Scott Shapiro's 2021 Honda Classic Preview
After a ball-striking weekend for the ages that vaulted Justin Thomas to his 14th victory on the PGA Tour, things head south, down Interstate-95, for the final leg of the Florida swing.
The Honda Classic, which used to attract a bit more star power, has been hurt by its new placement on the calendar. Sandwiched between the Genesis Invitational, a pair of WGC tournaments, and the Players Championship has dealt a blow to the event held annually in Palm Beach Gardens.
That being said, it still should provide golf fans plenty of drama, since it is played on one of the most difficult courses around.
The 2021 Honda Classic field is led by defending champion Sungjae Im, 2021 Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner Daniel Berger, and young phenom Joaquin Niemann. All three sit at +1200 or lower in TwinSpires' outright market. There is a big drop down to the next tier, led by 2016 champion Adam Scott and the runner-up from each of the last two weeks, Lee Westwood.
2021 Honda Classic odds
Strong iron play, accuracy off the tee, avoiding bogeys (given all of the water at PGA National), and being able to handle windy conditions are what I weighted most this week. The ability to scramble and score on Par 4s is also included in my research.
As expected, the top choices in the outright market possess most of these skills, but their prices are too short to endorse. Instead, here are the golfers I am investing in at the Honda Classic this week.
The 2019 Open Championship winner did not play well in his first two stateside starts in 2021, but got his game going at TPC Sawgrass last week, in large part because of much-improved iron play.
The 33-year-old has never been consistent with his approach game, but it can heat up for several weeks, much like it did in the spring and summer of 2019.
Lowry has made the cut in his three prior tries at the Honda Classic, but has never finished in the top 20. That could easily change this week, though, given his ability to thrive in windy conditions and on tough courses.
The Irishman sets up well for PGA National, since he ranks fifth over the last 24 rounds in par 4 scoring, ninth in scrambling, and 26th in bogey avoidance.
If he can drive it straight and continue to set himself up with birdie looks like he did at the Players, he can find the winner’s circle for the first time since he did at Royal Portrush nearly two years ago.
Like many of the world’s best, Tringale missed the cut last week at the Players.
I am willing to forgive the subpar performance at TPC Sawgrass, because it was uncharacteristically poor putting that led to his demise. The 33-year-old continued his stretch of strong iron play (he gained on the field for the eighth time in nine weeks) and was fine off the tee, but he did not make enough putts to advance to the weekend in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Tringale should be well rested and primed for a big week. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks seventh in the field in strokes gained approach, second in bogey avoidance, 11th in birdies or better, and 24th in scrambling.
Like Lowry, Tringale has never finished inside the top 20 at the Honda Classic, but his game is arguably as good as it has ever been. If he can chip and putt better than he did a week ago, he should definitely be in the mix Sunday afternoon.