2020 Honda Classic Picks, Predictions

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2020 Honda Classic Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from PGA National.

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2020 Honda Classic: Show Index

0:22 Giveaways/Winners
2:47 WGC Recap
11:03 Masters Pairings
13:55 WGC/PRO
19:29 DFS Open
22:12 2020 Honda Classic
29:34 Favs
39:03 Middle Range
52:57 Longshots
1:05:38 Quick Picks
1:08:11 One and Done

2020 Honda Classic Field

Field: 144 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties after 36 Holes
First Tee: 6:45 a.m. ET; Thursday, Feb. 27
Defending Champion: Keith Mitchell

No more waking up and tinkering with lineups, golf is back east for the first time this year. You now get the pleasure of rising, grinding and seeing that week is over before 9 a.m.

Once a premier event on the TOUR, the 2020 Honda Classic has fallen victim to the schedule realignment of the past few years. Since we’ve had two STACKED fields at Genesis and WGC-Mexico the past two weeks, and Bay Hill and THE PLAYERS are in the immediate future, most of the elites are using this as a bye week. Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose are all making a pit stop in Palm Beach Gardens. So, there is still some elite talent in the field. They’re followed by a solid second class of Louis Oosthuizen, Billy Horschel, Ben An, Daniel Berger, Joaquin Niemann, Ian Poulter, Erik Van Rooyen, Lee Westwood, Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry and last week’s winner in Puerto Rico, Viktor Hovland.

2020 Honda Classic: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained
Total Driving Gained (Spilt 70% DD + 30% DA)
Opportunities Gained

Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com

2020 Honda Classic: Course

PGA National (Champion)
Par: 70
Yardage: 7,140
Rank: 2/51 in 2018 Difficulty
Greens: Bermuda

2020 Honda Classic: Past Winners

2019: Keith Mitchell -9
2018: Justin Thomas -8
2017: Rickie Fowler -12
2016: Adam Scott -9
2015: Paddy Harrington -6
2014: Russell Henley -8
2013: Michael Thompson -9
2012: Rory McIlroy -12

2020 Honda Classic: Notes

The Champion course at PGA National plays one of two ways, hard or much harder, depending on how the wind blows. Then, when the flags begin to possess more lean than Fat Joe, the 26 water hazards absorb more sleeves of balls than the pro shop actually sells. The aqua is in play on 15 holes. There are also 78 sand traps scattered across the grounds, and they’re not the simple up-and-down bunkers.

Here’s how PGA National’s stacked up against all courses, Majors included, in difficulty since becoming home to the Honda Classic in 2007. (Excluding 2019; couldn’t find comparative stats, but the cut line was +3, which would put it in bet 2017 and 2018 in terms of overall difficulty)

2018: 2nd; +2.302
2017: 16th; +0.556
2016: 5th; +1.768
2015: 4th; +1.830
2014: 17th; +0.408
2013: 5th; +1.318
2012: 11th; +1.186
2011: 2nd; +2.540
2010: 2nd; +1.640
2009: 7th; +1.389
2008: 9th; +1.825
2007: 8th; +1.958

PGA National annually ranks amount the most difficult scrambling courses on TOUR and has two of the toughest three-hole stretches the players will face all year. Most are familiar with the Bear Trap (holes 15/16/17) and since 2007 it’s played as the third-hardest three-hole collection outside the Majors at +0.671, but don’t sleep on the front nine, either. A quick lapse in concentration, and you best call Kenny Loggins, cause you’re in the DANGER ZONE!!! It lacks the catchy moniker like the Bear Trap or Snake Pit or Green Mile or Horrible Horseshoe; however, holes 5/6/7 have played as the sixth-most difficult three-hole stretch since 2007 at +0.618. When you scan your lineups after Thursday and wonder how a guy you liked fired an 80, go take a quick gander at these six holes.

