Horses for Courses: The Honda Classic 2022

Australian Matt Jones broke a streak of 20-something winners as he won by a record five shots last year.

Jack Nicklaus’ Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens will host for a 16th consecutive year.

The Honda Classic

With the end of February in site and the madness of March upon us, the PGATOUR will set up shop in the Sunshine State for the next four months. The Florida Swing kicks off a month of tournaments that will feature Jack, Arnie, Pete Dye and Innisbrook as the TOUR readies for the first major of the season in April, the Masters.


RELATED: Expert Picks | The First Look


Florida, for most of us, ideally sounds like a vacation or get away from the cold this of year. It’s exactly the opposite on TOUR, minus the great weather, as the Champion Course, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass and Innisbrook are anything but relaxing and comfortable.

Jack Nicklaus’ PGA National Resort and Spa’s Champion Course plays host for the 16th consecutive season. “The Bear Trap” will be front and center in Palm Beach Gardens will annually help decide who survives to win. Sponsor Honda checks in for the 40th consecutive season, the longest running partner on TOUR.

Playing 7,125 yards at Par-70, the Champion Course has ranked in the top six annually over the last four seasons as one of the most difficult stops on the circuit. With 15 holes having water in play, ocean breezes and nest-y Bermuda rough, it’s not hard to connect the dots. It is hard to get up and down and to avoid squares and others on the card.

Riviera is notorious for difficult fairways to hit and provides 37 acres of target off the tee. This week wind is added and there are just 28 acres of short grass to aim for plus the addition of water everywhere and 67 bunkers. Only TPC Sawgrass ingests more water balls annually.

Rob Bolton suggests the rough will be exactly that this week so controlling the golf ball tee to green is top of my list of priorities. TifEagle Bermuda laid in 2018 should be settled in by now and 7,000 square feet provide ample targets. Rolling putts on windy, grainy Bermuda is a skill and so is navigating breezy conditions with plenty of hazards in play. There’s a reason why double digits under par here is applauded and usually accompanied by the trophy and first place check!

The field of 144 is led by defending champion Matt Jones. This year the event moves to a more natural spot on the calendar instead of following THE PLAYERS later in March. For the third consecutive season the prize pool will be $7 million with the winner taking home $1.26 million and 500 FedExCup points.

Let’s find some horses for courses!

Horses for Courses

Recent Winners
entered this week
(cuts made/events entered)
Top 10Top 252022 BET MGM ODDS
Win, Top 10, Top 20
    
2021: Matt Jones (6/8)23+4000; +400; +190
2020: Sungjae Im (3/3)22+1200; +125; -160
2019: Keith Mitchell (2/4)11+3300; +300; +150
2017: Rickie Fowler (8/12)46+6600; +600; +275
    
Eye Catchers
entered this week
(cuts made/events entered)
Top 10 Top 252022 BET MGM ODDS
Win, Top 10, Top 20
    
Brendan Steele (9/10)25+10000; +850; +375
Zach Johnson (6/8)11+8000; +750; +333
Camilo Villegas (8/14)36+15000; +1100; +450
Daniel Berger (4/6)22+1600; +150; -135
Lee Westwood (7/8)45+6600; +550; +300
Gary Woodland (8/8)33+5000; +550; +275
Brooks Koepka (4/6)11+2200; +200; +100
Ryan Palmer (9/12)24+5000; +500; +250
Lucas Glover (7/12)25+6600; +600; +275
Jhonattan Vegas (8/9)13+5000; +400; +180
Bily Horschel (5/9)23+2000; +200; +100
Michael Thompson (8/10)14+8000; +700; +300
    
    
Gaining Traction
entered this week
(cuts made/events entered)
Top  10Top 252022 BET MGM ODDS
Win, Top 10, Top 20
    
Brandon Hagy (3/4)13+20000; +1400; +550
CT Pan (3/5)12+6600; +500; +225
Denny McCarthy (1/4)11+5000; +500; +240
Chase Seiffert (1/2)11+30000 win only posted
Sam Ryder (2/2)11+10000; +900; +400
Mackenzie Hughes (4/5)11+5000; +450; +220
Tommy Fleetwood (2/2)22+2200; +220; +110
KH Lee (2/3)11+6600; +500; +225
Alex Noren (2/4)11+3300; +333; +150
Kelly Kraft (1/4)11+40000; +2800; +1200
Wesley Bryan (1/3)11+30000; +2500; +1000

Odds sourced on Tuesday, February 22 at 1 p.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.

Recent Event Winner Stats

Stats202120202019
WinnerMatt JonesSungjae ImKeith Mitchell
Score-12-6-9
MOV511
Cut 1-over 1413-over 1432-over 142
Age402127
    
Pretournament Odds+4000+1200+3300
    
All DrivesT24265
AccuracyT15T10T54
GIRT5 T2T22
Ball-Striking27T22
Proximity5714T51
Putting: Birdie or Better %64T18
    
SG: Off-the-Tee101112
SG: Approach-the-Green757
SG: Around-the-Green256
SG: Putting25T3838
SG: Tee-to-Green111
    
Scrambling17T5T2 
Bogey AvoidanceT11 (10)T24 (13)T2 (7)
Par-3 ScoringT4T61
Par-4 Scoring1T8T26
Par-5 ScoringT10T4T8

Extra Credit (players entered this week only)

