The Honda Classic
Last week was another disappointing week for us as we drew a blank in both Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately that’s the way the last few weeks have gone for us and there’s no denying its been a poor spell of events since Phoenix.
Fortunately the beauty of golf betting is there’s always another event around the corner to get back on track and one good week will get us right back to where we want to be.
So we dust ourselves down and move on to Florida where, after its brief sojourn in Mexico the PGA tour now hops across to for the beginning of the Florida Swing.
Over recent years the Florida Swing had somewhat diminished with three events in the Sunshine State being interspersed with the WGC in Mexico and TPC then being played in May.
This year though this has all changed with four events being played in consecutive weeks in Florida, including TPC, which has returned to its traditional March slot.
The first event of this years Florida swing is, as has been the case for several years now, The Honda Classic.
The event was first played in 1972 and was hosted at several different locations until moving to Palm Beach Gardens in 2006.
After one year in 2006 at the Country Club at Mirasol it then moved to PGA National in 2007 and has remained there ever since.
In the same year the tournament's main beneficiary became the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, chaired by Barbara Nicklaus, wife of Jack Nicklaus, and this continues to be the case.
With the change in scheduling this year the field has slightly suffered and some leading players, including Tiger and Rory who have historically tee’d it up here, have chosen not to make the trip.
As a result the field and betting market is headed up by defending champion Justin Thomas, former champion Rickie Fowler, three time major champion Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott.
PGA National was originally a Tom & George Fazio design, which has subsequently undergone redesigns from Jack Nicklaus both in 1990 & 2013.
The event has been played at PGA National since 2007.
The course is a par 70 playing to just over 7100 yards.
The greens are TiffEagle Bermuda.
The ‘signature section’ of the course is The Bear Trap, which is holes 15-17. These holes combined create the toughest part of the course and indeed arguable the toughest 3 hole stretch on regular PGA Tour events year in year out.
These holes are made up of 2 par 3’s, the 15th & 17th and the par 4 16th. If you can get through these three holes in level par you are certainly picking up shots on the field.
PGA National is undoubtedly a tough test. Only once in the last 5yrs has the winning score been double digits under par. This was in 2017 when Rickie Fowler came home in -12 for a 4 shot victory.
The other winning scores over the past 6yrs have been -8, -9, -6, -8 & -9.
Just how difficult the course plays is dictated by how hard the wind blows and of course if the track has been ‘softened up’ by any rain.
So lets take a look at the past 10 winners of the event;
2018 Justin Thomas
2017 Rickie Fowler
2016 Adam Scott
2015 Padraig Harrington
2014 Russell Henley
2013 Michael Thompson
2012 Rory McIlroy
2011 Rory Sabbatini
2010 Camillo Villegas
2009 YE Yang
As we can see the role of honour over the past 10yrs has been a bit of a mixed bag. The last three years have seen wins for JT, Rickie Fowler & Adam Scott and there have also been wins in the past 10yrs for Rory McIlroy, and a comeback win for Padraig Harrington.
In amongst this though there were maiden PGA tour successes for Michael Thompson and YE Yang, alongside wins for Camillo Villegas, Rory Sabbatini & Russell Henley.
One should remember of course that while there star has waned of late, at the time of there wins Yang, Villegas & Sabbatini were all in the upper echelons of the game, so the only one of these winners you could really call leftfield was Michael Thompson.
When looking at the list of past winners and players who have performed well at this event there is an obvious cross reference to the British Open.
Rory and Harrington are past Open Champions as of course is Ernie Els who won here in 2008. Scott came as close you can do without winning it and Rickie has taken like a duck to water to links golf and is an Open Champion in waiting.
This reference also goes back beyond the event being played at PGA National with Todd Hamilton winning the Honda Classic before shocking the golfing world to lift the Claret Jug.
One other glaring point of note on this roll of honour is that only four of the past 10 winners hailed from the US.
From the point of view of form coming in to the week and historical course form the last three winners have been as telegraphed as could be with JT, Ricke and Scott all having finished top 10 in their previous start and all having a previous top 12 finish in the event.
This was also the case with 2012 winner Rory McIlroy and 2010 winner Camillo Villegas.
One other of the past ten winners, Rory Sabbatini, had finished 5th in his previous start and another, the 2014 winner, Russell Henley, had finished 13th here the year before.
Beyond that though the picture gets very murky as Harrington, Thompson and Yang had no form coming in to speak of, and no positive history on the course.
The other main point to be aware of this week is that with the tour moving across to the East Coast we see a switch from the Poa Annua greens that the last few events have been on, to Bermuda Greens.
We should therefore be on the lookout for the East Coast/Bermuda specialists who historically don’t really perform on the West Coast but who have been ticking along under the radar these last few weeks, as this is the time these players can now spring to life.
Temperatures look set to sit around the 80 degrees mark through the week with a mixture of sunshine and cloud, with the possibility for a typical Florida thunderstorm thrown in as well.
