Horses for Courses: The Honda Classic 2021

Sungjae Im, the youngest ever to win at PGA National, is back to defend.

Horses for Courses

Spring Break in the Sunshine State concludes this week as The Honda Classic will be the fourth consecutive and final event of the Florida Swing. Jack Nicklaus and PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens will have the Champion Course dialed up and The Bear Trap ready to go.


RELATED: Power Rankings | Expert Picks | The First Look


Rest and the wicked rarely go together and this week will be another grinder. The backdrop of palm trees and glorious sunshine is fantastic but this will be, by my count, the fifth consecutive event on TOUR where par is a very solid score. From Riviera, to The Concession, to Bay Hill, to TPC Sawgrass and now the Champion Course, don’t be surprised if guys run out of gas this week.

It’s never easy here.

The last three seasons this Nicklaus/Fazio has ranked in the top three hardest tracks on TOUR. The layout here is only 7,125 yards but plays to Par-70 and the wind isn’t a factor. There’s plenty of room, as usual with Nicklaus designs, to swing it off the tee and the greens are massive targets (7,000 square feet) to land it. The challenge will come from 67 bunkers and water in play on 15 of the 18 holes. Finding the rough, only two inches of over-seeded Bermuda, will still give players a chance. Once on the greens, it’s the fourth straight week of TifEagle Bermuda running at 12 feet or better so everyone should be more than comfortable.

Par is a very solid score this week and anything in red figures will be rewarded. The Bear Trap will test the nerves down the stretch but No. 18 is a Par 5 for a last chance saloon. The wind blowing provides the grind and so do the green complexes. Get on the green and find a way to get them in! Make pars and run to the next tee!

A field of 144 will be chasing down a prize pool of $7 million with $1.26 million and 500 FedExCup points for the winner.

Recent Event Winners Stats

202020192018
WinnerSungjae ImKeith MitchellJustin Thomas
Score6-under 2749-under 2718-under 272
MOV11Playoff
Cut 3-over 1432-over 1425-over 145
    
Age212724
    
Distance of All Drives2652
Driving AccuracyT10T54T60
Greens in RegulationT2T22T14
Ball-Striking7T2216
Proximity to the Hole14T51T9
Putting: Birdie-or-Better %4T1826
SG: Off-the-Tee111213
SG: Approach-the-Green571
SG: Around-the-Green5615
SG: PuttingT383828
SG: Tee-to-Green111
ScramblingT5T2 1
Bogey Avoidance24T22
Par-3 ScoringT61T2
Par-4 ScoringT8T26T12
Par-5 ScoringT4T8T3

2020: Sungjae Im (-6, 274)

Picked up his first TOUR win in his 50th start at age 21. … Closed with 66, matching the low round of the day and the week, to win by a shot. … Sat three back after 54 holes. … Also posted 66 in Round 2. … Did not lead after any round until the final one. … Co-led after 36 holes on debut in 2019 after posting 64 in Round 2. … Won in his second attempt. … Posted the highest winning score on TOUR since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship. … Becomes second consecutive first-time winner at fifth since the move to PGA National in 2007. … Entered the week making five of his last six cuts but his only top 10 was The American Express. … Youngest winner in history.

Notables:

Mackenzie Hughes (2nd)¬†made the cut on the number (+3) then fired 66-66 to miss a playoff¬†by a shot. …¬†Byeong Hun An (T4)¬†opened with 76 but played the final 54 holes 9-under for his second top 10 in three career events. …¬†Daniel Berger (T4)¬†picked up his second top four finish in six tries. … Brendan Steele (T4) led after 36 holes but closed 71-71. …¬†Lee Westwood (T4), heard of him?, sat one off the 36 hole lead, but still added his fourth top 10 in seven starts. …¬†Cameron Davis (T8)¬†hasn’t MC in two tries. …¬†2014 winner Russell Henley (T8)¬†also won here in his second attempt. … Defending champion¬†Keith Mitchell (MC)¬†could not join Jack Nicklaus as the only back-to-back winner. …¬†Tom Lewis (T47)¬†shared the first round lead with 66. … Cut was 3-over 143. … 66 was the low round of the week. … Only 5 bogey-free rounds. … Least amount of bogeys made for the week was NINE. … Course ranked third hardest on TOUR.

