The Honda Classic
Date: February 27th – March 1st
Course: PGA National Golf Club
Purse: $7MM ($1.3MM to winner)
FedEx points: 500 to winner
OWGR points: 46
2019 Winner: Keith Mitchell (-9)
PGA National Golf Club Champion Course. Opened in 1981 by George and Tom Fazio, this presents a big jump in the season as we jump from the West Coast to the East and Florida Greens are now introduced. Best known for holes 15-17 “The Bear Trap”, this course presents not only a difficult layout to maneuver but also a sharp jump across the country into a completely new dynamic of wind, land and grass conditions. It is known to be the hardest par 70 among the non-majors. Coming so early in the season it’s interesting to see who rises to the challenge.
My Starting 4
Louis Oosthuizen (1st selection this year) — He struggled mightily at WGC last week (51st out of 72 golfers, hitting a 76 on Saturday), but prior to that he had top 25 finishes in seven out of eight tournaments including 3rd at WGC – HSBC, 11th at BMW Championship and 6th at the Northern Trust (none of those easy matchups during the playoff run). Add to that he has a great track record here with top 25 finishes in 2017 (21st) and 2018 (24th). Louis’s irons are among the elite on tour.
Keith Mitchell (1st selection this year) — Keith finished 112th here in 2018 and then won here last year so that provides a vast history of finishes. In 2018, he hit a 75 on Friday which did him in while last year he rode three of the four rounds under par. His last two tournaments were solid with a 16th place at Waste Management and 32nd at AT&T Pebble Beach. Keith is fairly comfortable with Florida courses in general, two of the last three years he has AVERAGED a top 20 finish in Florida courses. Keith’s driver is phenomenal, he was 6th on the tour in strokes gained off the tee last year.
Gary Woodland (1st selection this year) — A 40th place finish at the Waste Management Open as well as a 12th place last week in Mexico bring Gary to the Honda Classic where he came in 2nd in 2017 and has been in the top 50 the last two years. I would say most of all it’s his mental game that gives me confidence he can excel here.
Wyndham Clark (1st selection this year) — Wyndham had a solid February with top 20 finishes at AT&T Pebble Beach and the Genesis Invitational followed by a 34th place at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The cherry on the cake, he finished 7th at the Honda Classic last year. Wyndham has one of the best putters on tour, he’s 19th in strokes gained putting and he’s 4th on the tour in total putting.
My Bench 2
Lucas Glover (1st selection this year) — Being honest, Lucas has been absolutely horrible lately. It’s been eight tournaments since he finished above 35. That said, he has one of THE best track records at this course among his fellow golfers. He has not finished outside the top 25 here in three years (2017: 21st; 2018: 17th; 2019: 4th) . With that, I will risk him for a bench spot and see how he does. In 2018 he had similar struggles leading up to this tournament and still did well.
Russell Henley (1st selection this year) — This is a risky one. Russell has a good history at PGA National (his last three years here: 43rd, 24th, 20th). He also finished 17th two weeks ago at the Genesis Invitational. Those highlights mask the previous five tournaments where he finished: 94th, 131st, 111th, 85th and 88th. While he is getting better with each tournament this year, he is not showing the solid play I would like to feel confident about this pick.
Fun Fact: in 1972, the prize money here was $52,000, a larger purse than any of the four majors that year.
Starting 4: Avg finish 44th (33rd percentile)
Bench 2: Avg finish 57th (42nd percentile)