Fantasy Golf Picks: 2017 Honda Classic Sleepers, Starts & Preview
Defending Champ: Adam Scott
FNTSY Sports Network's Pat Mayo & Derek Farnsworth discuss their favorite Honda Classic DraftKings picks. The guys preview the course, debate the best roster construction for the week and explain which players are best suited for DFS cash games and which should be deployed in guaranteed prize pool (GPP) tournaments.
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Honda Classic Field
144 Players | Top 70 & Ties After 36-Holes Make the Cut
The PGA’s shift from the West Coast to the East means we’re dealing with new types of grass, different gusts of winds, and, most importantly, the removal of the Thursday safety net for filling out our lineups. When everything is running on Pacific time, you can sleep in a bit and still catch that last-second withdrawal and adjust your lineups accordingly. Now? You’re fucked. Unless you’re one of those people who rises at 5am every morning. However, if that’s the case, you’ve already lost.
The other major development of the coastal shift is The Road to The Masters © has officially commenced. That’s why you’ll notice a slew of international faces milling about in Palm Beach Garden this week. As a result, international players have reigned supreme at PGA National since the Honda Classic made it the host course in 2007. In 10 events, a non-American has won seven times (Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Rory Sabbatini, Camilo Villegas, YE Yang & Ernie Els). And when Team Uncle Sam decides to vault into the winner’s circle, it’s not exactly the who’s who of the sport: Russell Henley (2014), Michael Thompson (2013) & Mark Wilson (2007).
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Don’t expect much different this week either. Beyond Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, all the top ranked players in the field are internationals: Scott, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Branden Grace, Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Emiliano Grillo, Francesco Molinari, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Thomas Pieters. We even get a quartet of Brits making the trek to America for the first time this year: Danny Willet, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ty Hatton and Ian Poulter. Two-Time Major winner Martin Kaymer is back on US soil, while Spaniard, world No. 26, Rafa Cabrera Bello is making his debut at the Honda Classic. To contrast, the next tier of Americans is represented by Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland, and Daniel Berger. Don’t get me wrong, these are quality players, but we’re lacking the top end quality we witnessed at the Genesis Open last week.
Of the Top 50 players in the world rankings, we’re down to seven who haven’t yet popped up on TOUR in 2017 - Henrik Stenson (4), Alex Noren (10), Bernd Wiesberger (35), Yuta Ikeda (36), Jeunghun Wang (42), Lee Westwood (48), and Chris Wood (50). Expect to see most, if not all of them, next week for the WGC in Mexico, though.
Honda Classic Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Birdie or Better Percentage > 200 Yards - Fairway
Scrambling > 30 Yards
Honda Classic Course
PGA National | 7,140 Yards | Par 70
Opened in 1980, and resigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2002, PGA National has been the host course for the Honda Classic since 2007. And over that time frame, it’s annually played as one the most difficult tracks on TOUR…
2016: 5th; +1.768
2015: 4th; +1.830
2014: 17th; +0.408
2013: 5th; +1.318
2012: 11th; +1.186
2011: 2nd; +2.540
2010: 2nd; +1.640
2009: 7th; +1.389
2008: 9th; +1.825
2007: 8th; +1.958
Blame the Bear Trap.
OK, maybe that’s not fair. Yes, the Bear Trap is one of the toughest three hole stretches on earth. From 2007-2016, the Bear Trap (Holes 15-17) has ranked as the third-toughest, three-hole stretch on TOUR, of courses that have been played in each of the last 10 years. The field has played those holes in a combined 2.781 strokes over par in that time. But it’s not like they’re the only danger on the course. They just get the most press due to the fun nickname. Although it exists without a memorable monicker, holes 5-7 have played as the fourth most-difficult three-hole stretch on TOUR. In fact, four of the single most difficult holes the players will see all year are spread across the grounds at PGA National, and none are a part of the Bear Trap. Last season, four of its Par 4s ranked inside the Top 20 toughest holes on TOUR - No. 14 (4th; +0.490), No. 11 (12th; +0.412), No. 6 (16th; +0.392), No. 10 (20th; +0.374).
