PGA Tour Picks: The Honda Classic Odds and Expert Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/25/2015
The 2014-15 golf season had largely seen well-known players -- at least to those who follow the sport a bit more than casually -- win the tournaments thus far. That changed last week on the final leg of the California Swing, the Northern Trust Open at Riviera outside Los Angeles.
Your winner was James Hahn, beating Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a three-hole playoff for Hahn's first PGA Tour win. The three finished at just 6-under 278. They all parred the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th. Hahn and Johnson birdied the second extra hole, the par-4 10th. Then Hahn was the only player to birdie the final playoff hole, the par-3 14th, making a 25-footer. Johnson missed a 6-footer that would have extended it.
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Johnson, who appears back to pre-absence form, probably should have won. He was tied for the lead with Sergio Garcia on the par-5 17th but hit a 60-degree lob wedge into the bunker on his approach. Johnson would bogey and then missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th to win it. Casey bogeyed his 72nd hole. Garcia finished bogey-bogey to miss the playoff by a shot with Hideki Matsuyama, Keegan Bradley and Jordan Spieth.
Hahn was No. 297 in the world rankings Sunday. The combined ranking of the other six 2015 winners was 185. It's a feel-good story for a guy who used to sell women's shoes, played on both the Korean Tour and PGA Tour Canada, and four-putted his final hole at Q-School in 2009 to miss out on a Tour card. The victory in his 65th start and earned Hahn a spot in the Masters. Good timing as Hahn plans to take the next month off as he awaits the birth of his daughter.
Obviously I didn't have Hahn on my radar last week. I wasn't big on Johnson, either, as he was basically working from home. I did hit on Top-10 finishes for Matsuyama (+250) and Sergio (+275). Ditto on Matsuyama at -110 as the top Asian. I pegged Sergio as the top European, but that went to England's Casey. Head-to-head, I hit Matsuyama at -110 over Brandt Snedeker, Sergio at -130 over Bill Haas, Jim Furyk at -130 over Nick Watney, and J.B. Holmes at -110 over Harris English. I rolled with South African Charl Schwartzel as a 33/1 long shot to win but he finished T41.
You know the Masters is getting close because the Tour heads to Florida this week for the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. Originally Tiger Woods was targeting this as his return as the tournament is practically in his backyard. Smartly, I think, Woods thought better of that. Woods will now not be eligible for the WGC-Cadillac Championship next week at Doral. I doubt we see him until the March 19-22 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, an event Woods has dominated.
We do get our first look of 2015 in the USA of world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, however. He is one of 16 of the world's Top 25 set to play. Matsuyama originally was in the field but decided to withdraw and apparently rest up for the WGC-Cadillac. Phil Mickelson also is back in action after taking the past two events off.
Last year, Russell Henley beat McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox in a playoff on what was a wild Sunday. McIlroy had started the final round with a two-shot lead and was still in control on 16 but had a double-bogey and put up a 74. He just missed an eagle putt on No. 18 to win in regulation. Palmer was the only player in the final six groups to break par with a 69.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Honda Classic Favorites
I'm obviously not surprised McIlroy is the Bovada favorite, but just 4/1? I'll just about never take those short odds in a golf tournament. This event is always interesting for Rory as he won in 2012, withdrew with his famous toothache in '13 and had that runner-up last year. McIlroy has played twice on the European Tour this season, and all he has done is win and finish second. Anyone who says Tiger can bet back to anywhere near the same level of this guy is delusional.
Johnson is 14/1 off his playoff loss last week and a T4 the previous. But then he usually plays well in California. He has not played well in two previous visits to this tournament.
Justin Rose (20/1), Graeme McDowell, Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Sergio (all 25/1) round out the favorites. Rose has had Top-5 finishes in his past three trips to PGA National but missed last year with a minor injury. Bradley has been in the Top 12 in his past three trips. McDowell had three straight Top-10s at PGA National before struggling in 2014. Garcia has never missed the cut at the Honda and was T8 last year.
PGA Tour Picks: Honda Classic Expert Predictions
I can't even recommend a McIlroy Top-10 finish because it's an absurd price of -400. I will take Rose at -135, Fowler at +200 and Martin Kaymer at +200, even though he hasn't played well at PGA National but has started 2015 really on fire overseas. Head-to-head take Johnson at a nice price of +175 over McIlroy (-230). Go Fowler at -115 over McDowell (-115), Bradley (-115) over Brooks Koepka (-115), Lee Westwood (-115) over Palmer (-115), Patrick Reed (-130) over Mickelson (even money), and Harris English (-115) over Zach Johnson (-115).
The site is offering four groups of five golfers for highest-placed finisher. I like Bradley (+400) over Johnson (+250), Rose (+300), Koepka (+450) and Fowler (+450). Go with Rose as the top European at +800 and Brendon De Jonge at +1800 as top "rest of the world."
Westwood is interesting value at +2800 to win. He has a home near the course and three Top-10 finishes in the past years at PGA National. However, I like Bradley off his solid T4 last week and good track record here.
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