The PGA Tour returns to mainland USA for this week’s Honda Classic. The event at PGA National will be the first of four straight events in Florida. Several of the top-ranked golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking are taking this week off following the Genesis Invitational and last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, as they prepare for next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship. Below, we make our Honda Classic betting picks based on the outright odds and various prop bets available at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
World No. 3, Brooks Koepka, is the top-ranked golfer in this week’s field. He’s joined by Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, and Justin Rose. PGA Tour rookie Viktor Hovland, fresh off his first win at last week’s Puerto Rico Open, vaulted to No. 60 in the OWGR and is priced among the favorites this week. Defending champion Keith Mitchell will look to hold them off in his first event since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The Honda Classic is the seventh-to-last event for golfers to acquire their invitation to the 2020 Masters Tournament. They’ll need to win or work their way inside the top 50 of the OWGR by the week of the year’s first major.
The course: PGA National (Champion)
The Champion course at PGA National Resort & Spa has long been one of the most difficult courses on the PGA Tour circuit, despite playing to a modest 7,125 yards. The par 70 course hosts the event for a 14th consecutive year. Only one of the last seven champions have finished better than 9-under par. Fowler won by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland at minus-12 in 2017.
The highlight of the course is The Bear Trip. Holes 15 through 17 were three of the 13 holes which played to scoring averages over par in 2019. The most difficult hole on the course was the 479-yard, par-4 6th at a stroke average of 4.373. The 538-yard, par-5 3rd played as the easiest hole last year. Eight eagles and 196 birdies were carded against 41 bogeys and two doubles for a scoring average of 4.62. It was one of just four holes which played below par over the tournament.
Water and sand cover the course and winds can wreak havoc. Longer hitters have typically had success here, but the length is more important for approach shots. Most holes are designed to force layups off the tee. There were only 10 eagles in last year’s tournament, with eight on the 3rd and two more on the 18th.
Key stats to consider for your Honda Classic betting picks
The difficulty of PGA National works to neutralize the strengths of the world’s top golfers and helps even the playing field. Seven of the 13 Honda Classic champions since the event was moved from Country Club at Mirasol for the 2007 tournament entered the week of their win outside the top 100 in the OWGR. Y.E. Yang, who entered the week of the 2009 Honda Classic ranked 460th by the OWGR, was the biggest longshot in the last 13 years.
Consider Strokes Gained: Scrambling and Sand Saves Gained in your research this week due to the amount of trouble on the course. We’re also looking at Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, Strokes Gained: Approach, Birdies or Better Gained, and Par 4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards, based on historical data over the last four years from Fantasy National. My model is set to the most recent 36 rounds on courses shorter than 7,200 yards for each golfer in the field.
Due to the Honda Classic’s new positioning within a busy portion of the schedule, the caliber of the field has dropped in recent years. Last year’s tournament ranked between the RBC Canadian Open and the Safeway Open.
Honda Classic betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Leader after Round 1: Tommy Fleetwood +2900
Fleetwood is coming off a T-18 finish at last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship. He finished alone in fourth at this event in 2018 and skipped last year’s tournament. He leads my stat model for the week with strengths in SG: Ball Striking and Par Efficiency from the key distance.
Only four golfers on the PGA Tour had a better first-round scoring average than Fleetwood’s 69.06 in 16 measured rounds. He has outright odds of +1200 at FanDuel, and he’s the tournament favorite at DraftKings with odds of +1100. He’s a much better value to lead after 18 holes.
Top rest of the world player: Emiliano Grillo +1300
Grillo ranks seventh in a pool led by Louis Oosthuizen (+600), Byeong Hun An (+750), Sungjae Im (+850), Corey Conners (+1000), Erik Van Rooyen (+1000), and Joaquin Niemann (+1000). The Argentinian is coming off a T-3 finish at the Puerto Rico Open last week, which snapped a streak of three straight missed cuts. He also missed the cut here a year ago, but he was T-8 in 2018. He’s 10th by the stat model and leads the field in SG: Ball Striking and SG: Approach over everyone’s last 36 rounds on these shorter courses.
Outright: Sam Burns +12500
Burns is a far more attractive play at DraftKings than at FanDuel, where he’s just +6500 to win the tournament. He was a surprising T-8 finisher in 2018, and he already has a top 10 at this year’s The American Express following a 2019 season mostly lost to injury.
He’s coming off a T-23 finish at the Genesis Invitational and enters the week 191st in the world. Due to the tournament’s history of longshot winners, he’s well worth a dart throw at these odds.
Honda Classic betting picks: Our winner
Lee Westwood +8500
Westy claimed professional victory No. 41 at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January. It marked the 46-year-old’s first worldwide win since 2018. He enters this week ranked 30th in the world following a T-22 in Mexico last week.
Noone with a minimum of 10 rounds played at PGA National has gained more strokes per round than Westwood’s 1.93 (24 rounds), according to Data Golf. He hasn’t played here any of the last four years, but he tied for ninth in 2013 and fourth in 2012. He’s just +6000 at FanDuel, representing tremendous value at DraftKings.
This article was originally published on Tuesday. Odds subject to change.