The best of the best were in Mexico for the WGC-Mexico Championship. As the PGA Tour moves back stateside, the field is quite a bit weaker as we look at how things set up for the Honda Classic. This event kicks off the Florida swing at PGA National and begins a run of four straight events in the Sunshine State before the next WGC event in Texas.
While this event does have a noticeable lack of star power without Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, and last week’s winner, Dustin Johnson, this is a still a decent field at the top and there are some intriguing price grabs in the middle.
We’ll break it all down with odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook on the side panel for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers.
Feeling Out the Field
Justin Thomas is looking to repeat as champion and is a pretty clear favorite to do it at +510. Rickie Fowler is +945 this week, as he searches for his second win of the season. He was victorious at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and it would certainly behoove him to play well leading up to the Masters so he can get that major monkey off of his back.
Brooks Koepka is +1225, with Adam Scott at +1400, Sergio Garcia at +1600, and then Gary Woodland at +1900. Webb Simpson is +2200 and Cameron Smith is +2500. After that, there are no players at less than +4000 early in the week.
That sort of speaks to the field. Without those usual 20 to 30/1 guys in the mix, the sportsbooks are going to try and spread their risk by offering a smaller range of prices on players in the next group. The players in the next group aren’t exactly consistent. If one of the shorter prices doesn’t win here, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see somebody in the 80/1 or triple-digit range come through.
The problem with that thought process is that the last three winners have been Thomas, Fowler, and Scott. Padraig Harrington won back in 2015 for his second career win in this event. Russell Henley won in 2014 and he is +7000.
Playing PGA National
This is a par 70 that comes in around 7,150 yards on a good day. The Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens has hosted this event every year since 2007 and is one of the more unforgiving courses on the tour circuit. Thomas needed extra holes last year to best Luke List after shooting 8-under through 72 holes. Fowler won by four shots in 2017 at 12-under. The only other winners in double-digits at PGA National since 2007 are Rory in 2012 at 12-under and Camilo Villegas’s event record at 13-under in 2010.
This is a wide-open layout for the most part that looks like a traditional Florida course. Bunkers and water hazards come into play on most of the holes and wind can be a major factor, especially with The Bear Trap on holes 15 through 18. The Jack Nicklaus re-design took a course that was already a challenge and enhanced it even more.
Some of the pin locations are downright unfair at this course, especially with sloped greens and winds generally pushing the ball towards the back of the hole.
It really isn’t a surprise that a lot of top players bypass this event. It is a good chance to get a break before the Arnold Palmer and the PLAYERS and also a course that probably isn’t worth the frustration.
We’ve talked a lot about Horse for Course plays in golf this year. There aren’t many at PGA National. This is such a challenging course that playing well here year in and year out is not easy. Even reigning champ Justin Thomas, who was third in 2016, missed the cut in 2017 at 1-over.
Luke List, who lost on the first playoff hole to Thomas last season, has a similar look. He was runner-up last year, T-52 in 2017, and 10th in 2016. List doesn’t have a win here like Thomas, but he was playing pretty well until the final round in 2017 when he finished with a 76. He was 4-under heading into the weekend. The 40/1 price isn’t great on the 34-year-old, but he is third in strokes gained off the tee behind Rory and Bubba Watson. He’s 12th in strokes gained total and 10th in strokes gained tee-to-green. He’s probably my favorite play of the weekend.
Billy Horschel shot 74-74 and missed the cut last year, but he had a couple of top-10 finishes at PGA National prior to that. His recent returns at this course are baked into the price this week at +4000. This is why it’s important to handicap. There is no reason for Horschel, despite the success two years ago, to be priced the same as List. He is a University of Florida grad and a Florida native, but he’s also 107th in strokes gained total and has struggled off the tee. He has putted fairly well, so there’s that.
There is a good reason why Adam Scott is +1225. He’s got three straight top-15 finishes here, including a win back in 2016. He was 14th in 2017 and 13th last year. Scott also has three top-10 finishes this season already, including a runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open and a seventh at the Genesis Open.
Luke List certainly stands out this week at 40/1 as the best bet on the board. It is hard to ignore Justin Thomas, even at the short price, with the weakness of this field. Another player worth considering this week is Scott Langley at 150/1. Langley leads the tour in strokes gained putting. He’s not a long hitter, but he’s played very well around the greens and on the putting surface. That goes a long way at PGA National because everybody is dealing with tough wind conditions and pin placements. Langley played very well at Pebble Beach, so wind may not bother him.