2018 Honda Classic Tournament Preview – Picks to Win

The Honda Classic Preview – Picks to Win
Dates: February 22-25, 2018
Where: PGA National Champion Course – Palm Beach Gardens, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
By Evergreen, Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com

Big players mean big ratings on the PGA Tour and there will be plenty of big names swinging it this week at the Honda Classic. The first Florida stop on the Tour schedule brings most of the top players to the tee simply because so many of them reside in state. Beyond that, now is the time that players start getting really serious about peaking for Augusta. Phil Mickelson mentioned that it is time for him to notch a win before heading off to the Masters if he is to be considered a threat to win another Green Jacket. Getting into the WGC Mexico and Match Play fields are also goals this time of year so there is plenty to play for beyond simply getting the win this week.

Tiger Woods headlines the field in pure star power. Woods will be making a second consecutive start and is a 50 to 1 underdog to win at PGA National. Playing in back-to-back weeks is a good sign that Woods return to competition will last, even if his game is still a bit rusty. Rickie Fowler (7 to 1 odds to win) returns to defend his 2017 Honda title and is among a favorites group that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Sergio Garcia. Fowler looks to become just the second player to successfully defend a Honda crown with Jack Nicklaus the only player to complete a successful defense. Mark Calcavecchia and Padraig Harrington join Jack as the only two-time champions in this event overall.

PGA National is a harsh departure from much of the golf we have seen in the early portion of the schedule. The West Coast swing is filled with generally soft conditions but the Champion Course was designed with major golf in mind and features small greens that run very fast. Add in the normally breezy conditions and this 7,100 yard, par-71 layout can bear some sharp teeth. The stretch from 15-17 is affectionately known as the Bear Trap and most of the bogeys or worse coming this week will occur there. Three pars through that stretch will have players gaining strokes on the field and the leader will have a tough task to maintain the lead come Sunday afternoon. Ball striking is big key this week given the relatively small greens but bombers can attack this course and utilize their short iron approaches to win just as easily as the straight players can win with a no-mistakes approach. It is a tough course but also one of the more fair, providing players are hitting quality shots.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are featured at a majority of golf betting sites. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Honda Classic.

Sergio Garcia (16 to 1 odds to win)
Garcia has been pretty quiet as far as US play in 2018 as the Honda is his first start over here but he has been swinging it well with a win in Singapore as proof. The 2017 Masters champ is a tremendous value with several others listed at shorter odds. Garcia finished in the top-12 in both off-the-tee and tee-to-green metrics last season, making him one of the best overall ball strikers in this field. He is long enough to challenge the course when necessary and sneaks into the top-40 in scrambling to round out a stellar overall stat sheet. He loses ground on the field when you measure his overall putting but Sergio has improved enough on the greens through his career that he can maintain a top-10 scoring average despite that spotty putter. When he is on with the flatstick, he is a massive threat to beat everyone and he should be a factor this week.

Gary Woodland (28 to 1)
Woodland was trending in the right direction heading into Phoenix and it all came together for him with a win. He missed the cut at Pebble but he should be back in contention this week at a place where he done well in the past, including a T2 last year. Gary is top-10 in both driving distance and greens hit heading into the week and a top-5 putter is producing top-20 marks in both birdies and scoring average. He clocks in at 3rd in total strokes gained, about 2.4 strokes better than the field through the early portion of the schedule. He will bomb away as he always does and PGA National can be effectively shrunk if he is even moderately accurate with those huge tee shots.

Jason Dufner (50 to 1)
Dufner has a couple of outside contending runs here with T17 and T14 finishes since 2015 but his last eight Honda starts have led to made cuts so there is clearly a level of comfort at the Champion course. Jason is above average in fairways and greens but is really distancing himself from the field with the third best strokes gained-putting mark. His overall strokes gained rate is 20th entering the week and much of that is strictly due to his putting prowess. Dufner has always been a top flight ball striker so a win is not out of the question if his tee-to-green game improves this week and that putter remains.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Justin Thomas v. Rickie Fowler (pick to win: Fowler)
Fowler is a dangerous pick every week but he is on what amounts to home field this week and should be considered a favorite in every match given how well his game meshes with PGA National. Thomas is the longer player in this pairing but Fowler has advantages in both fairways hit and putting along with being the better scrambler. Par saves will be important throug the week and Thomas trails Fowler there. Justin does have a slightly better raw birdie rate but Rickie is acutually ahead in scoring and total strokes gained so Thomas is the more mistake prone of the two. Stick with Rickie in a familiar setting that requires a more accuracy than anything else.

Brian Harman v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Harman)