The Honda Classic Preview and Picks to Win
Dates: March 4 7, 2010
Where: PGA National (Champion Course) Palm Beach Gardens, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen of Predictem.com
The 2010 PGA season is already two months old, but this week will see the first action that hasnt been on the West Coast as the players make the big jump to Florida. The PGA National hosts the 2010 Honda Classic and many of the pros will be looking to peak in the coming weeks as they eye April and the Masters. The weather is anticipated to be the best the Tour has seen so far, but the Champion Course will not be as kind as the Nicklaus design was the seventh toughest to score on in 2009. Y.E. Yang bested the field last year for his first win in America and is back to defend against a field that is missing names like Woods and Mickelson, but is still very strong with many of the top European players in attendance.
The Champion Course at PGA National will be a very different test than the desert golf the players have been getting used to over the last few weeks and this weeks winner will need solid ballstriking to come out on top. The 7,158 yard, par-70 course isnt overly long by Tour standards, but the 78 bunkers and 26 water hazards will require precise shots off the tee and into the greens to afford looks at birdie. The first five holes need to be taken advantage of as they are they are the easiest grouping and Sunday will be interesting down the stretch as holes 15-17 are three of the toughest on the course. Those three holes make up the Bear Trap and simply making it through them at even par may see you gain a stroke or more on the field. Look for scores in the single digits below par as Yangs 9-under was the lowest winning total since the event moved to the Champion Course.
Each week, we take a look at the online golf bookies and highlight a few players that we like to contend. We make a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a few head to head matches as well. Here are our picks for the 2010 Honda Classic.
Short Favorite: Paul Casey (16 to 1 odds to win)
Without a true standout talent in the field, Casey is one of the consensusfavorites at 16 to 1 with players like Robert Allenby and Rory McIlroy. Casey is off to a great start in 2010 with a T10 at the SBS in Hawaii and a runner-up in the Accenture Match Play. Why he could win: Accuracy. Casey ranks 1st in greens in regulation this year, hitting the surface on nearly 80% of holes. His 21st ranked putter is good for the best birdies per 18 stat and he comes in 2nd in overall birdie conversion percentage. The one knock on Paul the inability to avoid bogeys and that shows in his less than stellar scoring average. Still, a good week in course management should limit those mistakes, and he does rank 1st in bounce back, so he usually shakes off the bad holes immediately anyway.
Middle of the Road: Camilo Villegas (25 to 1 odds)
Two top-10s in two U.S. starts including a 3rd the Accenture s a good way to kick off the year and Villegas looks to be in the form he had in late 2008 when he won two FedEx playoff events. Why he could win: Guts. The youngster has no fear on any course, evidenced by his Tour leading 311 yard driving average. The length wont do him much if he cant hit the fairways, but its always a bonus to be closer if you do find the long stuff. The putter has been working as well for Camilo and he comes in ranked 9th in average and 11th in putts per round. Villegas leads the Tour in overall birdie conversion percentage, carding an under-par number on 38% of holes played. Camilo can also lean on his 2007 Honda experience, and maybe exact some revenge, as he was runner-up after losing in a playoff.
Longshot: Mike Weir (40 to 1 odds)
Weir has struggled a bit since his 6th place finish at the Hope that included five rounds of 67 or better, but this type of course is perfect for a vet that knows the value of grinding out pars. Maybe the mojo from the Canadian Hockey team can carry all the way to Florida to bring a win to the Canuck lefty. Why he could win: Intelligence. Players like Weir just know how to get the most out of their games when the courses get tougher. Mike ranks 39th in fairways and 6th in putts per round, so he shouldnt get too far out of touch with the front page of the leaderboard. The GIR% needs to come up to really contend, but a 2nd best sand save stat shows hes just missing and he leads the Tour in scrambling, converting par 76% of the time he misses the green.
Head to Head Matches (our pick) *all matches are for entire event. Check with your favorite online bookie for single round matches and prop bets, updated daily.
Sergio Garcia (-115) v. Y.E. Yang (-115) (Yang)
Garcia is still struggling with the putter and although the greens this week are slowish by Tour standards, Yang ranks about 100 spots better than Sergio. The defending champ also has the edge in driving distance, birdie average and scoring average. Sergio gets a lot of name recognition, but looks to be one of those big names that you can win some money off of by betting against him.
Tim Clark (-115) v. Ricky Fowler (-115) (Clark)
Fowler is showing the stuff that could produce a win in 2010 with two top-5 finishes thus far, but the Champion Course will be the toughest hes faced this year and Clark has the stat sheet to do well here. Clark gives up a ton of distance to the youngster, but is 5th in fairways to Fowlers 80th and owns the 3rd best putting average while Fowler is out of the top-150. Let the kid get on some softer tracks before taking him over a gamer like Clark.