On top of the omnipresent water hazards (26) and sand bunkers (78), much the hardship rests with the weather. Palm Beach Garden historically gets bombarded with rain, and worse, swirling winds. This could be the reason so many international players have achieved success at this tournament. It basically plays like a European Tour event. And this year is shaping no differently. We’re looking at showers on Wednesday to soften up the course, then wind gusts hitting close to 30 mph on Sunday.
During my Open Championship research last year, I pointed to PGA National as one of the premiere corollary courses because of these factors; eight months later, I haven't shifted that opinion. For reoccurring tournaments, Colonial (Dean & Deluca) and the Sony Open have had a substantial amount crossover result over the years. Which makes a lot of sense. All three are Par 70s, and each requires players to club down off tee. The Honda Classic routinely finishes inside the Top 5 courses of fewest drives over 300 yards. So, bombers who generally spray the ball of the tee will be far more accurate than normal.
For stats, focus on elite ball strikers, who gain plenty of strokes on the field through approach shots, especially from beyond 200 yards (where 50% of all approaches will come from this week), and generate birdies on Par 4s. Of course, we’ve seen hot putters and Par 3 specialists walk away with a novelty check in the past, but I’ll be gravitating towards the first prototype of player, on the whole.
Honda Classic Course Picks (Yahoo! Game)
Adam Scott & Luke Donald - After defending champ Scott, there’s actually an unusual slew of quality options lingering about in the Yahoo! A-list. You’d be fine rolling out Grace, Fowler, Woodland, Steele, or even Jhonathan Vegas, but I’ll side, maybe foolishly, with he covertly surging Donald. The former world number one has posted consecutive T25s, and has picked the ideal time to find form entering an event where he’s experienced a great deal of success in the past. He’s never missed a cut in six appearances at PGA National with four T10s in his last five starts. Donald doesn’t fit the prototypical player I said I’d be focusing on, however he’s starting to flash the skills that brought him to prominence in the first place. The elite putting (6th), short (35th), and sand (5th) game has returned, and he’s cleaning up on Par 3s (21st) at the moment.
Justin Thomas, Russell Knox, Charles Howell III & Kevin Kisner - Thomas has won two of his last four starts and almost broke through at this site last season (T3)… Knox enters with four T20s in his past five tournaments, with just a lone result outside the Top 3 in three appearances at the Honda Classic (T23 in 2016). The Scot is also seventh in Ball Striking, fifth in birdie average, and Top 25 in Par 3, 4 & 5 scoring… After being the chalk play through the West Coast Swing, many are ready to dump CH3 due to his newfound proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Normally, I’d agree, but he’s played well at the Honda in the past, and his form too hard to ignore. Chucky Three Sticks hasn’t finished worse than T15 in any of his past seven events, and pops in the key stats. He led the field in ball striking last week at the Genesis Open, sits 10th in scrambling, and fourth in bogey avoidance… Kisner’s never missed a cut, but hasn’t really spiked in two Honda starts (T70, T51), but appears to be peaking heading to Florida. He’s put up Top 10s in two of three starts and lines up perfectly for for this course. Kisner is third in proximity from beyond 200 Yards from the fairway, sits second in SG: Approach, and cracks the Top 50 in ball striking (47th). He just needs to putt, for once. Plus, he rates out well in the corollary courses.
Ollie Schinderjans & Sergio Garcia - Am I buying into the Ollie hype in the face of better options? Probably. Don’t care. Schinderjans is simply playing among the best players on TOUR at the moment, and has the added caveat of an incredibly low ball flight, in case he needs to combat the winds. He’s gained 6.54/3.80/4.31 strokes on approaches the past three events, finished 21st in the field in ball striking last week (much improved from a season rank of T126), a lot of which can be derived from his long iron play - 16th form 200+ yards. Could he flame out, like a lot of young players? Sure. I want to be there when the breakthrough happens, though… A course that favors international elite ball strikers and long-iron players? Ya, you take SERGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!
The Pat Mayo Hour covers the entire scope of the Fantasy sports landscape from Football to Reality TV, daily and yearly leagues and everything in between. You can watch the Pat Mayo Hour every weekday at 3:00pm EST, 8:00pm EST and Midnight on the FNTSY Sports Network Television channel or on your Apple TV, Xbox, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. If you have a Fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at PatMayoHour@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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