Honda Classic Picks & Predictions
Event: The Honda Classic
When: February 28 – March 3
Where: PGA National Champion Course – Palm Beach, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
By: Ted Walker of Predictem.com
We are about to flip the calendar to March and that means the PGA is about to start the Florida Swing. PGA National has the spotlight this week as the host of the Honda Classic and a stop at one of Jack’s courses always has a way of bringing out a strong field. All of the Florida events are rather well attended as so many pros live in The Sunshine State but the Honda Classic has the added advantage of having a historically large purse. The winner gets a $1.2 million dollar check and a much coveted exemption if that player is not currently in The Players field or any of the Majors, including the Masters. Justin Thomas is the defending champion and he looks to join Jack Nicklaus as the only man to win back-to-back Honda Classics. Thomas will have to wade through a top-heavy field that includes former Honda champs Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott along with betting favorites like Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Gary Woodland.
The Champion Course at PGA National has been a tough egg to crack since taking over host duties for the Honda in 2007. The tournament record at PGA National is just 13-under and 5-under was good enough to win in 2007. The winning total has failed to reach 10-under in nine of twelve editions here so look for scores to be modest to low as 2018 ended with just eleven players under par. Like most Nicklaus courses, there is a premium on shot making into the greens. PGA National will play at par-70 and measure 7,140 yards and there is water in play on sixteen holes. The Bear Trap encompasses a three hole stretch starting at #15 with three pars on your way out a near guarantee to gain strokes on the field. A power game is an advantage but more important is the approach game. Justin Thomas led the field in approach metrics during his win last season there is nothing but trouble waiting for those that are misfiring into the greens.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at any golf betting outlet. This week’s odds and matchups come courtesy of the board at Bovada. Here are our picks to win the 2019 Honda Classic. Odds availabel at MyBookie and Bovada Sportsbook.
Adam Scott (14 to 1 odds to win)
Scott is the 2016 Honda champ and has gone T13 and T14 in the two years since at PGA National. He is making just his fifth start of the year but already has two top-10’s including a runner-up at the Farmers and his T7 at the Genesis was a legit run at the top before a final round 76 send him out of contention. He is 28th in approach performance, adding a top-20 putter to turn in solid scoring marks. His stat sheet is well rounded with a top-50 sand game and the 19th best total strokes gained rate. He has been awfully strong here over the last few years even outside his win and it appears that he is a good fit for the course. His scoring average of 70.1 is better than his raw birdie average would suggest so Scott has been limiting mistakes well and that is a good thing to bring to a Nicklaus course designed to penalize to the fullest extent.
Daniel Berger (33 to 1)
Berger missed the cutoff to make the WGC field in Mexico but saw a nice payday in Puerto Rico with a runner up finish there. His Honda record includes a 2nd place finish in 2014 that included a final round 64 which is one of the best single rounds since the event moved to PGA National. He is rock solid off the tee with the 14th best total driving stat and does good work on the greens as well with the 7th best overall putting average. Berger is 32nd in strokes gained on approach shots and comes in 5th for approach proximity. He can be prone to long runs of pars but that won’t hurt him as much here with scoring projected to be slow. He does lead the Tour in avoiding three-putts so he isn’t giving anything away to the field. He had a good week on the greens in Puerto Rico and another similar performance here should have him on the front page of the leaderboard.
Emiliano Grillo (40 to 1)
Grillo has been a bit of a warrior this season with nine starts already under his belt and he has made the weekend in each one. The results have been pedestrian in many weeks but he did run T2 at the difficult CIMB Classic and wound up T14 at the HSBC Champions event that featured a scoring pace much like we will see this week. He has made the cut in each of his three Honda starts, improving each year and notching a T8 last season. Grillo is 9th in total driving and adds the 5th best approach game to be a top-30 player in overall tee-to-green performance. The putter has really been the problem for him as he has just failed to turn in birdies in large numbers. He earns the looks in most weeks and I think he will again. I like that he has seen better results in each of his Honda starts and he will be a factor if he is able to do so in his fourth go around at PGA National.
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Justin Thomas v. Rickie Fowler (pick to win: Fowler)
It has been very tough to beat Thomas over the last month as he has finished no worse than ninth since the start of February but Fowler is 1-1 against Thomas in the last two where these two shared the field. A big part of the Fowler pick this week is that he is +115 against Thomas’ -150 and that kind of value is hard to find attached to someone of Rickie’s talent. Thomas is the defending champ but Fowler won here in 2017 and had a T6 the year prior so his PGA National record is superb. Thomas does lead the Tour in approach performance but you get top-5 birdie and scoring marks with Rickie and a better putter on greens in regulation. This match was razor thin last week before Thomas fired a final round 62. If Rickie can grind it out and avoid a similar Sunday blitz from Justin, that +115 value is hard to pass up.
Cameron Smith v. Webb Simpson (pick to win: Smith)
Simpson is the more well known player in this pairing but Smith has not missed a cut in any of his eight starts this season and has beat Webb in each of the last two tournament they both played in. Simpson ranks 3rd in approach performance but Smith is just a few spots back at 12th. Simpson has hit more greens but it has been Smith and his 20th ranked putter turning in a top-30 birdie rate. Cameron is also significantly longer off the tee and this course has been dominated by the longer players on Tour and I think Smith gains a few extra birdie looks over the week with that distance advantage. That will be enough of an edge in what will be a slow scoring week.
Good luck and good golf!