Analysis and write-up provided by KendoVT. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to see each player’s tournament history.
The PGA Tour moves to Palm Beach this week for the beginning of the Florida Swing. PGA National’s Champions Course will host this week’s Honda Classic for the tenth time. The Champions Course at PGA National is a 7,140 yard par 70 course with two par 5s and four par 3s. The course is best known for the Bear Trap (holes 15, 16, and 17), a stretch of three difficult holes that will probably decide the winner on Sunday. The Bear Trap is extremely difficult but that doesn’t mean the rest of the course is any easier. The course usually is inside the Top 10 in most difficult courses played on Tour every year. Off the tee golfers will see average size fairways with lots of trouble if they miss. Water and fairway bunkers will be in play off the tee on almost every hole. There is a chance that the rough could be thicker than usual due to the 22 inches of rain the course has seen in the last ten weeks. This is WAY more than usual and could create softer conditions and thick rough making the course longer and more difficult.
The greens use Bermuda grass and are above average in size when it comes to actual square feet. In reality a lot of the greens are long from front to back but extremely narrow in width, which makes hitting the green very tough. Less than 60% of approach shots on this course actually land on the green. That is a very low number on Tour. The greens are elevated, contoured, and surrounded by bunkers, water hazards, and false fronts on almost every hole. The weather could play an important factor. Last year over 5 inches of rain fell on the course during the third round, leaving greens keepers scrambling to try and keep the course in playing condition. As of now there is no rain in the forecast but it looks like the wind will be between 10-20 mph every day of the tournament. This could make the course play extremely hard.
Looking at the course description above and trends for the course the last few years, a few key stats come to mind. I will be using these stats, current form, and course history to select golfers for my DraftKings lineups this week.
Key Stats For The Course
***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P), which is a key stat every week.
Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G):
I like focusing on this stat on difficult golf courses and The Champions Course fits into that category. In the last nine years 20/29 golfers that finished in the Top 3 in this event were inside the Top 80 in SG:T2G for that specific year.
Proximity from 175-200 yards (Prox175) AND from 200 yards plus (Prox200+):
According to @FGMetrics on Twitter, in the last nine years at The Champions Course at PGA National over 50% of all approach shots have been from 175 yards or further. Drivers will be left in the bag on many holes here, making for longer approach shots. Hitting it close from these distances will be a determining factor on who does well this week. 20/29 golfers that finished in the Top 3 the last nine years were inside the Top 80 in this stat for that specific year.
Par 4 Scoring (P4):
P4 is always something to look at on par 70 courses but the numbers say it’s even more important here. 20/29 golfers that finished Top 3 since 2007 have been inside the Top 78 in this stat for that specific year.
Golfers will be hitting long irons into many of these narrow greens making the green in regulation percentage at PGA National one of the lowest on Tour. Greens will be missed and it will happen quite often. Getting it up and down for par will be key this week. Focusing on Sand Save Percentage (SS%) could be a good idea as well since there are over 100 bunkers on the course.
High End Picks ($9000 and up)
Rory McIlroy ($12,500):
There is so much value under 7k this week that fitting Rory into your lineups should be easy. His price isn’t too high, he played well last week until Sunday, and he has great history at this course. I think he’s a bit risky for cash games because of his price and the fact he missed the cut here last year. Playing poorly on Sunday at Riviera doesn’t help either but he is a great golfer and can pull out a win any week. (GPP only)
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,300):
Hideki comes in as my #1 ranked golfer overall this week. He’s been playing very good golf this year with five Top 17 finishes including a win in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. His stats also line up really well with the course. He’s 1st in SG:T2G, 3rd in P4, 12th in Prox175, and 30th in Scr. Expect another good finish from him this week. (GPP and cash)
Phil Mickleson ($10,800):
Ever since Lefty switched swing coaches, he seems more reliable off the tee and on approach shots. It has showed in his performances this year with three Top 11 finishes in four events. He hasn’t played this event too many times but he did finish 17th last year. He’s Top 5 in SG:T2G and he is masterful around the greens. If he can make some putts, he’ll be in contention come Sunday. (GPP only)
Patrick Reed ($10,600):
Reed has made the cut at PGA National all three times he has tried including a 7th place finish here last year. He leads the PGA Tour in Top 10 finishes in 2016 and is the 2nd ranked golfer in my model this week. He’s 20th in SG:T2G, 19th in SG:P, 18th in P4, and 28th in Scr. I see another Top 10 for him this week and I think he has a good chance to win. (GPP and Cash)
Branden Grace ($10,300):
Grace just cracked the Top 10 in the World Golf Rankings and has four consecutive Top 5s on the Euro Tour including a victory at the Qatar Masters a few weeks ago. His stats on the Euro Tour so far this year are solid. He’s 9th in Stroke Average, 27th in Driving Distance, 33rd in Greens in Regulation, 26th in Putts per Round, and 11th in Sand Saves. 5 non Americans have won this tournament since 2008 and I think Grace could be the sixth. (GPP and cash)
Paul Casey ($9,500):
Casey has a good track record here with three Top 12 finishes in four tries including a 3rd place finish last year. He plays par 4s very well and is ranked inside the Top 80 in both key Proximity stats and SG:T2G. He has made 4/5 cuts this year and I think he makes for a safe play this week. (GPP and cash)
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Commentary based on DraftKings strategy and scoring.
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