The most likely days for these show as Thursday and Sunday.
The wind does not look to be much of in issue for the first couple of days with nothing more than 6-8mph in the forecast. Gusts could then pick up to 10-15mph over the weekend.
As I always so though this could all change!
Once again we are faced with a market leader in defending champion Justin Thomas who is a justifiably strong favourite, and in all honesty he is of course this week’s most likely winner, however I am not in the business of backing golfers at 5-1 and I am happy to pass him by.
Behind him in the market are four players who no one would be surprised to see win in Koepka, Fowler, Garcia and Scott, however I am again finding them hard to separate, in addition of course if we work on the basis that there is a fair chance that JT will defend his trophy the e/w value in these three is not so attractive.
On this basis I have gone searching further down the market for the players with greater e/w juice and as a result I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
BYEONG HUN AN – 40-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 36th
First up for us this week is a man who featured as our headline pick in Phoenix four weeks ago Korean Ben An.
An played solidly enough in the desert that week to be right in the hunt for the places, or even something more, come Sunday, before fading disappointingly into 20th place on the final day.
Since that week in Phoenix Ben has taken a couple of weeks off before gaining last minute entry to the WGC in Mexico last week.
For the first two days in Mexico An really struggled however he turned things around on Saturday with the low round of the day of 64. He then closed on Sunday with a 70, which promised a lot more until a poor back nine.
So a mixed bag of a week for the Korean, which wouldn’t necessarily have you leaping up to back him, so why are we on him this week?
Well the crux of it basically comes down to his form on Nicklaus designed/redesigned courses.
Firstly, and naturally most pertinently, Ben finished 5th here last year on his debut at PGA National. Following this the Korean pitched up at ‘Jack’s place’ for the Memorial in June and finished 2nd. Finally to finish his hat trick of Nicklaus related top 5s last year he was also runner up at Glen Abbey for the Canadian Open when we were on board.
So there we have it, the 27yr old for whatever reason is arguably the most consistent performer on Nicklaus set ups on tour at the moment.
If we return to Ben’s performance in Mexico we can see clearly from his stats for the week that his long game was in reasonable order as he ranked 17th SGOTT, but that his problems for the week came mainly on the greens as he finished the week 62nd in putting.
This comes to me as no surprise as Ben has not played at all on Poa Annua on the West Coast since 2017 and all of his best results have either come on Bermuda or Bentgrass greens.
On this basis I am expecting a much improved performance with the flat stick this week from Ben which, combined with his long game in working order, I am confident will allow him to make a bold challenge for that long overdue maiden PGA Tour victory.
SCOTT PIERCY – 66-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
Scott Piercy is currently quietly putting together one of his most consistent stretches of golf in his PGA Tour career.
Currently ranked 27th in the Fedex Cup standings the 40yr old has now posted six top 20 finishes including four top 10s in his last eight starts on tour.
The Las Vegas resident has been particularly impressive this season from tee to green and he currently ranks 16th in both DA and GIR, and 14th in Ball striking for the campaign.
With numbers like this in his long game you can probably guess that the one thing that has been holding Piercy back from returning to the winners enclosure is the flat stick and the hope is that a return to Bermuda on, which he recorded his last solo victory will see an improvement in that department.
Piercy has not been a regular visitor to Palm Beach Gardens over the years however in the six starts he has made at the venue he has two top 20 finishes to his name. This includes a 5th place back in 09 and a 17th place last year, however he has never arrived here in the sort of consistent form he is showing now.
Scott has shown us over the years that he can mix it with the big boys when he is on song and I am confident he can continue his recent great form and turn in really strong performance this week.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL – 66-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 16th
This time last week Charl Schwartzel was a golfer hopelessly out of form and desperately searching for something, so much so in fact that he decided to make a last minute trip to Puerto Rico to try and find some answers.
Well, to paraphrase the old saying ‘a week is a long time in golf’ and it may just be that Charl did find those answers at Coco Beach golf Club in Rio Grande.
Prior to his 6th place finish in Puerto Rico Charl had not made cut in a full field event on the PGA Tour this season and the previous week at the Genesis Open he had withdrawn overnight on the Friday at +8 through 32 holes, simply, one would assume, so that he didn’t have to stick around until the Saturday morning.
At his best of course The South African is a world class performer and the punt we are taking here is that last weeks effort was not a flash in the pan but the genuine finding of a spark that will ignite his season.
If the latter is the case and Charl can build on his closing, bogey free 66 in Rio Grande, we could just have ourselves a cracking piece of e/w value at 66-1, as the one state that he has consistently produced his best in over the years on the PGA Tour [along with Georgia of course] is Florida.
This can be seen by the fact that Charl has two top tens historically in this event to go with his win and high finishes at the Valspar and his runner up finish at Sawgrass last year.
