Scott Shapiro's Honda Classic preview

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February 25th, 2020

After a thriller in Mexico City, the PGA Tour moves to Florida for the first of four events in the Sunshine State over the next several weeks.

The PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens will host the Honda Classic this week and offers professional golfers one of the more challenging courses they will encounter all year. Wind and plenty of water make it a high-variance event, where even the strongest players in the field have a serious chance of missing the cut. 

With big numbers everywhere, including the “Bear Trap” (holes 15, 16, and 17), which is one of the most difficult three-hole stretches around, avoiding bogeys will be one of the keys this week. I will also look for players who possess a strong approach game, have distance off the tee, and have the ability to scramble and score on long par 4s.

The amount of trouble on this course makes it one of the more difficult events to predict, so I will reduce the size of my normal wagers and add an extra golfer to my betting card this week.

Odds to win the Honda Classic

GolferHonda Classic Odds
Tommy Fleetwood
Brooks Koepka
Rickie Fowler
Luis Oosthuizen
Justin Rose
Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland (+2000)

The 2019 U.S. Open champion started this season with a solid, seventh-place finish at the Tournament of Champions and finished 12th last week in Mexico, but his short game has kept him from making a serious run over his first four events of 2020. That is less likely to hurt him this week at PGA National.

Woodland ranks fourth in this field over the last 24 rounds in bogey avoidance, ninth in driving distance, fourth in birdies or better gained, and his approach game has been on point. He has made the cut at the Honda Classic four consecutive times, including a runner-up finish in 2017. He is my favorite option among the golfers at the top of the BetAmerica outright market.

Tom Hoge (+10000)

Hoge has turned a corner in 2020. He has notched four top 25 finishes in five tries to start the year and heads into the Florida swing playing the best golf of his professional career. It is certainly concerning that he missed the cut in Palm Beach Gardens the last two years, but he is a different golfer than he was in 2018 and 2019.

Hoge rates extremely well this week in my model. He is fourth in the field in strokes gained approach over the last 24 rounds, second in par 4 scoring, third in bogey avoidance, and in the top 20 in scrambling and birdies or better gained. He has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but his time is coming.

At this price I will play him to win and also in the top 5 and top 10 markets.

Daniel Berger (+2800)

The Florida native has been up and down at PGA National, but it is hard to forget his late charge in 2015, when he eventually lost in a playoff to veteran Padraig Harrington. Berger was not at his best in 2019, because of poor putting and an inconsistent approach game, but he seems to have rediscovered himself in 2020. He heads home following top 10 finishes at the Phoenix Open and at Pebble Beach.

Berger does not rate quite as well as others on my card this week, but he knows this course well, ranks in the top 20 in strokes gained tee to green and birdies or better gained, and is seventh in scrambling over the last 24 rounds. I expect him to play well again this week.

Russell Knox (+6600)

The Jacksonville resident had a great run on the PGA Tour from 2014 to 2016, but has not found the winner's circle since the Travelers Championship in 2016. He comes into this event off of two missed cuts in California, but fits this course well, with a strong approach game and his ability to score on par 4s and scramble.

His putting on Bermuda greens is concerning, but at this price, I am willing to sprinkle in a small wager on him, based on his back-to-back top three finishes in 2014 and 2015. 

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