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The Florida Swing starts this week with The Honda Classic at PGA National.
With this event sandwiched after a pair of designated events and in front of THE PLAYERS Championship, the field takes a substantial hit. As a result, tournament favorite Sungjae Im — at 10-1 odds — is the headliner and just one three of players who made the trip that also occupy a top-25 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Last year, longshot Sepp Straka — at 100-1 — picked up his first Tour victory by one stroke over Shane Lowry.
Honda Classic Odds & Best Bets to Back
Billy Horschel (25-1): Horschel has a pretty good track record at PGA National, posting four top-20s over his last six appearances and ranking fifth in SG: Approach last year. He has historically played well in his home state, posting a runner-up finish somewhere in Florida each of the last two years.
Chris Kirk (30-1): Kirk comes in rested after taking last week off. He’s had a hot start to the year, with a pair of top-5 finishes in three starts. He has fared well on this track and posted a T7 here last year. It has been nearly seven years since his last victory, but he’s playing well enough to end that drought.
Thomas Detry (35-1): Detry has had a fine start to the year, recording four top-40 finishes, but he has yet to work his way into contention. We expect that will change this week in a weaker field. He played well against lesser competition in the fall, with a runner-up and four top-15s in five starts.
Top-10 Wagers to Back
Garrick Higgo (6-1): Higgo lost his form for a while following his first PGA Tour victory in 2021, but he nearly won the Sanderson Farms Championship in the fall and posted a pair of top-20s over his last four starts. He made only one cut during last year’s Florida Swing, and it was in this event.
Erik van Rooyen (17-2): This is really good value for someone who was top-50 in the OWGR at this time last year. Luckily, he does have a top-10 in three starts this year. He’s generally been held back by his short game, but his ball-striking prowess on a course that demands it makes him an intriguing dark horse.
Erik Barnes (12-1): The weaker field means we have to dig a little deeper than usual, and we’ll turn to the rookie in Barnes, who posted a top-10 at The RSM Classic in November and also had a top-15 in a strong field at Torrey Pines. He seems to be finding his rhythm as he gets more comfortable on the big stage.
J.T. Poston (-110) over Adam Svensson: We like Poston’s reliability in this matchup, as he has made the cut in 4-of-5 trips to PGA National and has five top-25 finishes in 10 starts this season. The only thing that Svensson does better than Poston is hit it straighter with his driver. There’s good value on Poston with this being a 50/50 proposition.
Will Gordon (-110) over Nick Hardy: Gordon has played well this season, gaining 0.8 strokes per round with his ball striking, and he finished T36 in his PGA National debut in 2021. Meanwhile, Hardy struggled mightily here last year, missing the cut and ranking bottom-5 in SG: Approach. He’s struggled to get much going, with just one top-20 in 10 starts this season.
Honda Classic Betting Tips
Par 70, 7,125 yards
Average Strokes Gained Rankings: Honda Classic Winners Since 2018:
- SG: Off-the-Tee: 11.8
- SG: Approach: 8.2
- SG: Around-the-Green: 14.6
- SG: Putting: 29.8
- SG: Tee-to-Green: 1.6
- Driving Distance: 15.2
- Driving Accuracy: 39.2
One of the most difficult tests of the year comes at PGA National, where the average winning score over the last five years was 9-under-par. Water comes into play on about half the holes and can lead to high scores. The biggest test is “The Bear Trap” — Nos. 15-17, which players will be fortunate to escape at even par.
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green has been the key statistic here, with the champion leading the field in the category four of the last five years. Ball striking is critical and golfers will also need to rely on their scrambling given how difficult it is to hit greens in regulation at a high percentage.
Accuracy off the tee also tends to be mostly negated here, as players will often be laying up with less than driver. I’ll be targeting those who have fared well during the Florida Swing in the past, as these courses play much differently than those out west, with more water in play, Bermuda greens and fewer scoring opportunities.
PGA National Champions
The following golfers, with a minimum of eight rounds played, have the lowest scoring average at PGA National over the last five years:
- Webb Simpson: 69.6
- Sepp Straka: 69.6
- Sungjae Im: 69.6
- Byeong Hun An: 69.7
- Shane Lowry: 70.0
- Alex Noren: 70.0
- Sam Ryder: 70.0
There are only four players in the field who have played at least eight rounds over the past five years and have a scoring average under par, which shows just how difficult PGA National plays. Simpson tops the list with T5 and T36 finishes during that stretch, but can he round back into form? The veteran hasn’t posted a top-50 finish in six starts this season, and his last top-10 was recorded in November of 2021. Luckily there is not much risk associated with him at 90-1 to win.
Another Tour veteran who has had success here is Noren, who missed his last two cuts but recorded consecutive top-5s prior to that. He has used his above average iron play and one of the best short games in the world to post a pair of top-5s over his last four trips to PGA National. Noren is the fourth betting choice at 25-1.
Trending Tee To Green
These five golfers gained the most strokes from tee to green over their last 20 rounds.
- Jhonattan Vegas: 1.44
- Joseph Bramlett: 0.98
- Sungjae Im: 0.97
- Matt Kuchar: 0.87
- Will Gordon: 0.79
Vegas is not the player you’d expect to see atop this list, as he does not even have a top-20 in four starts this season. However, that can largely be attributed to his struggles on the greens, where he ranks a lowly 206th on Tour. He’s a great bargain at 35-1 if he can be even average with the putter. It’s of little surprise to see the favorite and 2020 Honda Classic champion — Im — as the lone player to appear on both lists.
While Im could have elected to join most of the other top pros taking the week off, the workhorse elected to play what will likely be five weeks in a row, assuming he plays the two designated events that follow this week’s event. He is clearly the class of the field and notched two top-10s over his last three starts.
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