The PGA Tour wraps up its Florida Swing with the event that usually begins this stretch of golf in the Sunshine State. Due to the scheduling, with another WGC event next week (the Match Play), the Honda Classic became a natural resting spot for many of the top players in the world.
This week’s field will be headlined by Joaquin Niemann, Daniel Berger and the defending champion, Sungjae Im. Despite a weaker-than-usual field, PGA National has no plans on taking it easy on these golfers! This ranked as the third-most difficult course on the PGA Tour last season and is famous for its “Bear Trap”—the three-hole stretch from 15 to 17 that plays as one of the most difficult three-hole stretches on the schedule.
The course key stats model at RickRunGood.com offers some assistance on the types of players who have had success at PGA National. It recommends leaning on solid approach players considering the demanding second shots and the par-70 layout. That creates more opportunities for great ball-strikers to thrive.
Here are my favorite plays (and a couple golfers most likely to disappoint) in each price range for the 2021 Honda Classic.
High Upside: Talor Gooch ($9,300 DraftKings | $10,800 FanDuel)
I was hoping to see Gooch in the next pricing tier down, but this price tag is certainly well-deserved. He finished fifth at last week’s Players Championship, thanks to the 6.77 strokes he gained on approach. That was fourth in the field behind only Sergio Garcia, Si Woo Kim and Charley Hoffman. He finished directly ahead of eventual winner, Justin Thomas. This stretch of golf has been going on for a few weeks, and he has proven he can play well on difficult golf courses. His T-12 at Riviera actually looks worse on paper than it was—Gooch was in one of the final groups on Sunday before falling.
Safest Option: Sungjae Im ($11,000 DraftKings | $11,800 FanDuel)
The defending champion is laying the foundation to have another good week at PGA National. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Im has gained strokes/off-the-tee in five consecutive events and gained strokes/putting in six straight. That provides a high floor—and if his irons get hot—will give him an opportunity to defend his title.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Lee Westwood ($10,600 DraftKings | $11,500 FanDuel)
As much as I love Westwood and his recent success, this price is untenable. In fact, this is the most expensive Westwood has been in any DraftKings PGA contest in the past three years, and he has never been more expensive than $8,200 until this week. At this price, you’re asking him to win the Honda Classic to achieve value. While he is proving that his game is sharp, I’m willing to wait a few weeks and not immediately chase those fantasy points from Westwood.
Pick To Win: Daniel Berger ($10,800 DraftKings | $12,000 FanDuel)
Berger is laying the blueprint for what he needs to do to win the Honda Classic. He’s been marvelous in every category, ranking fourth in SG/tee to green at TPC Sawgrass en route to his T-9 finish. His numbers last week were almost identical to his numbers when he won the AT&T Pebble Beach, except that Berger was a small negative with his flat stick last week. His path to victory is as wide as any golfer in the field.
High Upside: Keegan Bradley ($8,400 DraftKings | $9,900 FanDuel)
If you’ve paid attention to golf in the past few years, you know that Bradley is one of the best ball-strikers on tour but often can’t get out of the way of his own putter. While that still remains true, we are venturing into uncharted territory right now. Bradley has gained strokes/putting in each of his past two starts. He has only done that on two other occasions in the past five years. We can argue that these two weeks are outliers, and they might be, but if Bradley can maintain any semblance of confidence on the putting greens this week—he will contend.
Safest Option: Brendan Steele ($8,700 DraftKings | $10,400 FanDuel)
Steele hasn’t missed a cut in 2021, which is seven starts (and counting) for those at home. He’s been leaning on his driver—he has gained strokes/off the tee in eight measured events dating back to last year. He’s piecing the rest of his game together and has rattled off top-45 finishes at three very difficult courses and events (Players, Arnold Palmer, Genesis). PGA National will still be a test, but this field will be much weaker than those in previous weeks.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Cameron Davis ($8,600 DraftKings |$10,000 FanDuel)
One of the reasons that I love Cameron Davis is that he’s high risk/high reward and can get loose at times. Unfortunately, that profile doesn’t seem to lend itself well to Florida golf. Davis has missed the cut at both Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass in back-to-back weeks. That’s the first time he’s missed the cut in consecutive weeks dating back to last summer. I’ll weather the storm and wait for Davis at courses that are less penal when you miss.
