There is no question about it, the PGA Tour season is now very much in full swing. The big boys have all made an appearance – injury permitting – and it’s already time for the action to move from the west coast to the east for the first event of the Florida Swing, the Honda Classic.
Held at the fearsome PGA National Champion Course, this may be the first Florida Swing event but it’s anything but a warm up. Rory McIlroy and Camilo Villegas are the only two men to have won around the Champion Course with a score of more than nine under par. It’s a course that rarely lets up but it’s the closing stretch that gives PGA Tour players sleepless nights.
Affectionately known as the Bear Trap in reference to Jack Nicklaus, holes 15, 16 and 17 are one of the toughest three hole stretches anywhere in the world. As Tiger Woods put it, “there are no bailouts”, you simply have to hit high quality shot after high quality shot to have any chance of coming out of the Bear Trap without doing serious damage to your scorecard.
In more general terms, there are a few key skills to focus on when picking a potential winner for the week ahead. Firstly, many of the recent winners have been among the longest hitters off the tee for the week. Driving distance isn’t absolutely necessary but it certainly helps at the 7,158 yard, par 70 Champion Course. Hitting a significantly higher percentage of greens in regulation than the field, however, certainly is vital. This is a tough course with multiple hazards and at which the wind often plays a big role. Having complete control of their approach shots will, therefore, separate those having a good week and those missing the cut.
Fowler Can Start Fast and Hang On
This is not the sort of event where you can make up too much ground after a poor start. If you want to end up on top after four days you have to make a strong start and then hang tough through the inevitable tricky spells.
Rickie Fowler got the first part right last year but he just faded away in the business end. One year on, Fowler looks in good enough shape to start fast. With a little bit more experience and improvement, he can hang on this year to win at odds of 18/1 with Ladbrokes.
Pieters Ready to Break PGA Tour Duck
While Dustin Johnson was running away with first place at last week’s Genesis Open, Thomas Pieters was quietly making a charge up the leaderboard on the final day’s play. The long hitting Belgian must get to grips with the Champion Course and keep his cool but at odds of 40/1 with Bet365, he could just grab his first PGA Tour win.
Donald Can Nab Top 10 Spot
Luke Donald’s recent improvement continued last week at the Genesis Open. The popular Englishman was still a little wayward off the tee and made too many mistakes for his liking. However, at odds of 7/1 with BetVictor, Donald can keep moving forwards and finish inside the top 10 this week.