There are maybe 3-to-5 tournaments per year where the tee-time draw plays a huge factor. Last week’s Genesis turned out to be one of those weeks. The pre-tournament forecast made it clear that the Thursday AM/Friday PM wave had the potential edge. There was still a chance that the edge would be small but the delays played out perfectly in the end. After looking at the cut carnage, 45 of the surviving 71 golfers came from the AM/PM wave.
This week the tee-time draw differentials do not look as enticing. There isn’t any rain in the forecast for Thursday or Friday so wind would be the only factor to watch for. Keep an eye on that, but don’t get sucked into over-analyzing the tee-time draws just because of last week’s results.
Speaking of wind, this week’s event has averaged wind speeds of roughly 15 mph over the last three years. Only three tournaments have had windier conditions over that stretch (Puerto Rico, The Open Championship, and DEAN & DELUCA). The Wind Specialists might be worth taking a peek at this week.
The course is PGA National’s Champion Course. It’s a par 70 track that cards in at 7,140 yards. On the shorter side, but it’s no pushover. In fact, the field has averaged 1.53 strokes over par since 2010. It’s the toughest non-major event, in relation-to-par at least. That likely goes hand-in-hand with the typical wind this course sees.
In addition to the wind, missing fairways is much more penal than most of the courses we’ve seen early in the year. That is part of the reason we’ll see golfers clubbing down off the tee this week. You want to keep it in the fairways around here, and being good on bermudagrass greens is a big plus, as well.
Stat-wise, it’s really an all-around test. Accuracy off the tee is nice but so is distance if you got it. Approach play, scrambling, and scoring all rate out decently also.
That matches up with the course layout, as well. There aren’t any really long par 5s but there are four lengthy par 4s, three short par 4s, and five par 4s that land between 410-and-450 yards. A really balanced layout that’s going to test your whole bag.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more about the course setup and golfer quotes.
For correlated events/courses I am looking at THE PLAYERS, Valspar, Doral, The Open Championship, and Wyndham.
Players to Watch
Sergio Garcia… Didn’t impress in his first 2017 Stateside start last week at Riviera CC, but he’s still less than a month removed from his Euro Tour win. Should feel right at home in Florida and has three top 15s here in six tries.
Daniel Berger… Speaking of Florida, this FSU product finished runner-up here in his debut before missing the cut last year. Should have a result closer to his debut this week as he loves teeing it up in his home state on bermuda greens.
Russell Knox… Another Florida guy (Jacksonville). Knox has two podium finishes here at PGA National in addition to a T26 last year. You don’t NEED length around this layout, making it a perfect Knox track.
Blayne Barber… Notice a trend yet? All of these golfers have lived or currently live in Florida. There is something to be said about comfort. Last year Barber said this on his way to a third-place finish, “These greens are perfect. I love putting on bermuda. It’s great to be back in Florida, where I’m from.” As I mentioned in my 2017 projected earnings article, Barber is someone that can tear apart less-than-driver venues and this fits the bill.
Graeme McDowell… Had a couple of top 30s during the Desert Swing before returning with a 67th-place finish at Riviera. A nice warmup event to this week’s course which suits him much better. Four top 10s in eight starts here. Oh yeah, another Florida resident.
Russell Henley… Henley is often linked to some of the golfers I’ve already mentioned (G-mac and Knox) due to their success on coastal tracks where the wind often picks up. This area certainly fits the mold since heavy winds are the norm. Plus, he’s a past winner here (2014) in addition to a T13 the year before that. Making him a great GPP option this week.
Luke Donald… The Englishman had plenty of course history at Riviera CC and pulled through with a top 25. PGA National is another course he’s feasted on. He won this event in 2006 (CC of Mirasol) but even since the switch to PGA National he’s posted four top 10s in six starts.
Brooks Koepka… Giving Brooks the Bubba FADE treatment until further notice. BK was on the wrong end of the draw last week, so his missed cut shouldn’t have been too alarming but even before then his early 2017 results have been disappointing. Despite this week being a home game for him, he’s never found himself inside the top 10 after any round here (12 rounds played). Whether it’s the club changes or just a mini-slump, I’m going to hold off for now.
Jeff Overton… Making his last start on a Major Medical, this is the perfect spot to do so. In 10 Honda starts he’s posted three top 10s with another two results at T21 or better. A very lively (and risky) GPP option this week.
Will MacKenzie… Playing out of the reshuffle this year, he had to rely on a sponsor’s invite to crack the field. With three top 15s in seven starts here, he certainly holds the upside. Much like Overton, he comes with plenty of boom-or-bust risk.
Euro Tour fill-ins … Much like Thomas Pieters last week, there will likely be some Euro Tour pieces that are vastly underpriced. No DraftKings pricing at the time of this writing, but it will be worth monitoring the price of guys like Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Pieters (again). Then there is Soren Kjeldsen who should be a good fit but is struggling with form. Also, Fran Molinari looks like a great fit on paper but he’s posted a MC and T65 in two trips. Lastly, Florida has not been kind to Branden Grace, so I won’t be diving heavily into the South African this week.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Honda Classic
1. Sergio Garcia
2. Daniel Berger
3. Rickie Fowler
4. Justin Thomas
5. Adam Scott
6. Russell Knox
7. Paul Casey
8. Keegan Bradley
9. Graeme Mcdowell
10. Charles Howell III
11. Blayne Barber
12. Russell Henley
13. Luke List
14. Jimmy Walker
15. Danny Willett
16. Luke Donald
17. Tyrrell Hatton
18. Camilo Villegas
19. Rafa Cabrera Bello
20. Thomas Pieters
21. Harris English
22. Gary Woodland
23. Ian Poulter
24. David Lingmerth
25. Matthew Fitzpatrick