Fantasy Golf Picks: Honda Classic Sleepers & Starts
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Honda Classic Field
144 Players | Top 70 and Ties Make the Cut
The Northern Trust Open marked the end of the West Coast swing on the PGA TOUR, so we’re hitting up Florida for the Honda Classic and the official beginning of the Road to the Masters - A tradition unlike any other (©).
A combination of the venue moving closer to continental Europe and many internationals making Florida their second home, has created an influx of overseas talent flooding PGA National. Plus, a lot of players are using this week as a tune-up for next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship. Regardless of reason, tournament organizers aren’t complaining about the quality of field: Branden Grace and wunderkind Matthew Fitzpatrick are making their 2016 US debuts, joining fellow high-ranking internationals Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Russell Knox, Shane Lowry, and Luke Donald, along with Americans Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, and Jimmy Walker.
Honda Classic Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green
Greens in Regulation
Proximity 175-225 Yards
Honda Classic Course
PGA NATIONAL | Par: 70 | 7,140 Yards
Some will point to the extreme weather that forced a Monday finish as the reason for the course playing so difficult in 2015, but that’s simply not true. PGA National is always hard. It’s been giving players fits since becoming the host venue in 2007:
Year | Course Difficult Rank | Stroke Average
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
Unless the conditions remain ideal, which almost never happens, expect an international, or a player who's used to European Tour weather (high winds) to end up on the first page of the leaderboard. It’s almost impossible to avoid the water, and mistakes are most definitely going to be made, but winning the Honda Classic is about mitigating the damage of those errors. Take the medicine when it’s necessary. Attempting to save par with a hero shot when there’s an easy bogey to be made will just lead to crooked numbers, and a precipice plunge down the leaderboard.
Oh, and surviving the Bear Trap will help too.
Honda Classic Picks (Yahoo!)
Rickie Fowler: Meh. Running Rickie through your roster is the prudent, albeit chalky play. Skill wise, Rickie checks out, but his propensity to make BIG numbers is always worrisome. He's the safe pick.
Brian Harman: The Sony Open has historically pointed to success at the Honda Classic - Mark Wilson, Ernie Els and Russell Henley have hoisted novelty checks at both - and Harman has flashed the skills to succeed at each site too. The lefty has two Top 12 finishes in four starts at PGA National, and the course record (61), with matching T13s the past two seasons at Sony. Most people will roster Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson from this grouping, Harman presents quality, contrarian alternative.
Brooks Koepka: Not only a Florida guy, but a veteran of the Euro Tour and its wonky weather. He’s flashed the ability to go low on this course last year, following up a horrendous opening round 78 with a Friday 64 to make the cut. Still an elite Par 4 scorer (5th), if Brooks can avoid the one blow-up round, he’ll be in contention.
Kevin Kisner: The more people continue to overlook Kisner, the more he’ll end up on my roster. No, his inaugural appearance in 2015 - T51 - wasn’t exactly inspiring, but, a year later, he’s a completely different player. He sits Top 25 on TOUR in both Strokes gained Tee-to-Green and Putting, with the second highest birdie average and third best performance out of the sand. He’s primed for a break through this week.
Rory McIlroy: He’s a former champion, a playoff loser, and the highest ranked player in the field. If you don’t suffer from severe brain damage, you’ll have Rory on your roster.
Zac Blair: Almost went with Mr. Florida, Luke Donald, for my final roster spot, but I prefer Blair as a sleeper at PGA National. He's done extreme well at the corollary event the Sony Open (3rd/T6) and showed promise in his debut on this site last year - T22. He's the type of short-hitting player that still manages to gain strokes tee-to-green that you want to target this week.
Daniel Berger: Berger, the reigning PGA Rookie of the Year, gets a home game this week: He’s from the area and played college golf at FSU. While he's struggled so far in 2016 (T42/MC/T58/MC), a return to bermudagrass should help him get his game back together and, hopefully, avenge his playoff loss on this site last season.
Paul Casey: I feel like I’m going to be kicking myself for passing on Branden Grace, but Casey is alway my go-to guy at PGA National. Despite middling form, The Brit is still 5th in GIR, 2nd in ball striking and possesses the 13th best Par 4 scoring average, more essential this week on a Par 70. Add in a merchant for playing this course (3rd/T12 last two years) and you have a safety valve on the C-List.
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