2021

Winner Matt Jones opened with a course record tying 61 and won by a record five shots in his eighth visit. … Brandon Hagy (2nd) posted 62 in Round 2 and 66 in Round 4 for his best finish in four tries. … Denny McCarthy (T3) cracked the code for three rounds in the 60s, his first rounds in the 60s here in four events. … CT Pan (T3) T5 GIR. … Brendan Steele (T3) backed up T4 in 2020 as he posted a pair of 65s. … Adam Hadwin (T8) was T8 Fairways and T8 Putting. #TeaAte. … Defending Champion Sungjae Im (T8) was one of four players to post all four rounds 70 or better. … Zach Johnson (T8) posted his first top 10 in start No. 8. … Sam Ryder (T8) opened 69-63 for his first top 10 in his second start. … Camilo Villegas (T8) holds the tournament scoring record at the Champion Course with 267 in 2010. … Aaron Wise (T13) opened 64-64 and played in the final group with Jones on Sunday before posting 73. … Harry Higgs (T19) led the field in SG: Approach, Par-3 and Par-5 scoring. … Last week’s winner Joaquin Niemann (T25) led the field in Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green.

2020

Winner Sungjae Im became the fourth consecutive 20-something to win, the youngest winner (21) in history and the second consecutive first time TOUR winner at the event. … Mackenzie Hughes (2nd) made the cut on the number and closed 66-66. … Tommy Fleetwood (3rd) needed a birdie at the last to force a playoff but instead rinsed his approach to the Par-5 18th. … 2015 playoff runner up Daniel Berger (T4) was one of only three players to place all four rounds at 70 or better. … Brendan Steele (T4) lead alone after 36 holes and played in the final group on Sunday one behind Fleetwood. … Lee Westwood (T4) made his first visit since 2015. … Gary Woodland (T8) has never MC in eight tries and posted a pair of 67s. … Defending champ Keith Mitchell (MC) didn’t see the weekend. … Only the top 16 players were under par.

2019

Winner Keith Mitchell holed a birdie putt on the final green to avoid a playoff and win for the first time on TOUR. … Local Rickie Fowler (T2) turned in rounds of 66, 66 and 67 but 72 in Round 2 was the difference. … Local Brooks Koepka (T2) only squared four bogeys for the week but it was the THREE doubles that did him in. … Lucas Glover (T4) has cashed T21 or better in four of his last five here thru 2021. … Ryan Palmer (T4) steamed home 69-63 for the best closing 36 holes. … KH Lee (T7) sat one off the 54 hole lead on debut. … Jhonattan Vegas (T16) opened with 64 to lead by two. … Sungjae Im (T51) posted 64 in Round 2 and shared the 36 hole lead with Mitchell before 77-71 weekend. … The top 29 players were under par.

Notes

• This is the 16th consecutive tournament at the Champion Course.
• No repeat winners or players will multiple wins on THIS COURSE.
• No first-time event winners since 2007.
• Padraig Harrington won in 2015 as a sponsor’s exemption.
• Matt Jones set the record of largest lead after Round 1 with 61 last year (3 shots).
• Jones was the first 54 hole leader to win here since 2017.
• The 2018 edition was the last time this event followed Riviera.
• Brian Harman also has posted 61 here (2012).
• Of the 15 winners nine have been internationals including the last two.
• Only four winners have posted 10-under or better.
• The winning score has been 5-under or 6-under as many times as 10-under or better.
• Of the last eight, six have been decided by one shot or a playoff. The other two were record setting margins of victory.
• Only 51 players over the last five editions here have made LESS THAN 10 bogeys in the event!
• The two Par-5 holes annually play the easiest on the course.
• Jason Dufner has never MC in 13 tries in the event.
• Stewart Cink has rattled off 11 straight.
• Vegas has cashed five on the bounce.

Recent Course Rankings (since 2018):

2021: 6th most difficult; 71.102
2020: 3rd most difficult; 71.904
2019: 5th most difficult; 71.016
2018: 2nd most difficult; 72.203 – first year with new greens

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week

Winners have:

• Last four have led the field SG: Tee to Green.
• Four of the last five T9 or better in Scrambling.
• Only one of the last five have registered INSIDE the top 25 in SG: Putting.
• Last five all T7 or better Par-3 Scoring.

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
RankPlayer
  
11Brooks Koepka
14Daniel Berger
19Shane Lowry
21Doug Ghim
25Aaron Wise
27Louis Oosthuizen
31Jhonattan Vegas
35Kyle Stanley
38Chris Kirk
39Sungjae Im
40Kevin Streelman
  
Scrambling
RankPlayer
  
3Charles Howell III
7Hank Lebioda
9Ian Poulter
11Chris Kirk
13Louis Oosthuizen
14Brian Harman
17Daniel Berger
21Patrick Reed
23Doug Ghim
25Brice Garnett
26Bill Haas
27Vaughn Taylor
31Doc Redman
32Ryan Palmer
35Robert Streb
40Russell Knox
  
Par-3 Scoring Average
RankPlayer
  
1Stewart Cink
4Daniel Berger
4Mark Hubbard
6Zach Johnson
6Joaquin Niemann
14Alex Noren
22Bronson Burgoon
22Doug Ghim
22Sungjae Im
22Chris Kirk
22Kyle Stanley
33Brice Garnet
33Brian Harman
33Satoshi Kodaira
33Nate Lashley
33Kevin Streelman
33Aaron Wise

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 )

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