The Honda Classic boasts arguably the strongest field of any PGA Tour event so far this year. Most of the top players have picked and chosen the events of the ‘West Coast Swing’ that they played in. Some players don’t like playing in pro-ams or events set over a number of different courses, but they pretty much all want to play in the Honda Classic. The emigration of European Tour players who also play on the PGA Tour continues with Lee Westwood, Victor Dubuisson and world number one Rory McIlroy all making their PGA Tour bow this week.
The Champion Course at the PGA National was specifically designed to host big events. It has hosted major championships and Ryder Cups and has been redesigned by Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear introduced one of the most feared stretches of holes with the “Bear Trap” which comprises holes 15, 16 and 17. Along with the other tweaks that Nicklaus added in 1990 and 2014, the par 70, 7,140 yard track will require top-notch course management.
Last year, McIlroy was in control on Sunday until he hit the water at the 16th and took a double bogey. He made a four-man play-off which was won on the first hole by Russell Henley. This time around, McIlroy is the stand-out favourite. The best price available on the Northern Irishman is 4/1 with Betfred which is miles shorter than second-favourite Dustin Johnson who is 16/1 generally. That price may be bordering on the ridiculous for such a competitive field but Rory won this tournament in 2012, finished first and second in his last two events and is just so good that you may as well back him for insurance purposes.
Away from Rory-mania, let’s have a look at some bigger priced contenders with the game to challenge at the Honda Classic. Another European, Paul Casey, is the first to have a look at. The former Ryder Cup player has suffered with a host of injuries in recent years but his career is currently on an upwards trajectory. He made the play-off at last week’s Northern Trust Open after re-establishing himself on both tours last season. Casey is a general 50/1 in the outright market which offers each-way appeal but the recommendation is to back him at 23/5 with BetVictor in the top 10 market. Another week of improvement beckons.
Next it’s time to plump for a fan-favourite to get back into form. Luke Donald was once ranked as the number one player in the world but the last couple of years have been something of a nightmare for the Chicago-based Englishman. A couple of seasons of coach-swapping and swing changes have resulted in Donald trying to go back to the swing which brought him success. His horrible form has masked green shoots of recovery in his game and given that he generally plays well around the Champion Course, the price of 80/1 with Coral is worth an each-way play for small stakes.
With the migration from the European Tour to PGA Tour almost complete for those who hold cards on both tours, there will be a very strong European presence at the Honda Classic. Many of the top Europeans live in Florida also, so get on the 5/6 that BetVictor are offering for the winner to come from outside America to hedge your bets if your individual picks don’t quite come off.