Horses for Courses: 2020 Honda Classic

First of four straight starts with The Bear Trap and PGA National.

The TOUR says goodbye to Poa annua and welcomes, for some, the return to Bermuda as the four-week Florida Swing kicks off this week in Palm Beach Gardens. The Champion Course at PGA National, host since 2007 has plenty of Bermuda, not to mention sand, water and The Bear Trap, so a soft landing into the Sunshine State this is not.

The field of 144 will tackle Tom Fazio’s Par-70 that stretches to 7,125 yards. Jack Nicklaus did some clean-up work and put TifEagle Bermuda on the greens for the 2015 edition. Water will challenge the players on 15 of 18 holes and there are 67 bunkers to avoid as well. The Bear Trap (Holes Nos. 15-17) will test the nerve and precision of everyone, especially late on Sunday. Nicklaus suggests the tournament should be won or lost here!

Generous landing areas off the tee and large Bermuda greens suggest the wind is always a factor at PGA National. Missing the fairways and greens comes with over-seeded Bermuda rough at two inches that makes stopping the ball near the pin nearly impossible.

On the line is $1.26 million (500 FedExCup Points) to the winner from the $7 million prize pool.

RECENT WINNERS

2019: Keith Mitchell (-9, 271)

Holed a birdie putt at the last to avoid a playoff with Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka and claim his first TOUR win in only his second visit. … Fourth consecutive winner to place in the top seven in driving distance (all holes). … Fourth winner in the last five to place in the top three (first) in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green. … T2 in scrambling and bogey avoidance. … Entered the week MC-MC-73-MC-16 for the season.

Notables in the field this week: Wyndham Clark (T7) led after 54 holes and played the final group with K. H. Lee (T7). … Mitchell co-led after 36 holes with Sungjae Im, who shot 64 in Round 2, before finishing T51. … Lucas Glover (T4) opened with 66 and closed with 66. … Ryan Palmer (T4) led the field with 20 birdies and posted the low round of the week, 63, on Sunday. … Vijay Singh (T6) joined Mitchell, Fowler and Sergio Garcia (DNS) as the only four players to post all four rounds par-or-better. … Cut was 2 over.

2018: Justin Thomas (-8, 272)

Defeated 54-hole leader Luke List on the first playoff hole for his first victory in four tries here. … Led the field in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green, Scrambling and Strokes-Gained: Approach-the-Green. … Fourth consecutive winner T11 or better in proximity. … Second win of the year (CJ CUP).

Notables in the field this week: Tommy Fleetwood (fourth) was a quick learner as he posted all four rounds of par-or-better in his first appearance. … Byeong-Hun An (T5) closed 69-65. … Jamie Lovemark (T5) was two off the 54-hole lead. … Sponsor exemption Sam Burns and birdie leader (19) Emiliano Grillo shared eighth. … Only 11 players broke par for the week. … Cut was 5-over.

2017: Rickie Fowler (-12, 268)

The eighth time was a charm as he comfortably won by four shots over Gary Woodland. … Set the 54-hole total record (-13) by two shots. … Only three players since 2013 have posted all four rounds in the 60s. … Fowler (second) is the only winner in the last five years to finish inside the top 23 in Strokes-Gained: Putting. … Fowler didn’t miss a putt inside five feet (57 of 57). … Led the field with 21 birdies.

Notables in the field this week: Billy Horschel (T4) put all four rounds at par-or-better. … Jhonattan Vegas (T4) made an ace and closed with 64. … Fowler is the only player to finish in double-digits under-par since the 2014 renovation. … Cut was even-par.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

* – previous top 10 finish here since 2017

Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green

7  *Byeong-Hun An
9  Corey Conners
12 *Brooks Koepka
13 *Tommy Fleetwood
14 *Jason Kokrak (T9, 2019)
15 *Emiliano Grillo
16 *Gary Woodland
19 Kevin Streelman
23 Joaquin Niemann
25 *Jim Furyk (T9, 2019)
27 *Jhonattan Vegas

Proximity

1 Corey Conners
3 *Jim Furyk
4 Ryan Armour
4 Jason Dufner
4 Vaughn Taylor
7 *Russell Knox
8 Chesson Hadley
10 Louis Oosthuizen
10 Joaquin Niemann
10 Keegan Bradley
14 Brian Stuard
15 Talor Gooch
17 Josh Teater
21 *Russell Henley
21 *Lucas Glover
24 Kyle Stanley
24 *Brooks Koepka

Scrambling

1  *Tommy Fleetwood
5  *Lucas Glover
6  Matt Jones
7  Sungjae Im
9  Denny McCarthy
9  Brian Stuard
13 *Jim Furyk
14 Bud Cauley
15 Kiradech Aphibarnrat
18 Rory Sabbatini (2011 winner)
19 Ryan Armour
20 CT Pan
21 Vaughn Taylor
22 Si Woo Kim
24 Jimmy Walker

Horses

Rickie Fowler: All-time leading money winner has learned how to balance winning golf during a home game. T2-MC-WIN-T6 the last four seasons suggests more than balance!

Lucas Glover: Hasn’t missed in his last seven attempts and the last three have cashed T4-T17-T21.

Billy Horschel: Florida born, bred and living, the former Gator has rattled off T16, MC, T4 and T8 in his last four visits.

Russell Henley: The 2014 champ has cashed in six of seven with T20 and T24 in his last two visits.

Cut makers at PGA National

Lee Westwood: Five straight but first appearance since 2015.

Nick Watney: Five straight.

Gary Woodland: Seven straight.

Stewart Cink: Nine straight.

Jason Dufner: 10 straight.

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