Honda Classic Analysis and Breakdown
Course: PGA National
Past Winners: Im (2020), Mitchell (2019), Thomas (2018), Fowler (2017), Scott (2016), Harrington (2015)
Course Comparables: Waialae CC (Sony Open), TPC Sawgrass (The PLAYERS), Muirfield Village (Memorial)
Welcome back, folks! This week we have our first weak field in quite some time. With a WGC and The Masters coming up, it makes a ton of sense that a lot of the upper end talent is taking the week off to relax and prepare for these upcoming events. The Honda Classic is one of my favorites due to how brutal this course plays. You can shoot an 80 on Thursday and still have a shot to make the cut. Par is going to be a great score on every hole as everyone in the field tries to stay afloat. Every winning score has been a single digit number besides Fowler, whose twelve under score was four strokes better than the runner up. It’s going to be a blood bath this week. This is a less-than-driver course so Strokes Gained: Off the Tee will not matter too much, unlike Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Around the Green. You will need a short game to save yourself when you miss these small greens.
The top of the board looks fantastic this week as I think I’ll double dip in this range for any line I make. Joaquin Niemann is my favorite play from up here. Joaco excels at hard courses and has one of the best ballstriking skill sets on tour. Sungjae Im leads the field in Off the Tee and Putting over the last twenty four rounds and is slowly but surely getting the irons back into form. Daniel Berger quietly finished ninth last week while losing a ton putting. I think it’ll be necessary to have at least one of these guys in your lineup this week, despite Florida golf having a lot more variance than other venues. Adam Scott and Lee Westwood are going to be less popular than the other three, which might give us some leverage for a pivot. Westwood has played some amazing golf over the past two weeks, but the price this week is a lot tougher to pay off. However, as you have noticed, Florida golf really suits what Westwood does best. Scott can come out of anywhere and win a tournament. For a historically bad putter, he has shown consistency with just one negative tournament in six tries since the start of the year.
This 9k range is not pretty this week. A super expensive and chalky Russell Henley with short term accuracy woes off the tee is not something I’m yearning to play. The only interest I have in this range is a difficult course savant like Shane Lowry. If the course gets very windy, that’s even better for the large lad. I don’t want to pay a premium on Cam Tringale and Chris Kirk when they’re very similar players in the 7s and 8s.
The 8k range is going to be very tempting for me with a bunch of guys with increased prices that I like to play in general. The first is going to be Benny An at a flat 8k. Even though he straight up massacred his week at Sawgrass with an 11 on the island par 3, he still has an elite around the green game and his long term ballstriking is certainly better than his recent form would show. Doug Ghim gets a massive increase as well after two amazing weeks with two horrid Sundays. I can support playing him but I probably won’t go there. Brendan Steele and Cam Davis will be massive chalk bombs that I can support fading entirely. Dylan Frittelli ranks first in the field in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and is one of the better wind players on tour. He’s likely my favorite play in the 8s. I also love Matt Wallace this week as he had a fantastic week at the Arnold Palmer and is another player that can excel in windy conditions.
In the upper 7k range, Kevin Streelman is going to be the uber chalk. I would recommend fading that or coming in way under the field. This course sets up perfectly for K.H. Lee, who ranks 15th in my model. His short game is elite and is starting to find the ballstriking a fair bit. The model also loves Patton Kizzire. He has gained on approach in his last three tournaments and is one of the better Par 4 scorers in the field (14th in Strokes Gained: Par 4s). Obviously it isn’t a golf week if I’m not singing the praises of one Harold Varner III. His approach and around the green game rank 21st and 22nd in this field and is a great value even with this price increase.
The lower 7k chalk will be Ryan Moore this week and you should stay very far away from that. My favorite play in this range is Richy Werenski. He ranks within the top half of all three tee to green Strokes Gained stats, which is rare for someone priced this far down the board. Digging down here, I’m mostly concerned with guys that have at least a serviceable around the green name and one name that stands out is Nick Taylor. I like him at less-than-driver courses and can keep himself alive with the short game.
In the 6s, it’s a little bleaker than we’ve seen lately. Jim Furyk looks to be quite chalky and, again, you should fade that. If you want to play two 10k guys this week, you’re going to have to dig down here a bit. John Huh ranks tenth in my model despite being this far down the board. He has some quality tee to green stats, he just needs to not bleed with the putter to pay off. Based on having better than field average approach and around the green games, Bo Hoag and Rob Oppenheim both rate out quite well for what we’re looking for, All we need is a made cut from either to pay their prices off.
Good luck this week!