2020 Honda Classic Preview

You can go your own way.

The Honda Classic

PGA National – Champion Course

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

South Course: Yards (per official scorecard): 7,125
Par: 70; (35-35)
Greens: TifEagle Bermudagrass; 7,000 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter: 11.5′
Rough: Over-seeded Bermuda (ryegrass) at two inches.
Bunkers/Water Hazards 67; in play on 15 of 18 holes.
Architect(s): Tom Fazio (1981); Jack Nicklaus (2002, 2014 and 2018).
Purse: $7 million; $1.26 million and 500 FedExCup points (winner).
Defending Champion: Keith Mitchell (-9), 271.
Fact of the Week: Greens were replaced after 2018 event with same TifEagle Bermuda (frost).
Fact of the Week II: Added Bermuda greens after 2014 edition so that’s where I start.

 

2019-2020 Season Winners

*- First-time winner

**- First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
   
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier *- Joaquin Niemann
Sanderson Farms Championship *- Sebastian Munoz
Safeway Open Cameron Champ
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Kevin Na
Houston Open *-Lanto Griffin
CJ CUP AT NINE BRIDGES Justin Thomas
ZOZO Championship Tiger Woods
WGC-HSBC Champions Rory McIlroy
Bermuda Championship Brendon Todd
Mayakoba Golf Classic Brendon Todd (2)
The RSM Classic *-Tyler Duncan
Hero World Challenge Henrik Stenson
Sentry Tournament of Champions Justin Thomas (2)
Sony Open Cameron Smith
The American Express Andrew Landry
Farmers Insurance Open Marc Leishman
Waste Management Phoenix Open Webb Simpson
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Nick Taylor
The Genesis Invitational Adam Scott
WGC-Mexico Championship Patrick Reed

 

Horses for Courses (The Confidence Factor) publishes at PGATOUR.COM Tuesdays. It’s a look who has played well here recently so I suggest reading it as I won’t replicate all of the information here.

 

Recent Event Winners

Year Player Notes
2019 Keith Mitchell, -9 Birdied the last to avoid a playoff with Koepka and Fowler; first career win.
2018 Justin Thomas, -8 Needed a playoff to defeat Luke List.
2017 Rickie Fowler, -12 Set the 54-hole record and won by four.
2016 Adam Scott, -9 Won with a triple and quad on the card. #Windy.
2015 Padraig Harrington, -6 Won a Monday playoff over Daniel Berger. Other victory was at a different course, relax.

 

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record: 268; Fowler, 2017.
Course Record: 61; Brian Harman, 2012 (T11).

 

Recent Defending Champion(s): Only one in event history is Jack Nicklaus.
Multiple Winners Entered: Zero since the move to PGA National.
First-time – TOUR: Mitchell (2019) – only since change to TifEagle.
First-time – Event None.
Low Rounds 2019: 63; Ryan Palmer (Rd 4)

64; Jhonattan Vegas (Rd 1), Sungjae Im (Rd 2).

Best First-timers 2019: T7: Wyndham Clark (54-hole leader) and KH Lee (final group).

T12: Lucas Bjerregaard.

T20: Matt Wallace.

Odd Fact: Kenny Knox shot 80 in Round 3 here in 1986 and still won. #Windy.

 

Quick thoughts:

Big greens this week are difficult to hit if you don’t find the fairway. Over-seeded rough and plenty of sand hamper the ability to get it close. It doesn’t help either that theses surfaces are only two years old (read: firm).

Grinding out pars, navigating the wind and taking your medicine has to be the mindset this week. There have only been a few players to circle 20 or more birdies since the switch to TifEagle Bermuda after the 2014 event.

The lack of players with more than one top-10 finish connects the dots this week.

I’ll also point out there haven’t been any multiple winners at PGA National and obviously nobody has defended either.

The last three winners are 20-somethings so being fearless probably doesn’t hurt, but I’ll point out there are hype-elite names at the top annually. The best players play the toughest courses well.

 

Good News, Bad News: TifEagle Bermuda is on the dance floor this week and the next three. Guys who grew up on this surface will have the advantage just like the Poa posse from the West Coast swing.

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Altitude: No pesky conversion rates this week as SEA LEVEL is the altitude at PGA National. That will free up some CPU but the rest will be used on gauging the winds blowing from the north-northwest all four days. Cool temperatures will also hinder getting loose in the early mornings and might bother late in the afternoon, if the breeze picks up.

So What? So Let’s Dance!: The last three winners have been locals in their 20s suggesting that sleeping in your own bed isn’t a bad deal this week. With big numbers right around every corner, I’m leaning on guys who pound GIR and can think it around a very difficult track. Champion Course ranks annually in the top 10 in most difficult (majors included) on TOUR and usually has a very top-heavy leaderboard.

Thin field this week makes for a reduced list. Only eight of the top 30 OWGR are entered this week.

 

Class

Brooks Koepka: The harder the track, the better, and this week qualifies. I tend to leave him alone unless it’s a major but you can do you.

Tommy Fleetwood: Fourth on debut in 2018 and knocked the rust and jet lag off last week in Mexico (T18).

