Florida Swing: Sleepers, Favorites, Odds
by Colin Brennan, Top Market Sports
The West Coast swing has concluded, and the Tour will move to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, for the Honda Classic. PGA National Champion course plays host this week, stretching out to about 7100 yards. Most notably is the “Bear Trap”, the 3 hole stretch found late in the round at holes 15 through 17. Jack Nicklaus was famous in saying that this course, and specifically the “Bear Trap” are not about length, but rather “about precision and guts”. Big numbers are around the corner on almost every hole here, and it's statistically one of the windiest stops on the PGA Tour, averaging around 15 mph per day. In the past, it’s been noted that good ball strikers find a small advantage here because of the wind and hazards. A premium will really be on getting balls in play and limiting big numbers. Last year, it was Rickie Fowler who won by 4 shots with a winning score of 268 (-12). The Honda Classic has become one of the most difficult non-major tour stops, and the epic Sunday afternoon meltdown is always in play.
While I think Rickie and Rory are decent options in terms of favorites on the board, here's a closer look at some deeper value plays below:
Russell Knox (45/1): Knox lost in a four man playoff here in 2014 to Russell Henley, and added a T-3 in 2015. He's 6th on Tour this season in Greens In Regulation which will be important on a course with such large amounts of trouble. He’s also in good form this season, with four top 11 finishes already.
Daniel Berger (50/1): Berger lost in a 2 hole playoff here in 2015 to Padraig Harrington. He finished T-11 in Phoenix, and has been quoted in saying how much he enjoys playing in wind and on Bermuda grass. Although he’s coming off a missed cut at Riviera, I think his ball striking and ability to drive the ball straight get him back on track in Florida this week.
Scott Stallings (65/1): After missing cuts in his first two events to start the new year, Stallings continues to improve every week. A T-23 in Phoenix, followed by a solo 7th at Pebble, and capped off with a T-4 last week at Riviera has him in great form coming to Palm Beach Gardens. I like taking chances with guys that are in good form, because many guys on the PGA Tour seem to feed off of momentum.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (90/1): In what will be his first start in the U.S. since the 2016 Web.com Finals, Kiradech comes into Florida hot. Earlier this month he won the World Super 6 Perth. His game travels well, and his 10 professional victories across the world prove that. While he's been more of a mainstay on the European and Asian Tours, he might be primed to make a splash here in the U.S.
Peter Uihlein (100/1): Uihlein played his high school golf in Florida. So despite recent years on the European Tour, he won’t be a stranger to Bermuda grass and Florida golf. He’s coming off a T-26 at Riviera, that included a really solid weekend of 69-70. In his eight events played this season, he has 2 top 10’s, and 3 top 25’s. His length and short game can really be an advantage if he's able to keep it in the fairway off the tee.