PGA Tour Picks: The Honda Classic Golf Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/27/2014
One of the great things about golf is that it's probably the most honorable sport around. Players are expected to call penalties on themselves and almost always do when aware of them. Can you imagine NBA players self-policing themselves and calling fouls in the NBA Finals like they do on the playground? Or Rafael Nadal admitting a Novak Djokovic shot was in and not out as was called by the referee in the fifth set of a close match at Wimbledon?
I bring this up because my pick to win last week's WGC-Match Play event was Spain's Sergio Garcia, the No. 2 seed to Rory McIlroy in the Ben Hogan bracket. Sergio got a scare in the Round of 64, beating Aussie Marc Leishman 1-up in 22 holes. McIlroy was knocked out in the next round by Harris English while Sergio beat Bill Haas, opening up that bracket for Garcia. In the Round of 16, Garcia faced off against Rickie Fowler, the No. 14 seed. Garcia would lose 1 up when the duo halved the 18th hole.
It might not have gotten to that. Garcia told Fowler that he didn't need to attempt an 18-foot putt on the seventh hole. Garcia was leading 2-up and he had a 7-footer. The two agreed both putts were good and split the hole. Obviously, there was a pretty good chance Garcia made his easier putt and Fowler missed his. Why Sergio waived that off, I will never know. He said he was bothered by how much time he took to play his second shot at the previous hole, needing a ruling. There's honor and then there's stupidity. Maybe Garcia wouldn't have won anyway, but I sure would have liked his chances in the quarterfinals against Jim Furyk.
Fowler would beat Furyk but lose to Jason Day in the semifinals. Day beat virtual unknown Victor Dubuisson in a great match (five extra holes) in the finals while Fowler beat Ernie Els in the consolation match. Day paid off at 18/1 to win the event and 4/1 to win his bracket. It was his first PGA Tour win since the 2010 Byron Nelson. I didn't think an American would win and was correct, but Day was part of rest of the world instead of a European as I recommended at +125. I went with Hunter Mahan at 11/1 as the top American. He lost in 21 holes in the Round of 16 to Graeme McDowell.
So I'll gladly say good riddance to a winless West Coast Swing and a hardy hello to the Florida Swing starting with this week's Honda Classic at PGA National (a course I've been fortunate enough to play) in Palm Beach Gardens. I began my winning ways here in 2012 with McIlroy.
We finally have an excellent field again with Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson all returning to action this week. Lefty hasn't played this tournament in 11 years. Unfortunately, reining U.S. Open champion Justin Rose had to withdraw to rest up for next week's WGC event at the Blue Monster. Rose, Dustin Johnson and Day are the only players ranked in the Top 10 not playing.
The Jack Nicklaus-redesigned Champions Course will be a challenge. Last year at +1.32 strokes to par it was the most difficult par 70 on Tour. The course is best known for holes 15-17, a par-3-4-3 run otherwise known as the Bear Trap. A single under par winning score seems likely, as it is happened in five of the past seven years. It hasn't happened once this year on Tour. Michael Thompson was a very unlikely winner a year ago at 271, beating Geoff Ogilvy by two shots.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Honda Classic Favorites
Tiger is naturally the favorite at 8/1 at Bovada, but McIlroy also is on that number. Really Woods doesn't deserve to be favored. He's had a month off so likely will be rusty and is off to a terrible start, missing the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines and tying for 41st in Dubai. He was runner-up at the 2012 Honda but 37th last year. Tiger has won his past three starts in Florida.
When McIlroy won here in 2012 he became No. 1 in the world for the first time. During last year's season-long struggles McIlroy quit after 27 holes at the Honda, laughably blaming a toothache. While McIlroy didn't play great last week, he has five straight Top-10 finishes worldwide in stroke-play events.
Rounding out the favorites are Scott (16/1), Charl Schwartzel, McDowell and Sergio (all 20/1). I don't like Scott at all this week. He's going to be really rusty after six weeks off, and it's only his second appearance here, and he missed the cut the first time. Still hard to believe Schwartzel has just one win in the States, the 2011 Masters. He has three straight Top-15s here. McDowell, meanwhile, has three straight Top-10s at PGA National and is playing well to open 2014. Sergio hasn't played this even since 2010 but usually plays well in Florida and still has won two of his past three stroke-play events.
PGA Tour Picks: Honda Classic Golf Predictions
On the Top-10 props, I like Tiger (-125), McIlroy (-125) and McDowell (+200). Head-to-head, take Schwartzel (-105) over Scott (-130), Keegan Bradley (-130) over Fowler (even), Billy Horschel (-115) over Charles Howell III (-115), McDowell (-115) over Mickelson (-115) and Lee Westwood (-150) over Louis Oosthuizen (+115). Really I like all matchups against Scott and Lefty.
On the top Aussie, I lean Ogilvy at 13/2, and I may throw some long-shot money on him at 100/1 to win. He had that runner-up here last year, which was his third in the tournament. I'd take McDowell at +200 to edge McIlroy as the top Irish player.
This is essentially Bradley's home course, so he's good value at 28/1 to win. He hasn't been worse than 12th here the past two years, including fourth in 2013. Westwood (50/1) hasn't been playing great but has a Top-10 in three of the past four years at PGA National. However, my guy to win is McDowell.
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