PGA Picks: The Honda Classic Expert Predictions and Betting Odds
The PGA Tour moves east to start the Florida swing portion of the year. After loaded fields the past two weeks, the herd of top players has thinned out for the last weekend of February.
A total of 144 players will tee it up Thursday at PGA National, the Champion course, in Palm Beach Gardens. Among the players will be last week’s Genesis Invitational winner, Joaquin Niemann, who was the first player to win that event wire-to-wire in 51 years.
The past three champions are Matt Jones (2021), favored Sung-Jae Im (2020) and Keith Mitchell (2019). This is among the toughest stops on the Tour, which is why a variety of top players avoid it.
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A Look at the Field
Here is a look at the Top 12 and ties with the lowest golf odds to win it all at online sportsbooks.
Sung-Jae Im +1300 - Daniel Berger +1600 – Louis Oosthuizen +1600 - Brooks Koepka +1800
Billy Horschel +1800 - Joaquin Niemann +2000 - Tommy Fleetwood +2500 - Alex Noren +3000
Keith Mitchell +3000 - Shane Lowry +3000 - Aaron Wise +4000 - Brian Harman +4000
Cameron Young +4000 - Matthew Wolff +4000 - Mito Pereira +4000
As mentioned, Im won here two years ago and he has nine Top 30 in 11 tournaments in Florida. He’s second in the field in shots gained - Tee-to-Green over the last 50 rounds and is in the Top 5 on Tour in avoiding bogeys and doubles.
Berger, Koepka and Wolff all come with warning signs. Berger pulled out of Pebble Beach and missed the cut in Phoenix. Therefore, do we really feel comfortable about his back until proven otherwise? Probably not. Koepka is often motivated by who’s in the field. Where is the motivation in this contingent? Wolff’s game and current form make him a genuine wild card with so much water he could find.
Oosthuizen’s and Horschel’s odds dropped from Monday, and we can see why. Oosthuizen thrives on difficult courses, avoids bogeys and doubles better than anyone in the field because of superior scrambling, and he ranks second in the field in SG: Approach, over his last 50 rounds. Horschel finished T-11 in San Diego and T-6 in Phoenix and ranks 12th in the field in SG: Total over the last 36 rounds.
Niemann won last week and frankly dominated the first 54 holes. One would expect a letdown,. yet, he lives nearby PGA National, so he should feel comfortable and play well against a lesser field.
Fleetwood might be the most interesting in this group. He’s making his U.S. debut for 2022, which could be a negative, yet he has two Top 5’s here in the last two tries and he’s had three Top 15’s recently playing around the rest of the world.
Mitchell and Wise are maybe “yes” and maybe “no” candidates. Mitchell won here three years ago, but finished 53rd and had a missed cut the past two years. However, he’s had two Top 12’s in his past two starts. Wise led this event after 36 holes last year, before finishing 13th, but he’s been miserable in his last few outings.
Course Characteristics of Those Who Can Win or Secure Winning Golf Bets
This PGA National track is affectionately known as “The Bear Trap”. That refers to three dastardly holes, No. 15-17.
While most courses try to add yardage to combat the length of these pros, the Champion course has gone the opposite, going from a 7,241-yard layout in 2007, to 7,125 yards.
Because we are in the Sunshine State, water is more prevalent and 15 of the 18 holes can cause lost balls. It is interesting to learn this course averages the most double bogies of any stop on the tour. A good chunk of that comes during the Bear Trap, where almost 90 percent of those who have played here are over par for their career playing those three holes.
Because the course is not especially long, many of the tee shots do not require hitting the driver, and in many cases you don’t want to, because trouble is lurking. That makes this a second shot layout.
Accurate iron players who can keep the ball on the putting surface give themselves a chance for birdies, or at the very least making pars. Miss the green on your approach, and only superior scrambling skills will amount to pars, rather than bogies or worse based on history.
The other menace of this joint is the wind. Though there is usually a fairly steady breeze, gusts blow repeatedly and a well-struck shot can land in danger and an off-target shot can get wet.
Golf Picks: Who to Consider This Week
With this field, it is not hard to imagine a player with average length, who has a solid iron game, that has a hot putting weekend, can win this tourney. That’s why we might advise staying away from Top 5 picks.
Im, Oosthuizen and Fleetwood look like good bets for a Top 10 along with backing for head-to-head action.
Once again, the sportsbooks are discouraging bettors from backing better players for Top 20’s with negative odds because they are getting beat on them. Here we might suggest Mitchell, Pereira and a small play on Noren.
For a longer shot, and if your sportsbook has Top 30 action, Christiaan Bezuidenhout can work that angle along with a Top 20.
Doug Upstone of Doc’s Sports was in the golf business for over 20+ years and understands the ins and outs of what it takes to find winners on the Tour.
Doug Upstone of Doc’s Sports has - 23 Documented No. 1 Titles - 96 Documented Top 10 Finishes - 2 Handicapper of the Month Awards. (Latest: MLB September 2021) Doug as a professional handicapper/writer has written for various well-known sports betting websites and several football newsletters.