Viktor Hovland: It’s always hard to win the first one and he did so last week in Puerto Rico. It’s even harder to go back-to-back but that’s not the issue for me this week. He’s playing great and now has the confidence, and two-year exemption, to just play.

Rickie Fowler: The unofficial tournament host with the Nicklaus family has cashed T2-MC-WIN in the last three and will be making his 11th consecutive start. There are plenty who play here but few who play well.

Erik van Rooyen: Knocked the rust off at Riviera with T3 last week in Mexico City on Poa/Kikuyu. Fantastic week included a deft short game and big putter on difficult greens.

Gary Woodland: Fantastic ball-striking week last week would have looked even better if he wouldn’t have closed bogey-bogey for T12. Of his last 12, five are in the red and he’s never MC in seven. Buying.

Billy Horschel: Made one bogey last weekend in Mexico City to rack up his second consecutive T9 on TOUR. Plenty of familiarity at PGA National as well pushes him into my choices this week.

Shane Lowry: T29 or better in five of his last six worldwide starts makes him a solid play in every format.

Justin Rose: OK, Rosey, we’re waiting! Solo second in Singapore felt like years ago after MC Torrey and T53 at Riviera. Took last week off and returns to Honda for the first time since MC in 2015. Gulp. He moved to the Bahamas to get OUT of Florida (allergies) so this is weird. Pass.

Daniel Berger: I like heat and Berger brings it after T9 WMPO and T5 at Pebble. All four starts in 2020 are T38 or better and that doesn’t hurt. Neither does growing up on Bermuda and almost beating Padraig Harrington here in a playoff in 2015.

Emiliano Grillo: Two seaside courses this year Sony T21 and Puerto Rico T3.

Wyndham Clark: Last year’s 54-hole leader in his first attempt returns in excellent form (#Trending T34-T18-T17 in his last three). Big power player who can also navigate greens. More proof that course form isn’t a deal breaker.

 

Worth another look:

Charl Schwartzel: He’s been top five or bust in the last three months and usually grinds properly (Valspar). T16 last year after three year absence.

Sungjae Im: 70-64 on debut to co-led after 36 before 77-71 weekend knocked him to T51. He’s cashed five of six in 2020 and nothing worse than T36 and 13 of 14 overall.

Lucas Glover: The form at the course (-8 over the last three years; T4-T17-T21) > form currently. I’m leaning on the return to Bermuda to spark him into life. Bang it.

Russell Henley: On one of the most difficult courses annually on TOUR, Riviera, he broke a streak of MC X 5 and played in the penultimate three-ball. 2014 winner has made six of seven here including T20-T24 in the last two. Nibbles.

Matthew NeSmith: Five straight T32 or better with T6 last week PRO preceded by T11 at Pebble Beach. Top 31 in fairways AND greens works for me! Heat check!

Talor Gooch: 10 straight paydays and the best of the bunch was T10 at Riviera. Ride or die.

Louis Oosthuizen: Sneaky solid this week as T51 was after three weeks off following T23-5-2-2 run worldwide. If there’s anyone who will hit three balls in the water on Sunday to blow up a ticket, it’s him haha.

Ian Poulter: Blew a three-shot lead here in 2015 and hasn’t recovered yet at PGA National. Can handle a proper grind but hasn’t played in three weeks. Caution.

Matt Wallace: Cashed in 28 of last 33 worldwide and T20 on debut here last year.

J.T. Poston: Nothing spectacular in 2020 but has rattled off three in a row. I like in eight rounds here half are in the red and five are par-or-better.

 

Longer shots

K.H. Lee: Played in the final group last year and led the field in SG: TTG. Steaming hot with T13 at Riviera and T14 PRO last two. Move him up.

Joseph Bramlett: Four straight including T9 at PRO. Interesting.

Harold Varner, III: Ok, pulled a “Henley” by breaking a big MC streak at Riviera, of all places. He’s made the cut here in three of four (best: T51) and had two rounds in the red last year. Make sure you get odds worth your while.

Jhonattan Vegas: Last year’s FRL (64) closed with 62 for T9 last week in Puerto Rico. Cashed in six of seven here as well reinforcing that putting is not a determining factor to cashing. Also posted 64 in 2017.

Harry Higgs: Streak of three straight T25 or better including T9 at a difficult Torrey Pines South. Just a nibble.

Michael Thompson: The 2013 champ has found his footing here again with four of his last eight in the red for T16-T24. Now, about those four straight MC entering the week…

Adam Schenk: Four of 5 and three straight including T14 last week. Two trips to Honda for T30 and T29 the last two years.

Brian Harman: Course record holder with 61 in 2012 is making cuts but not cashing major checks. Caution.

Harris English: My dude Rob Bolton loves him this week so I’m shamelessly plugging this pick.

Doc Redman: Ball-striker extraordinaire for a rookie. EW and Top 20 for a nibble.

Ryan Palmer: Probably should have landed in Horses for Courses as he factors more here than he doesn’t. Cooled off after a hot close to 2019 and hot start to 2020.

Maverick McNealy: 10 straight weekends.

Cameron Davis: 5 straight all T38 or better.

 

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

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s