PGA Tour Golf Odds and Predictions: The Honda Classic
by Alan Matthews - 2/29/2012
OK, I am officially getting very close to picking my first winner on the PGA Tour this year.
For last week’s WGC-Match Play, I picked American Bubba Watson, the No. 5 seed in the Hogan Bracket. Unfortunately, he lost in the Round of 32 to Matt Kuchar, 4&3. So who won the event? American Hunter Mahan, the No. 6 seed in the Hogan Bracket. He bested Rory McIlroy in the final – I couldn’t tell you the difference between Watson and Mahan if they were standing together on the tee, but they feel like the same player, you know?
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I’m probably grasping at straws here, but perhaps the PGA Tour’s start of the Florida Swing – my home state – will get me in the win column. The Tour visits Palm Beach Gardens and PGA National for the Honda Classic this week. You know the Masters isn’t far off when the pros head to Florida. In fact, the only non-Florida event before Augusta comes the week before the Masters in Houston on a course set up to mimic Augusta National as much as possible.
Even without red-hot Phil Mickelson – off to be with his family for a second straight week – and world No. 1 Luke Donald, it’s a very strong field on the east coast of the Sunshine State. All of the hype is around Tiger Woods, who will play this tournament for the first time as a professional. He did play the Honda at another course as an amateur in 1993 and shot 72-78 to miss the cut.
Tiger said he would play more this year and this will be the second tournament he will have played thus far that he normally doesn’t, joining the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Of course, Woods was very much in contention at that tournament until his putter failed him in the final round. His putter was a problem again last week in a Round of 32 Match Play loss to Nick Watney. There’s really no reason why Tiger shouldn’t play the Honda – his new Jupiter Island estate (nope, Elin didn’t get that in the divorce) is only about 30 minutes north of PGA National.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood are also in the field. Both could have overtaken Donald at No. 1 a week ago if either had won the Match Play (thanks to Donald’s first-round exit). McIlroy rallied past Westwood in the semis before losing to Mahan. McIlroy can take over No. 1 for the first time with a win this week; it appears Westwood wouldn’t be able to until at least next week at Doral.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: The Honda Classic Favorites
As expected, McIlroy is the 15/2 favorite at Bovada to win his third career PGA Tour event and first in Florida. McIlroy, who has rented a house in West Palm Beach where he will be based in the weeks running up to the Masters, admitted he was drained by the emotion in beating his rival Westwood in the semifinals last week before losing to Mahan in the final. Rory doesn’t have a good track record here. His best result in three tournaments is T13 in 2009. The past two years he finished over par.
Westwood, who lost to Mark Wilson in the consolation match last week, still has just two PGA Tour victories, with the last coming in 2010 at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis. He and Tiger are both at 9/1 to win and they will be paired together (along with Ian Poulter) in the first two rounds. Westwood has played here the past two years, with finishes of T29 a year ago and T9 in 2010. Woods, obviously, has no track record at this tournament.
All four major winners from last year are in the field, and two of them, Charl Schwartzel and Keegan Bradley, round out the Top-5 favorites at 25/1 each. Schwartzel, the Masters winner, has played here once and finished T14 a year ago. He was knocked out in the Round of 32 a week ago. Bradley, the PGA Championship winner, has been very busy so far this year and nearly won the Northern Trust Open. He also lives not far from the course, so that could be an advantage. This will be Bradley’s second Honda Classic after missing the cut a year ago.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: The Honda Classic Predictions
Hard not to look at Wilson, the third-place finisher a week ago, at 40/1 to win this week. He didn’t play this tournament a year ago and missed cuts here the two years before that but won in 2007 for his first Tour win. And Wilson, who is in the world Top 25 for the first time, already has a win this year.
I look for a solid tournament from Jim Furyk (40/1). He hasn’t played this event since 2007 but has four Top-10 finishes in seven Honda Classics. Plus, Furyk will be plenty motivated. He is currently on the outside looking in for next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship. He is 59th in the world and needs to move into the Top 50 at the conclusion of the Honda.
Many experts like Y.E. Yang (40/1) this week. He earned his first PGA Tour win at this event in 2009 and finished second here last year. But if you have noticed this year, guys who have had heartbreaking losses have come back strong the next week. And Robert Allenby choked away the Mayakoba event last week with a double-bogey on the 72nd hole on the way to losing an eight-hole playoff. Allenby (40/1) lives in the Palm Beach area and has three Top-5s since the Honda moved to PGA National in ’07.
So, just for betting value I would lean toward Allenby – but I think McIlroy wins as he wants that top ranking. I just rarely bet the favorite in golf.