2015 The Honda Classic Picks + Predictions, Plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #BearTrappy

Adios West Coast and hello Florida Swing.  Ah yes, I can smell the Bermuda and crocodiles all the way up here in not-so-balmy SoDak.  The PGA Tour’s Florida Swing used to be Bay Hill and Doral, and then everything else.  Now, with a venerable host course and perfect timing in the schedule allowing for stacked fields each year, The Honda Classic has become THE event of the Florida swing.

“The Honda” is held at PGA National Resort & Spa on the Champion Course, a ball-striker’s delight of a track, sitting at 7,140 yards and a par 70.  It’d definitely one of those events where an even par round actually means something, especially if (and most likely when) the wind blows.  In fact, any player who shot even par or better six of the past eight years has finished top 20 or better.  Major-like venue, you betcha.

As far as last week goes (and everything for life in general)—timing is everything.  I had James Hahn as my Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week at Pebble Beach, and he turned in a t-29th finish.  One week later, he shocked the golfing world and captured his first PGA Tour title.  Bargh!  (Watch Francesco Molinari seek revenge and do the same this week at the Honda- hint, he’s not one of my picks below, but I really do like his chances again this week).

As far as my Riviera picks went, my LOCKZILLA on Hideki Matsuyama turned in a solid t-4th, and I continued my red hot streak with my HOSEL-ROCKET BUST pick as fading last week’s winner Brandt Snedeker as the play of the week, as he finished in 74th place, second to DFL of those making the cut.  Oh yeah and note to self, I need to stop picking Luke Donald…or do I (keep reading folks!)?

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Hideki t-4th, English t-30th)

Graham DeLaet
Graham DeLaet
– Just because he didn’t get it done on Sunday at Riviera doesn’t mean that he’s all of a sudden not playing well.  I’ve been high on DeLaet to scoop up his first PGA Tour trophy for the past two seasons (perhaps to a fault), and I continue to believe in the inevitability that he will break through in a big way sooner than later.  His t-8th last week at the NTO was his second top ten in his past 3 starts (t-7th in Phoenix two weeks before).  Throw in that he finished t-9th in his last appearance here in ’13 and boom, we have some serious top 10 lockage with victory circle potential oozing from that Canadian beard of his this week.

Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler
– The most popular 26-year-old in PGA Tour history with only one win has had a snoozy start to this PGA Tour season; however, looking at his annual track record that’s nothing new.  We all seem to have short memories, as Rickie has finished t-24th, t-13th and t-7th here the past three years, so there seems to be some level of comfort playing in his home state.  I’m calling for a first/second round lead for Rickie and a guaranteed top 10 to jump start his Florida Swing.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Donald MC)

Chris Stroud
Chris Stroud
– Perhaps a bit of a reach in this spot, but hey, in case you haven’t noticed I specialize in BOLD.  Following 3 consecutive missed cuts, Chris has played his way into the weekend in his past two starts, including a t-30th at Riviera last week, a course where he previously never had made it past Friday.  As far as course history at the Honda, how’s t-12th here last year, t-13th in ’13 and t-9th in ’12 sound?  Yep, he’s as sneaky solid as they come this week.  Look for that top 15 streak at the Honda to continue this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last Week: Snedeker 74th)

Keegan Bradley
Keegan Bradley
– So yeah, I’m officially rip roarin’ red hot in this BUST spot, as way back all the way to the Sony Open I’ve spot on nailed picking a player in the PGA Tour Power Rankings Top 15 and predicted they’ll either MC or finish nowhere near contention (think t-50th or worse).  Fading Sneds last week at Riviera off of his win at Pebble was just way too easy, fading Keegan this week, yikes?!  Call it straight up a gut feeling, there’s no logical reason to fade Keegs this week—impressive course history here (no worse than t-12th in his past 3 appearances) and coming off a (backdoor) t-4th at Riviera last week and clearly he has the juices flowing in the right direction this week.  But, there’s still something within those fancy Air Jordan kicks of his that makes him a perfect fade right when his public iron is hot, if you catch my drift.  A few putts gone array with the new flatstick and a drifty ball in the Bear Trap in those gusty winds and poof, 68s can be turned into 73s in a heartbeat.  Expect the latter from Keegs this week, and thank me later.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: Molinari MC)

Luke Donald
Luke Donald
– Oh no, I’ve officially gone insane- trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.  Oh Lukey boy.  Now 3 MCs in a row and the wheels officially seem to have fallen off.  Yep, I get it, as I wrote up here last week, his switch to his former NW Coach Pat Goss has yet to show dividends on the course.  Well, a shift back to the Florida Swing is exactly what the doctor ordered, as Luke’s track record at Honda has gone like this the past few years: t-8th, t-10th, 2nd, t-46th, 1st.  So put that ridiculously solid track record into your “but-he’s-not-playing-that-well-currently” pipe and smoke it.  Last week at Riviera he tweeted after the round about vomiting repeatedly on the course on Thursday as he had the flu (he shot 77).  He still found a way to shoot 69 on Friday, but missed the cut.  Feeling better this week plus his very solid course history = BOOM, Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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