2019: Keith Mitchell (-9, 271)

Posted a final round 67 to defeat Brooks Koepka (not entered) and Rickie Fowler by a shot. … First win on TOUR in his 40th start. … Sat one off the 54 hole lead. … Co-led after 36 holes for the first time. … One of five players to post all four rounds par or better. … Won in his second attempt at the event (MC). … Highest winning score on TOUR since the 2018 Honda Classic. … Entered the week MC-MC but opened the calendar with T16 at Sony. … First top 10 since 2018 John Deere Classic.

Notables:

2017 winner Rickie Fowler (T2) closed 66-67 for his second podium in four years. … Lucas Glover (T4) opened and closed with 66. … Vijay Singh (6th) posted all four rounds at par or better including a 65 in Round 3. … 54-hole leader Wyndham Clark (T7) shot 72 from the final group on his debut. … Kyoung-Hoon Lee (T7), also on debut, posted 71 playing with Clark. … Jim Furyk (T9) hit the top 10 in his second event since 2012. … Justin Thomas (T30) couldn’t become the first player in forever to defend. … Brian Harman (not entered) and his course record of 61 wasn’t bothered as 63 was the low round of the week. … Jhonattan Vegas (T16) opened bogey-free with 66. … Cut was 2-over 142. … Just five bogey-free rounds. … Course ranked as the second hardest NON major of the season.

2018: Justin Thomas (Not Entered; -8, 272)

Defeated Luke List on the first playoff hole to win for the eighth time on TOUR. … Fired 65-68 on the weekend to force playoff. … Sat one off the lead after 54 holes. … Posted career-best 65 at Champion in Round 3. … Started a streak of three straight winners here leading the field in Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green. … Won on fourth attempt. … First playoff at the event since 2015 (Harrington defeats Berger on Monday). … T9 week before at Riviera continued his streak of four consecutive top 25s on TOUR.

Notables:

Luke List (P2) picks up his career-best paycheck after holding the 54 and co-36 hole leads. … First round leader Alex Noren (3rd) played 12-under around his second round 75. … Byeong Hun An (T5) closed 69-65. … Jamie Lovemark (7th) shared the 36 hole lead with List. … Kelly Kraft (T8) posted 66 on Saturday to join the fight. … Defending champion and all-time money leader at Honda Rickie Fowler (MC) didn’t see the weekend. … Cut was 5-over 145. … Only six bogey-free rounds for the week. … Round 2 saw only 13 scores in the red. … First year for brand-new TifEagle Bermuda greens. … Third most difficult event on TOUR (all events) in 2018 season.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-2020 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.
* – Top 10 finish here since 2015 or past champion

Strokes-Gained: Tee to GreenGolfer
  
8Harold Varner III
14*Russell Henley
15*Daniel Berger
22*Luke List
23Joaquin Niemann
25Cameron Tringale
27Jason Dufner
28Shane Lowry
33Keegan Bradley
34*Adam Scott
39*Brendan Steele
40*Byeong Hun An
42Chez Reavie
44*Cameron Davis
46*Sungjae Im
47Ryan Moore
48Kevin Strelman
49*Rickie Fowler
  
Bogey AvoidanceGolfer
  
5*Russel Henley
6Brice Garnett
9Cameron Tringale
10*Daniel Berger
11Russell Knox
15Zach Johnson
20Adam Schenk
22Pat Perez
24*Adam Scott
25Matthew NeSmith
27Scott Stallings
29Harold Varner III
30Cameron Percy
38Sungjae Im
40David Hearn
41Mark Hubbard
46Chez Reavie
47*Jim Furyk
50*Alex Noren
  
