The Honda Classic sees the strongest strokeplay field of the year so far and PGA National - one of the toughest par 70s on the calender - will examine just where their games are at. My picks this week for the Honda classic will follow a home based theme in the main, as looking at past leaderboards shows a link between players that reside in close proximity featuring prominently, and some of them you may not match to the track when profiling a potential winner....
Nicspicks Honda Classic man to beat: Rory McIlroy 9/1
Potential steamers: Graeme McDowell 25/1
Follow me on Twitter: @Nicspicks for more tips and insight
The Course - PGA National par 70; length: 7,110 yards
Key features: Prominent water hazards on numerous holes, "generous landing areas", "spacious and accepting TifEagle greens" averaging 6,400 sq ft, rebuilt bunkers. The term "mud ball" was thrown around on Twitter at the weekend referring to a K. Bradley drive in practice that had some backspin, so conditions may be soft this week!
Premium on: Course management, Par 4 performance, bogey avoidance, scrambling
Notes: The "Bear Trap" at the Honda Classic is one of the toughest stretches of holes in golf. A trifecta of holes 15 through 17 with two water-lined par 3s and a par 4 where you must commit to your shot, and there are no bail out areas according to one Tiger Woods. Jack Niclaus himself says it's where the tournament is always won and lost (cumulatively over 4 days).
Honda Classic Selections ( prices from members email)
Pick #1: Graeme McDowell 25/1
Course form: 9-9-6-31; current form: 8-7-6 #simmering
Key stats: (2013) - Scrambling 30th; Driving accuracy: 15th
Other: Gave a masterclass in scrambling and stick-ability in the matchplay last week - two key attributes needed for PGA National. Florida resident and used to Bermuda grass.
Pick #2: Sergio Garcia 25/1
Course form: 50-13-43; current form: 16-1-19-1-2
Key stats: ball striking 32nd; Par 4 performance: 32nd; all-round: 9th
Other: seems to be a lot happier in himself and has the tee to green game needed for PGA National. Warmed up nicely at Dove Mountain.
Pick #3: Rickie Fowler 35/1
Course form: 13-7-mc; current form: 3-mc-mc
Key stats: 2nd in proximity to the hole in 2014
Other: Played some of the best golf at the matchplay after declaring his game was very close the week previous. Swing changes taking effect and flat stick looks better. Lives pretty much down the road from the Honda Classic venue in Jupiter and practices a lot in that area, mainly at Medalist GC.
Pick #4: Luke Donald 50/1
Course form: 10-2-46; current form: 64-57-37
Key stats: scrambling: 22nd; Total putting: 5th
Other: Another that resides in close proximity to the course in Palm Beach Gardens and knows it well. Been practicing there since an early knockout at the matchplay.
He said: "my game is close, excited for the next 3 weeks. #GoingHome"
Pick #5: Louis Oosthuizen 55/1
Course form: mc-wd-mc; current form: 8-mc-1-14
Key stats: n/a
Other: Another who lives in the vicinity along with good mate Schwartzel when on US soil and a tough one to gauge as his form here tells a bad story. 69 in round 1 last year though followed by a 76 and MC but a few errant shots can cost you big at PGA National. Louis played smart golf around a tight track when winning at the Volvo champions and looked to be striking it lovely in the matchplay.
Others from the shortlist include Peter Hanson 100/1 and Camillo Villegas at 150/1 - neither of which I can leave out. Local resident Camillo used to 'own' this course before his cycling took over from his golf but with some recent rededication, another fast start is a possibility so the FRL market appeals. Hanson is 9/1 with Boyles and Paddys for a top 10 and this is a course that suits the big Swede (13thlast year on debut) who looks like he's about to hit first gear. Brian Harman and last year's 54 hole (tied) leader Luke Guthrie just miss out.
Honda Classic finalised staking plan (prices from members email)
1u ew Graeme McDowell @ 25/1 (1-6)
1u ew Sergio Garcia @ 25/1 (1-6)
1u ew Rickie Fowler @ 35/1 (1-6)
0.75u ew Luke Donald @ 50/1 (1-6)
0.75u ew L. Oosthuizen @ 55/1 (1-6)
1.5u Peter Hanson top 10 @ 9/1
0.5u ew C. Villegas 1st RL @ 100/1 (general)
Betfred, Skybet and PP paying 1-6 places *prices reduced due to J. Rose withdrawal
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