Honda Classic Preview and Picks

Matt Fargo | Feb 26, 2013 | ARCHIVE

The PGA Tour ended its west coast swing last week with Matt Kuchar capturing the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship over Hunter Mahan. They head east for the Florida swing as it is time to start gearing up for the Masters which is coming up quick, just five weeks away. This week it is The Honda Classic from the Champion Course at PGA National which is a Jack Nicklaus re-design and this will mark the seventh year it has hosted the event.

Four years ago, PGA National ranked as the second hardest par-70 course on tour of the non-Major layouts as players averaged 1.4 shots over par. In 2010 and 2011, it was ranked as the hardest par-70 course on tour of the non-Major layouts as players averaged 2.54 shots over par. Last year it was the second hardest of the par-70 non-Majors. National is known for the "Bear Trap" which consists of holes 15, 16 and 17 and is one of the toughest three-hole stretches on tour.

This is true test of golf and a lot of the players who have won here have gone on to bigger and better things. Since 1990, five different winners of the tournament have gone on to later win a major championship in their careers and twice, the winner has gone on to win a major in the same year. Four years ago, it was Y.E. Yang who brought home the over $1 million prize and he went on to win the PGA Championship as he held off Tiger Woods in a classic duel on Sunday.

Even with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship taking place last week, we have a very strong field in Palm Beach Gardens. Rory McIlroy is back to try and defend his title as he won by two shots over Tiger Woods and Tom Gillis. Woods is also back this year, just his second career start at the Honda and both of these players will be chomping at the bit to avenge last week's first round exit. Other notables include Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood.

Last year, McIlroy and Woods were co-favorites at +800 and this year only Woods has the honor at +700. He won his only other medal play event this year, the Farmers Insurance Open, and despite playing well here last year, there is little to no value taking him. McIlroy is just not right whether it be the new irons or something else but he is not playing like the top ranked player in the world by any stretch. McIlroy is +1,200 along with Charl Schwartzel, another first round exit victim last week.

Justin Rose (+1,500) will be our choice of the top favorites. He lost in the second round last week to Nicolas Colsaerts but he looks to redeem himself at the Honda where he opened 66-66 last year on his way to a T5. In his previous start at PGA National, he closed with a 64 to finish solo third in 2010 so he certainly likes it here. It doesn't hurt that he led the tour in GIR last season, the only player above 70 percent.

Lee Westwood (+2,500) is a superb ball striker which is the name of the game at National. After a T22 at the Northern Trust, he was taken down in the first round at Dove Mountain last week but he is now back home, literally. He moved to this area in the off season which could add some extra spark, not that he needs it though after two top tens in his last three starts at the Honda including a solo fourth a year ago.

Fredrik Jacobson (+2,500) is no longer flying under the radar nor should he be. After a T7 at Pebble Beach and a T3 at Riviera, he won his first two matches last week before losing to Robert Garrigus in the third round. He finished T16 at the Honda last year and prior to that, had a T6 in 2010 and a T5 in 2009. If his putter his on, he can go low and capture his first tour win since the 2011 Travelers.

An American has not won this event since 2007 when Mark Wilson won his first ever PGA Tour event in a playoff. One player that can break that streak is Rickie Fowler (+3,000). He was ousted in the first round last week so the extra rest could benefit. He finished T7 at the Honda last year after missing the cut his first two starts here. A pair of T6 finishes to open the season show he is playing well.

Charles Howell III (+5,000) will be the longshot call. He has cooled off after a fast start to the season with a T3, T2 and T9. His win over Tiger Woods last week was impressive and he should have a lot of confidence coming in here. He has never missed the cut at the Honda in six starts, three at Country Club at Mirasol and three here at National where he has two T26 finishes to go along with a T10 in 2011.

Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Honda Classic - All for 1 Unit

Justin Rose (+1,500)
Lee Westwood (+2,500)
Fredrik Jacobson (+2,500)
Rickie Fowler (+3,000)
Charles Howell III (+5,000)

2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date after 8 events: +23.16 Units

Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge - 5 Units
Farmer Insurance Open +3.5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open +19 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship +25.66 units