Last week on the PGA Tour, Justin Thomas (23-1) captured his first ever PLAYERS championship, joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only three players to win 14 times on Tour before age 28. I’d say JT is in some pretty good company. Justin’s win came after a weekend charge to defeat the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Lee Westwood, both of whom backtracked on Sunday. After an emotional couple of months for Thomas, it was nice to see him find what he called “a good headspace” and return to his winning ways. This week, we’re on to the Honda Classic.
The Honda Classic will return to its traditional venue, PGA National. The course is a par-70 that measures 7,125 yards with Bermuda-grass greens. Once a Tom Fazio design, the course was redone by Jack Nicklaus and dons the toughest three-hole stretch in golf, infamously known as the “Bear Trap”. Although winners have come from all over the betting board in the past, PGA National demands a safe, clean game, where often a par is just as good as a birdie. Because of its many hazards, we will be targeting consistent, clean strikers of the golf ball who know how to play in some sloppy conditions.
Shane Lowry (25-1)
Our first pick will be used on defending Open champion, Shane Lowry. The Irishman enjoyed a successful week at the PLAYERS, finishing solo 8th while gaining strokes in every major statistical category. Shane has taken three trips to PGA National and made the cut all three times. Although he has yet to crack the top twenty in any of his visits, he has the type of game that can win out in a low-scoring event.
Brendan Steele (40-1)
A little farther down the board we land on Brendan Steele. The 37-year-old Tour veteran has the chops to play on hard courses. He’s a great striker of the golf ball and has a point-A to point-B type of game that should keep him out of trouble. In his last five trips to PGA National, Steele has one fourth place finish, two eleventh place finishes, a fourteenth-place finish, and one missed cut. That fruitful course history combined with his excellent wind play at venues like Wailele CC makes Steele a safe pick this week.
Matt Wallace (66-1)
Our third outright pick this week is Matt Wallace. Although we didn’t see Wallace last week at Sawgrass, his performance at Bay Hill was enough convincing. Much like Lowry last week, Wallace gained strokes on the field in every major statistical category two weeks ago. We don’t typically get to see a ton of Matt’s game during the year, but when we do, a few things are abundantly clear: he likes to play hard courses and he doesn’t mind a little wind. In fact, Wallace ranks out 12th in this field over the last 50 rounds played with difficult scoring relative to par. The scoring at PGA National should be just that.
Longshots/Cheeks of the Week:
Patton Kizzire (80-1) and Kyoung-Hoon Lee (80-1)
This week’s Cheeks are Patton Kizzire and Kyoung-Hoon Lee. Entering this week Kizzire finds himself on a magnificent twelve consecutive made cut streak and having just gained over 4 strokes on his approach at TPC Sawgrass. Combine this with the fact that he’s a former winner at Wailele and you could have a winning formula.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee, like many of the other players listed in this blog, is another a guy who enjoys working for his scores. Over his career, he’s gained roughly .2 strokes on the field when scoring conditions are difficult and .4 strokes on the field when the wind is high. If we look back to last week, we will also see that KH Lee gained a whopping 4.6 strokes off the tee and 2.2 strokes on approach. If those two stats carry over, Lee could be in contention.
All PGA odds taken from BetMGM Sportsbook