-under after 54 holes. Ok, I see…

Talor Gooch: OMG FOURTH,T3 then jeez, MC, MC. Yeah, it’s not easy.

Caution – Maybe, Maybe Not

Alex Noren: When I have no clue, I bail. YOU don’t have to but his current form is 180 degrees opposite from where he was at this time last year.

Charl Schwartzel: Gave it a run last week but woefully inconsistent. Gun to head, I’d probably ride the finish from last week but I’m not running him out first.

Dylan Frittelli: Rode into town SCALDING HOT last year before cashing 11th. His form is nice but not as close to what it was last year as he closed 67-69.

Peter Uihlein: I figure if I just put him in here every week I’ll be one that can claim OH I HAD HIM THE WEEK HE WON. Enters off 77-71-73-74-73 in his last five rounds but has plenty of talent.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter (@MikeGlasscott) or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

 

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