The tour heads across the country to PGA National this week for the start of the Florida swing. The Honda Classic is an event that has been well attended over the past few seasons and this year is no different. While the top six players in the world are all taking the week off for various reasons, there are still a lot of big names here from various parts of the world. Florida is a beacon and “second-home” for many international players so don’t assume that Americans have a home advantage here, this tournament has been very kind to international players and all should be considered when making your DraftKings lineups. PGA National has also been one of the toughest venues on tour however and the winning score hasn’t gone better than -9 since 2012. Some wind is in the forecast again for the first two days so expect a bumpy ride and a higher than normal winning score (and cut line).
Course Setup: PGA National is a par 70 that is very much described as a “second-shot golf course” in that the most demanding shots this week will generally be the approaches into the greens, as opposed to the ones off the tee. It’s not overly short in length but the setup doesn’t really lend itself or give an advantage to players who bomb it off the tee and those aren’t areas I would focus on when doing any kind of statistical research this week for my DraftKings picks. Players with good approach proximity and strokes gained: approach stats often set up well here. Defending champion Adam Scott led the tour in SG: approaches for 2016.
Weather/Draw Bias: As an exposed course in Florida that plays over a ton of water, the wind here can be a huge factor—and has been the past couple of years. Unfortunately, much like the past two weeks, keeping an eye on the forecast is going to be essential in case it looks like a huge bias may be in hand for one wave or the other on DraftKings (last week the AM-PM wave had a huge leg up). As of now the worst weather over the first two days might actually be on Thursday morning but that can change in an instant obviously so make sure you re-check it Wednesday night before submitting your lineups.
Rickie Fowler ($11,900): Arguments could be made for and against rostering all of the top four priced players this week on DraftKings but of the four Fowler stacks up the best for me. Since 2012 Rickie has made 5/5 cuts at PGA National and in 20 rounds has gone 69 or better ten times—and only shot worse than 72 twice in that span. He also led this event after two rounds last season. On top of having a lot of experience here he’s also coming off his best performance of 2017. I don’t see Scott, Sergio or Thomas pulling off a dominant DJ like performance this week, making Rickie look like a solid choice given the recent form and course history.
Russell Knox ($9,000): I’d much rather wade into this range than spend up on more than one of the expensive players this week. Like Hideki at Phoenix and DJ at Riviera, and Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Knox and PGA National go together very well. In 12 rounds he has never shot worse than 71 on this course before, and that is amazing stuff when you consider the conditions the past two years here especially. He’s deserving of this price here.
Daniel Berger ($8,900): Loves a good hard par 70 as evidenced by his near win here two years ago and his win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last season as well. His price is elevated compared to some of the European stars beneath him but I’d still feel good about his prospects given his ties to Florida and play here in the past.
Danny Willett ($7,800): Coming off a T5 in his last start and now has a 5th and 6th place finish in his last four, so his form is rounding into shape. Willett performed well in tough conditions last season at Doral and Augusta and should like the tough test of PGA National. He’s the fourth highest ranked golfer in this field but only the 18th most expensive on DraftKings this week. Take advantage.
Others: Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Martin Kaymer ($7,700): The last time Martin Kaymer missed a cut was last year at the Valspar (so nearly a year ago). That sort of consistency is hard to find, especially at the bargain price of $7,700. His course form isn’t great but he has a couple rounds in 60’s in his last two appearances here and he played well in atrocious conditions just to make the cut his last time out in Dubai. The fact he won the Players on a similar stadium style venue gives me hope for a big week, you have to think a win is coming soon.
Kevin Kisner (7,700): He’s on top of the field in terms of Approach Proximity and also second on tour in terms of Strokes Gained: Approaches. That is pretty much all you need to know about Kevin Kisner this year as he’s placed T4-T25-T10 in three starts now and sets up beautifully for this week. He also has great records on correlating courses at Sony, the Players and Colonial.
Ollie Schienderjans ($7,600): There’s no sense in getting off a horse who has been paying off for you. Ollie has made my list twice in his last three tournaments and paid off nicely last week with another top ten. He’s got experience playing at PGA National and has shown well in tough conditions already this season. His price has risen a bit but the talent is undeniable and he probably won’t be very highly owned once again due to the glut of international stars in this field.
Graeme McDowell ($7,300): Made three straight cuts now to start the year. He did fade badly last weekend but his course history at PGA National is one of the best with four top tens in his last six appearances. It’s a hard choice between him and Molinari at the same price but McDowell has proven his worth at this type of venue on the PGA. Playing both isn’t a horrid idea either.
Daniel Summerhays ($6,700): Has a very underrated record at PGA National over the past three seasons with finishes of 37th, 17th and 12th. He’s not shot worse than 72 here in his last 12 rounds, a great feat when you consider the cut line is often around +2 or much worse here.
Others: Seung-Yul Noh, Francesco Molinari
High-upside GPP Picks
Matthew Fitzpatrick ($8,000): Maybe the most talented player in the field this week, which is really saying something given the depth. Fitzpatrick won the Euro Tour ending playoff event last year and now has three wins to his name over the last two years and a top five at Augusta. This track really lines up well for a player like him who relies more on precision than power. I doubt he’ll be highly owned at all considering the big names just below him.
Sean O’Hair ($7,500): Has improved his SG: Approach ranking a lot thus far in 2017 which should make him dangerous this week. Has only shot over par once in his first 15 rounds of the season (and that one round was mainly due to a bad draw at Pebble). Made five of six cuts at this event since 2011, including a career best 14th last year. He may be my favorite gpp play of the week given how overlooked he’ll be in this field.
David Lingmerth ($7,300): Nearly won in Florida in a much tougher field at the Players in 2013. Is capable of the deadly blow-up round but is also very well suited for a stadium style, shot-maker test as evidenced by his play at the Career Builder and TPC Sawgrass. Lingmerth’s only win on tour also came on a Jack Nicklaus designed course at the Memorial so there’s a nice tie in there as well. He’s made three of four cuts here and has an 8th place finish from 2014.
Other: Ian Poulter, Willy Wilcox
Players to Consider for DraftKings (in no order)
– Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Russell Knox, Daniel Berger, Danny Willett, Martin Kaymer, Kevin Kisner, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Summerhays, Seung-Yul Noh
– Graeme McDowell, Ollie Schienderjans, Matthew Fitzpatrick, David Lingmerth, Sean O’Hair, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Willy Wilcox