What: The Honda Classic
Where: PGA National (Champion) Palm Beach Gardens, FL
When: February 22nd – 25th
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler
FedEx Cup Points and Purse: 500 and $6,900,000
Bubba Watson earned his 10th career PGA TOUR Victory last week at the Genesis Open for his third career win at Riviera. His Saturday score of 65 propelled him into a great position. Closing out on Kevin Na and Tony Finau by two strokes, Bubba actually considered retirement last year, but he has alas earned his first victory in two years. Is he “back”? We’ll see!
Last Week’s Results
Johnson – T16
Spieth – T9
Mickelson – T6
Fleetwood – T37
McIlroy – T20
Casey – T49
Thomas – T9
Kuchar – T26
Schniederjans – CUT
Hadwin – T6
Choi – CUT (First missed cut here ever, debuted in 2001)
Finau – T2
This week we are getting away from the West Coast swing and are back to Florida for the Honda Classic. Rickie Fowler won here last year by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland.
As always, ball-striking is important this week, as well as par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, and strokes gained: putting. There are a whopping 26 water hazards here and 78 sand traps. There’s crazy danger all around, as this course features the fourth hardest three-hole stretch on TOUR with the 5th, 6th, and 7th holes. This course is a par-70, so consistent putters and accurate ball-strikers on the six par-4s that measure 450+ yards will be favored greatly.
This Week’s Picks
Rickie Fowler – The defending champ is a no-brainer for your lineup this week. Since winning here last year, he has gotten to 7th on the OWGR. Fowler ranks 18th in SG: Putting, 2nd in scrambling, 3rd in scoring average, and 9th in birdie average. Pay up the price. His last six finishes here include a win, a T6, T41, T24, T13, and a T7.
Rory McIlroy – McIlroy impressed with a T20 last week at Riviera, and he will be hungry for more. He was a winner here in 2012 but also lost in a playoff in 2014. He is going to start hitting his stride, and if his price hasn’t crept up a ton, you can bank on a top-15 finish here. With his ability to miss the hazards with ease, he’s already at an advantage over players who may spray the ball a bit more.
Gary Woodland – Get Woodland in your leagues if his price has dropped! He finished 5th this year in SG: Putting and won three weeks ago in Arizona. He’s also 5-for-5 at this course and had that T2 here last year. That missed cut at Pebble is nothing but a fluke; there’s everything to love.
Sergio Garcia – The 2017 Masters Champion is making his 2018 season debut here at the National. He has never missed a cut here in seven tries and has another two top-10s. Although he hasn’t appeared on TOUR yet this season, Garcia had a win last October at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters. He also won a month ago at the SMBC Singapore Open.
Brian Harman – Harman hasn’t played in nearly a month as he took some time off to rest, but he is ready to rock here at the National. A great short game finisher, Harman this year owns a T5 and two T4s this year. He also has five top-10s this season to go along with another top-20.
Tommy Fleetwood – Fleetwood is a guy that is hard to ignore and is still flying under the radar due to barely playing on TOUR so far this season, but he’s killing it everywhere else around the world. He was crazy off the tee last week and definitely should’ve finished better than T37. In my opinion, he is a threat to compete for a win any given week. He will still be cheap.
Tyrell Hatton – Some pretty bad play last summer still has people turned away, but look what Hatton has done lately. Since October, he has won twice and even finished T4 here last year. When a top-15 OWGR player makes an appearance, you can’t ignore it.
Jason Dufner – A track record pick here, as Dufner owns eight cuts in eight tries, with four top-20s and a T14 last year at PGA National. He has only four appearances so far this year, but he does rank 3rd in SG: putting. Since the January Tournament of Champions, his last three finishes are T11, T18, and T36.
Patton Kizzire – This guy still ranks 1st in FedEx Cup points thanks to his great Fall. Kizzire has made only two trips here, but he has made the cut both times and is a very impressive top-15 in the following stats: greens hit, proximity, par-3, par-4, par-5 scoring, AND bogey avoidance. He is 8-for-9 in cuts made this season, with that cut coming in October. Since then, he has racked up four top-10s, five top-25s, and two victories.
Alex Noren – Noren is probably not getting the respect he deserves so far this season. Noren placed 2nd at the Farmers, 21st at the WMPO, and T16 last week at Riviera. He’s a top-10 player in SG: approach the green this year who ranks 16th in the world.
Scott Stallings – There’s no harm in going a little risky with a sleeper pick, and that’s where Stallings falls this week. After a very quiet T4 last week, Stallings has the 2nd longest current streak without a three-putt. T21, CUT, T63, and T29 are his finishes here.
Derek Fathauer – The short-game wizard can be thrown into your lineup this week at little-to-no cost if you feel good about your other top picks. Coming off his best finish of T16 last week that was blemished with a Sunday score of 74, Fathauer has two top-20s this year and is 4-for-4 at the Honda Classic with a T26 in 2016. He definitely could have finished better if not for that bad Sunday finish.