The Honda Classic preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Sergio, Spare Change Kuch, and now Bryson…..so many bad boys out there on tour! The biggest villain for us however was Rory. So frustrating to see him get close and yet falter. He wasn’t entitled to a drop and DJ was – those are the margins.
Rory takes a well-earned break this week where the tour heads to Florida for the Florida Swing a series of four huge events. This week it’s the Honda Classic at PGA National with the infamous Bear Trap.
Running at 7125 yards The Champions Course is a tough par 70re-designed by Jack and showing it with his love of Augusta type features. Something of an affectation the Bear Trap consists of the par 3 15th, the par 4 16th and the par 3 17th – which is 15 yards shorter than last year. Just as well as it was the most difficult par three of all last season. How difficult is PGA National overall though? Quite. It’s been the most difficult par 70 of any non-major venue in four of the last six years. The greens are larger now and there will be less wind but expect a stern test.
All sorts of player do win though including some real outsiders: Harrington, Henley, Sabbatini and Michael Thompson – all at big prices. Some class acts have also prevailed including Thomas last year, Rickie in 2017, Scott in 2016 and Rory in 2012.
Key trends over the years seem to be the ability to scramble. Winners tend to drive it ok, hitting greens is a middling factor, though Villegas and Scott excelled at this when they were winning, but they were the exceptions rather than the rule since 2010. So a tough tee to green layout that rewards ability to scramble and maintain a score.
The course is unusually exposed so wind does play a factor on most holes- this is set to be less so this year given the forecast. With lots of rain and more expected the course will be receptive. Where are you Rory?
The main contenders are all class acts but as usual it’s easy to pick holes and none of the likes of Justin, Brooks, Rickie and Sergio (despite a great record) make any appeal at the prices. Scott is all over the right trends and it was softish when he won. Grillo is a firm favourite here but his price looks skinny for me given his current form. I’m tempted by Aphibarnrat and Kraft but you can’t have them all.
Luke List 1pt win at 60 BF
Sungjae Im 1pt win at 140 BF
Joachim Niemann 1pt win at 170 BF
Luke List has made one appearance for us and I think now is the time for another run. Second here last year in a playoff he also has a solid top ten in 2016. Clearly he likes it here and he’s coming in off the back of a 15th at Riviera where his tee to green game was rock solid. He’s looked a likely winner for a few seasons now and with 12 top 10’s from 129 starts he’s proven consistent – if not able to win. I also like the fact he has no negative main stats. Third off the tee and 12th in strokes gained total allied to 10th strokes gained tee to green and a small but positive putting figure marks a Honda profile all day long.
Sungjae Im gets another run for us purely on the basis we have pinned our colours to the mast with him. Like our third pick, Niemann, Im looks a winner in waiting. Seventh at the Waste Management he followed that with successive missed cuts at the AT&T and the Genesis. Despite those poor results Im boasts an across the board main stats positive figures including 25th in strokes gained total. Given the relative weakness of the field 129/1 for the Korean seems generous.
Joaquin Niemann is another stable star who we will keep riding while he’s at a price. With just 24 events under his belt he’s posted 5 top tens. His best results came last year but he does have a top 10 this season and his T44 at the Genesis isn’t so bad given the complexities of Riviera and how generally that course takes time to know – Bubba’s first win came at his eighth attempt. In reality Niemann’s game is suffering on the greens, languishing as he does in 218th place in strokes gained putting. While a case can be made that putting isn’t that important at PGA National that only runs true to an extent. He will have to improve but he’s young and super talented and he’s 169/1!