The PGA Tour goes coast to coast as we flip from the West Coast Swing to the Florida Swing this week. The Honda Classic kicks off the eastern run as just six weeks remain until the Masters.
The first chapter of the 2017 PGA Tour season is complete and it is now on to Stage II, the Florida Swing, as we creep ever closer to that first major championship of the year in Augusta. The Florida Swing has been trimmed down by one event this year as the World Golf Championship series shifts its first stop from Doral in Miami to Mexico City next week.
But we get things started this week at the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, and in this case nothing has changed. Tons of water on the golf course, bunkers, palm trees, Bermuda Grass greens and wind. It's Florida golf and quite different from what the players just experienced in Arizona and California. If you take a look at the West Coast Swing, it was pretty chalk heavy. Justin Thomas, now ranked 8th in the world, swept Hawaii with a win at Kapalua and at the Sony in Honolulu. Hideki Matsuyama successfully defended his title in Phoenix and then Jordan Spieth cruised to victory at Pebble Beach. Finally, it was Dustin Johnson running away with top honors at Riviera last week, which moved him to No. 1 in the world for the first time. Pretty stunning play from the best in the game out west this year. Will the trend of betting favorites shift to the East Coast?
While players are trying to start their seasons off on the right foot out west, as we shift to Florida it becomes more preparation mode for the Masters, which is just six weeks away. The European Tour has invaded the landscape here in Florida, again making their way over stateside to begin prepping for Augusta. Many of the top Americans have taken the week off, though.
From a sports betting standpoint at the Honda Classic, one will want to look at ball-striking and proximity to the hole. The greens are very undulated at PGA National and getting one's ball in the right spot will make putting much easier. Scrambling and sand saves will be important as there are 78 bunkers dotting the Champion Course. And then there are those Florida winds. PGA National ranks as one of the Top-5 most difficult courses the pros play when the wind blows here, and a wind that is going to make things tough needs to blow at least 12-15 mph. This week the forecast is calling for winds in that neighborhood with Saturday being a bit calmer and possibly some rain as well. Finally, take a look at players from Florida or who live in the area when making your golf picks. The home game effect seems to work well here.
Adam Scott (+1300 Bookmaker): Scott is really just getting his season going not having played much since last October. He finished 11th last week at the Genesis and he's the defending champion this week at the Honda. In three attempts at PGA National, Scott has gone Cut-12th-Win.
Justin Thomas (+1673 Pinnacle): This will be the young gun's third visit to the Honda, missing the cut in 2015 and then taking 3rd last year by being the only player in the field to put all four rounds together with scores in the 60s. He's cooled off a bit since Hawaii, missing the cut in Phoenix and taking 39th last week in Los Angeles.
Sergio Garcia (+1735 Pinnacle): Sergio has played the Honda six times, all at this course and has never missed a cut. He was 2nd last year, 8th in 2014, and 13th in 2009. He won three weeks ago in Dubai and was hot and cold last week at Riviera, finally ending up with a 49th-place finish.The Contenders
Rickie Fowler (+1700 Bookmaker): Since his rookie campaign in 2010, Fowler has made this a regular stop on his Tour schedule. He missed the cut in his first two attempts but since has gone 7-13-24-41 and 6th last year. Not much of a West Coast Swing for Rickie with just two appearances -- he was cut at the Farmers and 4th in Phoenix.
Daniel Berger (+3000 Bookmaker): The Florida native and former Florida State Seminole missed the cut here last year but took 2nd in his debut, losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. The last time Berger played Bermuda Grass greens, he took 7th in Phoenix.
Russell Knox (+2800 Bookmaker): A great track record for the Scotsman at the Honda, finishing 2nd, 3rd and 26th in his three trips to PGA National. In two prior starts on Bermuda Grass this season, Knox finished 17th and 11th at Kapalua and the Sony, respectively.
The Long Shots
Luke Donald (+6600 5Dimes): Donald has been very good on the Florida Swing for many years, having won at the Valspar Championship in 2012 and the Honda Classic in 2006. Since switching to the Champion Course at PGA National in 2007, Donald has four Top-10 finishes in six trips.
Graeme McDowell (+7136 Pinnacle): Like Donald, McDowell is another excellent putter who has seen quite a bit of success at this golf course. In seven attempts, he has four Top-10 finishes, including a 5th last year. He was 67th last week at the Genesis.
Sean O'Hair (+10736 Pinnacle): Some very long odds on a guy I have seen as low as +7500. O'Hair missed the cut here in 2007 and 2008 but since then, has four Top-25 finishes in six tries, including a 14th last year. He's playing well coming in with two Top-15 finishes in four events so far to start 2017.
Gary Woodland (+3827 Pinnacle): In four trips to the Champion Course, Woodland is yet to miss a cut and he did finish 6th in 2011. He closed on Sunday two weeks ago at Pebble Beach with a 65 to take 5th place. He's playing the best golf of his career, but what I like is how he has also played at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This is another windy venue with Bermuda Grass greens and Woodland has gone 3-13-6 in the last three seasons. His stats are very strong, ball striking, scrambling, and he's hitting his ball close to the hole. Pretty good value here I think at nearly 40-1.