Honda Classic Tournament Preview and Picks to Win
Dates: February 23-26, 2017
Course: PGA National Ė Palm Beach Gardens, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com
The first day of Spring is just about a month away and it is no surprise that the talk around the PGA has started to focus on The Masters. The first Major of the year is less than 45 days away and it is about this time every year that the Tour changes locales as well. Most of the play so far has been in California but the big move to Florida comes this week for the Honda Classic. The Honda is a relative new comer to the Tour with roots going back to just 1972 but the event has taken on a high profile since moving to moving to PGA National in 2007. One of the reasons this event has gained popularity is that dozens of Tour pros live within commuting distance of the host course and getting to sleep in their own beds while still competing is a nice change, I bet. Adam Scott took the title here in a playoff last year and bonus golf has been a bit of a trend since moving to PGA National with extra holes necessary in three of the last nine years. There have been four tournaments decided by one stroke and two more by two strokes so the overall theme seems to be close finishes. Camilo Villegas won here in 2010 by five strokes, the only winning margin of more than two since 2007. International players have fared marvelously here with seven wins in the last ten editions. Only Mark Wilson, Michael Thompson and Russell Henley have represented the U.S. in a Honda win since the move.
PGA National holds some prestige above most Tour venues due to a remodel done by none other than Jack Nicklaus. The 7,140 yard, par-70 course is tremendous overall but it is very difficult to overstate the importance of the infamous Bear Trap. Jack wanted any tournament to ultimately be decided on the stretch from holes 15-17 and the resulting setup of the par 3-4-3 run is often referred to as the toughest stretch in all of professional golf. In general, the trouble is in all the right spots and there are many places where you simply cannot bail out or even play a safe shot. That lack of room to miss stresses out even the most talented pros and big scores can result from even an average shot. Coming out of the Trap at even par should be considered a victory. The Honda really marks the first occasion of each year where the course setup doesnít call for a fast scoring pace. Winning scores have been as low as 5-under and as high as 13-under par since the move to PGA National with something in the 9-under range most common. I think most players would sign up for four rounds in the sixties and not even think twice about it. There is no real tricks to Nicklausí designs and the players that simply hit the best shots all week will have the chances to score.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head to head matches that you can find at any web-based sportsbook or offshore betting outlet. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Honda Classic.
Justin Thomas (16 to 1 odds to win)
This is a strong field overall with many of the top-25 in the world rankings in attendance.†The depth in the field, especially with big names at the top of the betting board helps Thomas get nice value at 16 to 1 despite the fact that he already has three wins this season.†If this were a smaller event, Iíd expect JT to be in the 6 to 1 range but the presence of Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and the rest help give value to the top-tier of players and thatís good. It is also good to back a guy that has been scoring well and Thomas leads the Tour with nearly 5.5 birdies per round. He is top-10 in driving distance and putts per green in regulation, making for a nice bookend stats that often accurately predict success. Justin has really been on fire since the fall, winning both Hawaii events and shooting 59 at the Sony. How long he can stay at the top remains to be seen but a player who is hitting on all cylinders from ballstriking to scrambling will tend to avoid prolonged downswings. He was third here last season and could make that kind of run again simply by putting in what appears to be an average effort for him right now.
Louis Oosthuizen (33 to 1)
Nicklaus courses are straightforward in their difficulty and require top-notch tee-to-green play. There are few players with the kind of approach game possessed by Oosty and he showed a bit of that off during his third place finish in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. Louis has put in a good couple of years at the big time events despite not winning much and he enters the week ranked 25th†in the OWGR. The big impediment to winning has often been his putter but there are signs of improvement through the early portions of the schedule. Louis ranks 56th†in total putting coming into the Honda and that is a drastic uptick from his usual marks that are often outside the top-100 at least. He is 14th†in scrambling and 3rd†in sand saves, both serving as further indicators that his putting is trending in the right direction. The ballstriking has always been there for Oosthuizen and wins will follow if he keep the on-green stats close to Tour average.
Francesco Molinari (55 to 1)
There is a lot of the Euro PGA set making just their first or second start on American soil this week but Molinari will be making his sixth start this week and he looks to build on four top-25 finishes already. Getting his feet wet over here during the fall led to two top-10ís and I like to stick with the international players that have acclimated themselves to the time difference and the style of play difference by getting those rounds under their belts. Francesco is 3rd†in fairways hit and 9th†in total driving so I am not worried about him navigating the tough tee challenges at PGA National. He checks in at 13th†in birdie average and 12th†in scoring average so the rest of the game has been up to par as well. He is proving to be a top-tier iron player with several strong showings in the proximity categories with approach shots so he gets the bonus of makeable birdie chances instead of always trying to make them from 30 feet out. Those close looks have helped him to land inside the top-4 in putting average, putts per round and one-putt percentage and it is hard to ask for a much better indicator of potential success than that.
Head to Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes for the most single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Zach Johnson v. Branden Grace (pick to win: Johnson)
It is true that Grace has had a strong couple of years to move up to 17th†in the world and probably will be staying ahead of Johnson in the world ranks based on that recent trend but I like Zach this week based on his ability to control the golf ball on what is ultimately a control course. PGA National is most easily scored upon by well-placed setup shots and Zach has a sizeable advantage when it comes to fairways hit. He does sacrifice distance to the longer hitting Grace but that boost in fairway chances will likely lead to more quality approaches. As far as scoring goes, Zach is quite a bit ahead of Branden in birdies and scoring average at this point and while Grace has yet to miss a cut this season, he also is without a top-10 finish. Grace will eventually get things going and could very well have a decent week on talent alone but I think the smart money is with the polished veteran approach of Johnson.
Gary Woodland v. Paul Casey (pick to win: Casey)
There are so many courses in the PGA Tour rotation that match so well with Woodlandís power game but PGA National is not as good of a fit. The bomb and gouge approach is tough to get away with here and that really takes Garyís A-game away from him to a large degree. I wonít go as far as to say he is ripe for a poor week but I canít back him when the scoring pace is looking low and he is missing a couple of par-5ís to gain strokes on the field. He and Casey are actually pretty close in terms of tee-to-green performance but Casey is the more accurate of the two and their scoring is nearly identical despite Woodland average more birdies per round. That means Casey is experiencing less bumps in the road each week as evidenced by his 6th†ranked scrambling stat. Saving strokes is huge when you canít count on five or six birdies per round and that tips the scales in Caseyís favor. Bet the Honda Classic for FREE by taking advantage of a generous 50% bonus up to $1000 on your first deposit at MyBookie.
Good luck and good golf!
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