Since so much danger lurks immediately off the fairway, logically, accuracy would jump into your mind as a key factor at PGA National. Not the case, though. Recent history actually has leaned toward the longer hitters by the time Sunday concludes. Like with the low scrambling number, though, PGA National has one of the lowest driving distance averages of any course: 272 yards to the TOUR average of 283 yards. Since there are so many forced lay ups that take driver out of the players’ hands off the tee, the usually inaccurate bombers club down and improve their accuracy. Additionally, because of their extra distance on approaches, the longer hitters make the two Par 5s much easier on themselves in getting to the green in two.

The cut line has been +1 or higher in each of the past six years. It reached its highest number at +6 in 2018. The cut was +3 in 2019.

Among the Top 5 finishers, Strokes Gained: Approach has been almost 50 percent more impactful per round than SG: OTT and SG: ARG combined: +1.30 to +0.891.

No player has defended his title at the Honda Classic since the event moved to PGA National in 2007, and no golfer has done it period since Jack Nicklaus in 1978.

There has been crossover leaderboards between the Honda Classic and Sony Open; both are shorter (Par 70), wind-influenced tracks. Russell Henley, Mark Wilson, Ernie Els and Justin Thomas have all won at Waialae CC (Sony Open) and PGA National (Honda Classic). Colonial CC also has shown a lot of crossover success.

Since 2007, Ryan Palmer is the most over-par player through the Bear Trap at +39 in 38 rounds. Conversely, Vaughn Taylor is -7 on just the Par 3 16th hole in 30 career rounds; Palmer is +17 on No. 16. He’s also +14 on No. 17.

Michael Thompson hasn’t never found the water in the Bear Trap in 24 rounds of play.

Three of the past four winners have a Top 12 finish in this event in one of the two years before their victory.

From 2007 on, Russell Knox and Adam Hadwin have the best combined score through the Bear Trap (6). Bronson Burgoon had the most rounds without a bogey through the trap in that same stand (10 rounds).

Since moving to PGA National in 2007, no first-round leader has gone on to win the event. Y.E. Yang (2009), Camilo Villegas (2010), Padraig Harrington (2015), Keith Mitchell (2019) all converted second-round leads into victories.

Of players who’ve made at least three starts here over the past five seasons Jason Dufner, Gary Woodland, and Stewart Cink are the only players in the field that have not missed a cut.

In the past five years, Rickie Fowler (36.51), Ryan Palmer (21.51), Luke List (20.24), Billy Horschel (19.86), and Lucas Glover (17.54) have gained the most total strokes at PGA National. Hudson Swafford, Matt Every, Fabian Gomez, Robert Streb and Kiradech Aphibarnrat have lost the most over that span.

2020 Honda Classic — Targets From Each Range

Billy Horschel

Back on his preferred putting surface, Horschel has posted consecutive Top 10 just in time to return to a track where he’s earned a Top 16 result in three of his past four trips. Second in the field in SG: OTT last week in Mexico, Horschel has now also gained on approaches in two consecutive events, following five straight measured tournaments in the red.

Shane Lowry

The reigning Open Champion couldn’t hit a putt in Mexico in his first North American start of 2020. Shame. It was nice to see the ball striking on point, though. Lowry’s now played five events worldwide this year, and churned out a Top 15 finish in three of them, and now gets a course that should play windy and soggy, his preferred style.

Sam Burns

It won’t just be me on Mr. Burns this week, which normally spells doom for a long shot pick. Many of our first memories of Burns was getting to play with Tiger on a Sunday two years ago in Woods’ first real time back in contention to win an event. He finished T8 that year. He now enters this year’s Honda smacking the hell out of the ball. Over the past 12 rounds, Burns sits third in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and gets back on Bermuda where he gained over a half stroke per round on the putting surfaces. This can go awful quickly if the ball striking takes a momentary lapse, however. As anyone who’s backed Burns lately has found out, if he’s not hitting a green in regulation, it’s likely a bogey at best.

Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Harry Higgs, Doc Redman, Rickie Fowler

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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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