Par 3 ScoringGolfer
  
1Richy Werenski
2JT Poston
4Bronson Burgoon
5Will Gordon
9Ryan Armour
12*Rickie Fowler
12Scott Stallings
16Aaron Wise
19*Russell Henley
19*Mackenzie Hughes
19Tyler Duncan
19Matthew NeSmith
19Chase Seiffert
19Keegan Bradley
28Bo Hoag
28Brian Stuard
28Brice Garnett
28*Adam Scott
28Pat Perez
28Vaughn Taylor
28*Daniel Berger
28Sam Ryder
28*Talor Gooch
19Tyrrell Hatton
20Adam Schenk
21*Hideki Matsuyama
22Pat Perez
23Brendon Todd
24*Adam Scott
25Matthew NeSmith
26*Brandt Snedeker
29*Harold Varner III
30Cameron Percy

Horses for Courses

Player (Starts/cuts made)Top 10s Top 25 Most Recent (Season)Big Finishes
 
     
Sungjae Im (2/2)11Win (2020)Co-36 hole leader on debut after 64 (T51)
Mackenzie Hughes (3/4)112 (2020)Other two results T55 or worse
Brendan Steele (8/9)14T4 (2020)4 of last 5 T14 or better
Lee Westwood (7/7)45T4 (2020)T29 or better in six of seven
Daniel Berger (4/6)22T4 (2020)P2 2015; cashed last three visits
Ben An (3/3)22T4 (2020)T5 2018 debut; T36 2019
Russell Henley (7/8)25T8 (2020)2014 winner; third straight T24 or better; 
Cameron Davis (2/2)11T8 (2020)In 8 rounds 5 are par or better; T59 debut
     
Keith Mitchell (1/3)11Win (2019)7-over on debut; 9-over in defense
Lucas Glover (6/11) 24T4 (2019)T21 or better 3 of last 4 (MC 2020)
Wyndham Clark (2/2)12T7 (2019)T11 2020; 5 of 8 rounds 60s
Kyoung-Hun Lee (2/2)12T7 (2019)60s in four of eight rounds; T36 2020
Jim Furyk (3/5)11T9 (2019)MC-T9-T46 last three years
     
Luke List (3/6)222 (2018)T10 2016; MC last 2 visits
Alex Noren (1/3)113 (2018)7-over debut; 9-over last time
Jamie Lovemark (4/8)117 (2018)T27 last time 2020
Kelly Kraft (1/3)11T8 (2018)Last visit was MC 2019
     
Rickie Fowler (7/11)46Win (2017)T2 2019; T6 2016; Last 4 WIN-MC-T2-MC
Martin Kaymer (4/6)11T4 (2017)T44 next best
Jhonattan Vegas (7/8)13T4 (2017)T27 or better in 3 of his last 4 
Wesley Bryan (1/2)11T4 (2017)MC 2018; Opened 64-67 on debut
     
Adam Scott (4/6)14Win (2016)T12 in 4 of last 5 with MC last year 
Graeme McDowell (8/10)455 (2016)2011-13 three straight T9 or better
Scott Brown (5/7)12T10 (2016)T20 2019 next best
Sung Kang (3/6)11T10 (2016)Cashed 3 of last 4
     
Padraig Harrington (5/9)13Win (2015)MC last 3 years; other win was at Mirasol
Ian Poulter (6/7)11T3 (2015)Next best is T27 2020
Luke Donald (8/9)45T7 (2015)T11 2020; 2nd 2008
Jim Herman (2/5)11T7 (2015)T27 2017
     
Select Past Champions    
     
Michael Thompson (7/9)13Win 2013T57, T24, T16 in his last 3 visits
Rory Sabbatini (7/10)12Win 2011T11 2015; Cashed last three best is T17
     

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