Pick To Win: Doug Ghim ($8,800 DraftKings | $9,800 FanDuel)
I’m willing to look past Ghim’s struggles on Sunday—it was the biggest spot of his young career. That’s a learning opportunity, and he’ll be better for it the next time he gets in contention, and with the way he’s been playing, that next time might be very soon. Ghim (main photo) is averaging 0.61 strokes gained per round this season, which is the fourth-most of anyone in this field (with a minimum of 35 rounds). He proved last week that he can compete on this tour and will look to bounce back immediately at PGA National.
High Upside: Brandon Wu ($7,800 DraftKings | $9,300 FanDuel)
The line between the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour is more blurred than it has ever been. Not only because both tours are filled with talent, but there wasn’t a normal graduating class from the Korn Ferry Tour last season because of the COVID-19 shutdown. That leaves plenty of great players on the junior circuit, like Wu. He was a winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last summer and finished T-7 at the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour a few weeks ago. He has plenty of talent and all the motivation in the world to notch a top finish this week.
Safest Option: Harold Varner III ($7,600 DraftKings | $8,900 FanDuel)
When I think of safety, I look for the most consistent metrics. That tends to be tee-to-green play, knowing that putting is very volatile from week-to-week. Since the start of the 2020 season, Varner has gained 1.01 strokes per round from tee-to-green. The only player with a better mark in this field is Russell Henley.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Phil Mickelson ($7,400 DraftKings |$8,800 FanDuel)
It was a bit of a surprise to see Mickelson play so well en route to a T-35 at the Players. He was dazzling with his irons and held it together on the greens. While that might be reason for hope, it appears last week was the outlier for Mickelson, who had his best approach week in the last two seasons. There hasn’t been much evidence that he’ll be able to continue this on a regular basis, so I’ll take a pass on Phil at PGA National.
Pick To Win: Patton Kizzire ($7,500 DraftKings | $8,700 FanDuel)
Kizzire has moved his streak of made cuts to 12 in a row after his T-35 at the Players last week. Maybe more impressive, he’s earned three top-11 finishes in that stretch at the Sony Open, RSM Classic and Houston Open. That’s the caliber of field we will see assembled at PGA National this week, and Kizzire’s ability to “pop” is intriguing at this price point.
High Upside: Tom Hoge ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Hoge offers optimism from his T-22 last week, in which he gained 4.13 strokes on approach. He’ll need to tighten up his driver to avoid the big number, but he’s made three of his past four cuts, highlighted by his T-12 at Pebble Beach just a few starts ago. There’s plenty of risk to rostering Hoge, but he off-sets that risk with upside.
Safest Option: Wesley Bryan ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,100 FanDuel)
Bryan has played eight measured events dating back to last summer, after missing nearly two years with injury. In those eight events, he’s gained strokes on approach in seven of them with his most recent finish coming at Riviera (T-43). It’s a really small sample size, and I have concerns about Bryan at a course this difficult. But the metrics indicate he has a better floor than many of his similarly priced peers.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Denny McCarthy ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,100 FanDuel)
McCarthy jumped into our focus last week when he opened up with rounds of 69-69 that included an ace on the third hole during Friday’s round. Things fell apart for McCarthy on the weekend, and he lost 7.34 strokes to the field over those two days. He would fade to a T-55 finish and plant more doubt about the state of his game heading into the Honda Classic.
Pick To Win: Jim Furyk ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)
When you get to a challenging course like PGA National, I want a grinder in my corner—and that is exactly the way to describe Furyk. Even at this point of his illustrious career, he’s finding a way to compete with much younger (and more talented, frankly) golfers. He posted a T-26 at Riviera in his last PGA Tour start and has made four consecutive cuts on this circuit. He’s been keeping his game sharp on the Champions Tour, where he’s played eight times since August. That has resulted in five top-10s and two wins.