A little might look different when comparing the Genesis Open at Riviera to the upcoming Honda Classic at the Jack-Nicklaus-renovated PGA National.
The field is weaker this week, but it has certainly improved from last year’s Honda Classic. Second, our alarm clocks will ring about three hours earlier on Thursday and Friday as the Tour kicks off the Florida Swing in Palm Beach Gardens.
As with Riviera, however, scoring conditions will be tough. Yes, I’m aware that last week’s winner Joaquin Niemann blitzed the field with a 19 under for his second career PGA Tour victory. But historically speaking, this course keeps the score modest, just as Riviera usually does. Since 2010, the lowest score was Camilo Villegas’ 13-under. Sungjae Im and Paidrag Harrington are tied for the highest score since 2010 at 6 under.
According to PGA Splits 101, the average win score is -9 and the average champion odds are around +13100 (131-1!).
In a peloton with Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen, Im is the heavy favorite at +1150. I had him circled when his odds opened at +1700, but any edge or value I once had in the market disappeared. Daniel Berger is the best player on the board according to my numbers, but his recent back problems are scaring me away.
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I don’t really like the other favorites except for Niemann. I will have action on him, but not to gain two weeks in a row. So it looks like my card will be made up of a few players between 34 and 70-1, as well as a few dart throws at guys with long odds that I think are poorly rated. I’m not really afraid to bet on anyone this week. Harrington was a 400-1 shot when he won. Michael Thompson and Keith Mitchell both conceded at 300-1.
Like Riviera, the greens defend themselves well. So in my model this week, interference metrics remain high and highly valued.
There are some differences with Riviera. Nicklaus’ renovation to PGA National means that if the weather holds (which is expected), shelling and gauging come back into play. While there are long par 4s (which also favor big hitters), there are has five par 4s that can be intimidated by long drives. Among these holes – which are all under 430 meters – there are three under 400 meters. So we’ll definitely take a close look at driving distance and shots gained: approach.
Finally, I will run a par 4 scoring average for holes of 350 to 400 yards. With the course as challenging as it gets, it feels like those short par 4s – in addition to the two par 5s – are where the birdies need to happen.
Hopefully our luck is better than last week. If you followed Taylor Moore to finish in the top 20 at +540, then you and I had one of the worst beats I’ve ever been on.
We were comfortably seated under 7, which was good enough for T19, when Matt Jones stepped forward on the seventeenth hole. With Jones outside the top 20 at less than 5 and two holes to go, what could go wrong?
Well, how about this: carding a 3-under on the last two holes without taking the putter out of its bag. Jones – who, coincidentally, is the defending Honda Classic champion – drilled for the eagle on the 17th, then drilled on the 18th to put the icing on the cake of an already disgusting Sunday betting on the side ( don’t get me started on Russell Henley).
Below, I’ll go over my favorite winning bets for the Honda Classic. Please refer to the chat box for my full betting map.
Keith Mitchell +3400
Mitchell’s one and only victory on the tour comes at this tournament, where he has made two of the last three cups. He’s in the opening quarter of the Tour with 4-par scoring efficiency at 350-400 yards, and Mitchell has already landed three top 10s this season. He is also very good off the tee, which bodes well on any Nicklaus course.
Jonathan Vegas +4400
Similar to Mitchell, Vegas can crush him from the tee. If I could bet only one winner, it would be this one. Vegas is 18th in par-4 scoring efficiency from 350-400 yards. He’s finished in the top 30 four of the last five times he’s played this tournament, including a T4 in 2017. He should be rated inside 40-1 and we’re getting +4400.
Aaron Sage +4900
Again, I support a player who can score on par 4s from 350 to 400 yards. He recently finished in the top 10, at the Shriners and the 2021 CJ Cup, and fits like a glove at the PGA National. He made his last three cuts at the Honda Classic and was T13 last year. Also of note about coming into 2021, he held a three-shot lead heading into the weekend after firing 64 consecutive shots and was in second place going into the final round.
He doesn’t have the greatest run history, but he’s been solid here recently, getting a T25 in 2021 and was 13th heading into the final day. He’s also coming off a T14 at the Phoenix Open, and I just think he’s better than 69-1.
Robert Streb +24900
I figured I wasn’t going to back someone below par-4 par-4 with a score of 350-400, but Streb won me over. He has twice top-10 finishes this season and had a strong showing at the Honda Classic in 2021 when he was T13.
Brandon Hagy +29,900
He’s certainly struggled lately, but the man is playing well at PGA National. He finished T21 in 2017 and 2020, and second solo in 2021. Hagy is worth it at almost 300-1.