After kicking off the 2018 golf season in Hawaii, Arizona, and California, for three of the next four weeks we will be in The Sunshine State for The Florida Swing. For the players, this begins the final six weeks of tune up prior to making their way down Magnolia Lane for the season’s first Major, The Masters.
This next step on The PGA Tour schedule begins with The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Champion Course is a very challenging Par 70 originally designed by George and Tom Fazio and then later modified by Jack Nicklaus, who turned holes 15-16-and-17 into a very challenging, water-laden stretch of finishing holes now known as The Bear Trap. The golf course ranks as one of the most difficult Par 70 courses the players play on Tour all season and much of that has to do with the wind that will often blow in the area at this time of the year. The Honda Classic has been a regular stop on The Tour schedule 45-times but this will just be the 12th time it has been held at PGA National. In only three of those twelve years has the winning score reached double-digits under par.
Much of The West Coast Swing had the players navigating Poa Annua greens but out here in Florida it is all Bermuda Grass. The greens at The Champion Course are very undulated and fast. There are 78-sand bunkers on the course and water comes into play on 13 of the 18-holes. Key ingredients to winning The Honda at PGA National have proven to be Greens in Regulation, Hole Proximity, and Par 4 Scoring. With the golf course being a Par 70, it means that twelve of the eighteen holes are Par 4’s. Obviously, performing well on what makes up the majority of the course will serve one well this week. Finally, in your handicap of the event, don’t forget to consider players that perform well in the wind. You can look to see how players have performed at The British Open where the wind blows in nearly every edition and you can also look at The Sony Open in Hawaii. Waialae Country Club in Honolulu is also a Par 70 course with Bermuda Grass greens and is always subject to a steady ocean breeze.
Palm trees, water, alligators, wind, sand traps, Bear Traps, and Tiger Woods.. get ready for it, it’s The Florida Swing!
Rickie Fowler (+918 Pinnacle) Rickie hasn’t appeared on Tour since taking 11th in Phoenix, another venue with Bermuda Grass putting surfaces. He is the defending champion here and got to the winners circle last year with tremendous putting and an excellent short game. He is currently 2nd on Tour in Scrambling and 9th in Putting Average.
Justin Thomas (+1055 Bookmaker) Despite a very solid result last week in Los Angeles, Thomas struggled a bit around the greens. His track record here in only three trips is feast or famine as he’s gone Cut-3rd-Cut.
Rory McIlroy (+1155 Pinnacle) Rory was 2nd here in 2014 and won the event in 2012 but has been cut in the last two editions. His game out west at Pebble and Riviera was shaky but that could all change as he goes from the Poa Annua surface to Bermuda.
Sergio Garcia (+1784 Pinnacle) The defending Masters Champion makes his first appearance in the U.S. of 2018 but don’t sleep on Sergio as he’s been going along just fine recently in Europe. He won in Spain back in October and has a Top 10, Top 20, and a Top 25 finish since. He was 2nd here at The Honda in 2016.
Tyrrell Hatton (+2824 Bookmaker) The young Englishman has been on quite a roll with two European Tour wins in 2017 and three Top 15 finishes in the last four months. This is just his 2nd time playing The Honda Classic and in his debut last year, he took 4th.
Gary Woodland (+3044 Pinnacle) Your Phoenix Open winner just three weeks ago and as mentioned, that also came on Bermuda Grass greens. He has a tremendous record at The Sony Open and was runner up to Rickie Fowler here last year.
The Long Shots
Ollie Schneiderjans (+5915 Bookmaker) Schneiderjans is one of the top ranking players for putting on Bermuda Grass and this shows up in his recent results at The Sony and in Phoenix where he was 7th and 3rd respectively. He was 48th here at PGA National last year.
Louis Oosthuizen (+6600 5Dimes) Oosthy is another player who takes a liking to the Bermuda putting surface. He racked up two Top 10 finishes on The European Tour in November and December and took 21st here last season.
Brian Stuard (+25000 5Dimes) The journeyman pro has three Top 30 finishes here at The Honda in his last five trips and two Top 10 finishes at The Sony, including a 4th place this year just six weeks ago. He is very accurate off of the tee and ranks 54th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+5354 Pinnacle) Many of the European players are making their first appearance of the year state-side. Cabrera-Bello however has been here for two weeks already and he’s taken advantage of it with a 26th place finish at both Pebble Beach and last week at The Genesis. He is 14th on Tour in Greens in Regulation, 5th in Hole Proximity, and 29th in Par 4 Scoring. Prior to coming to play in the U.S., he took 6th in Dubai back in January and last year he was 37th here at The Honda. If his short game stays hot this week, we could have an awful exciting 50-1 shot on our hands.
Get all of Brady Kannon’s plays for this week’s Honda Classic right HERE