In line with this, one other thing I like about Charl this week is that over recent years he has been a player who has found his best form in spurts to post two or three big finishes in quick succession. This was clearly seen last year with his three top 10s culminating in the runner up spot at TPC, whilst in 2017 he had two top 10s in three stroke play starts including a 3rd place at Augusta.
As I say it is a risky approach siding with the South African on the back of one good performance and it his possible he will revert to recent ‘type’, however this is reflected in the price, as after all if Charl had finished top 15 at the Genesis prior to last weeks finish he’d be at least 20 points shorter. On that basis I am happy to take my chances on the former Masters Champion this week.
SAM BURNS – 150-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MDF
Another player who should be relishing the return to Florida and the Bermuda greens is rookie Sam Burns.
Although Burns was a standout amateur at LSU he first seriously came on our radar as a professional at this very event last year.
In what was only Sam’s fourth start in the pro ranks on the PGA Tour he finished in 8th place after shooting a final round of 68.
What made this performance all the more impressive was that Sam spent that final Sunday in the company of a certain Mr Woods, who he outscored.
As we have all seen on numerous occasions over the years playing with Tiger on any occasion brings a complete circus with it and for Burns to manage this and perform the way he did on that Sunday showed us again the huge potential he has.
After his three week stint in the Sunshine State where he made all three cuts Burns concentrated predominantly on taking care of business on the Web.com tour in order to earn his PGA Tour card.
This he did in emphatic style with a win in his 5th start on the tour in April, before backing it up with three more top 10s through the remainder of the season.
Since joining the PGA Tour full time the 22yr old has posted a 3rd place finish at the Sanderson Farms and a next best of 18th place in amongst some other hit and miss performances.
As is the want with a player at this stage of his career Sam is still very hit and miss, however there is no doubt that he has the talent to make an impact at this level, and at the price on offer I am happy to take a chance that he will produce another great performance in line with what he did last year.
ADAM SVENSSON – 250-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 & 1/2pt e/w FRL 150-1 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 59th
Regular readers will know that I sided with the young Canadian Adam Svensson in Puerto Rico last week as our headline pick and, to but it bluntly, he played dreadfully to shoot 78 75 to miss the cut by a mile.
Logically speaking therefore I shouldn’t be touching him this week, or indeed anytime in the foreseeable future, with the proverbial barge pole.
As we know though, and regularly see week in week out, golf betting can often defy logic and having been lining up to have a bet on Adam in this event since, basically he got his PGA tour card, I’m not going to back away now.
Back to logic, and my logic in backing the 25yr old this week is pretty straightforward.
As mentioned last week Svensson spent his college days in Miami, so just down the coast from this venue, and has produced pretty much of his best golf on wind effected coastal tracks including his win on the Web.com in the Bahamas.
What I didn’t mention last week however is that alongside his Web.com win arguably Adam’s other finest hour to date since turning pro came on this very course when he won the Web.com Q School by seven shots in 2015.
In addition to this the Canadian now resides locally in Palm Beach Gardens, so his level of comfortability/familiarity with the Champions course at PGA National must be huge.
Returning to Svensson’s performance in Puerto Rico last week this is, needless to say a concern, however I am going to speculate wildly and take a chance on the fact that he will have, in time honoured tradition, ‘used the weekend off to do some good work at home and find something on the range’.
Since joining the PGA Tour we have seen glimpses of form from Svensson, most notably the opening round 61 in the Sony Open. By and large though it has been patchy stuff at best.
If Adam is going to put in some big performances this season though it his highly likely it will come in his adopted home state of Florida and quite possibly on this course.
Needless to say whenever you back a 250-1 shot [or 350-1 if you take 6 places e/w] you know the risk you are taking and it is quite possible that come Friday evening Adam’s interest in the week is over, however to me these nuggets of historical course info/knowledge are a large factor of what finding the edge of golf betting is all about and when they do come along I am happy to roll the dice on them, after all you only need one to come off every once in a blue moon to make it worth the while in chancing them.
So, we finish this week in the hope that Adam can produce a huge performance on his local track and give us a week to remember for a long time.
UPDATED - 27th FEBRUARY
TRADER - CAMERON DAVIS - FINISHED 59th - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 110
For this weeks trader pick I have chosen to go with young Aussie star in the making Cameron Davis.
I have backed Davis a couple of times already this season with no great success to date, however I think it is only a matter of time until he pops up with a big week.
This week he makes his debut in this event however I can't help but think that PGA National will be a course that will suit his game.
As regular readers will know when I have previously sided with Cameron I have highlighted his win in windy links style conditions to snatch the Australian Open title just over 14 months ago, along with the fact that he was brought up on the coast in Sydney.
In addition to this Cameron acquitted himself well in the Open Championship last summer.
When coupling this with the fact that international players including Aussies have a really strong record in this event it is easy to see why I think PGA National will be up Cameron's street.
Davis played solidly last week to finish16th at Puerto Rico and my hope is he can build on that with a strong performance this week.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 440+