The Honda Classic preview, picks + predictions, plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #HolyStackedField

The PGA Tour has made its annual cross-country trek over to the panhandle state for the Florida swing.  In what used to be a series of events highlighted by Arnie’s tourney at Bay Hill along with Doral and then “those other” Florida events, is now kicking off with a resounding bang as The Honda Classic has arguably become THE event of the Florida swing. 

The tourney is held at PGA National Resort & Spa on the Champion Course, which played to a stroke average of +1.32 strokes over par last year, making it the most difficult par 70 on Tour in 2013.  It’s definitely an event where an even par round actually means something, in fact any player who shot even par or better five of the past seven years finished in the top 20.  Yep, seems like a fitting time to throw out the hashtag of #majorlikesetup.

By now, we’re all familiar with The Bear Trap, which is comprised of holes 15, 16 and 17, a par 3-4-3 stretch that epitomizes the old adage of take-your-par-and-run-to-the-next-tee.  Those three holes played to a total stroke average of 10.31 last year, meaning that three straight pars actually gains you strokes on the field.  Pardon the redundancy, but again, this seems appropriate: #majorlikesetup

This year’s field is absolutely stacked with 7 of the top 8 in the OWGR teeing it up: Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as well as a plethora of other talented sticks.  No doubt about it, it’s going to be a great week of action.

Now, let’s hop into some picks:


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Hideki Matsuyama
– Normally I wouldn’t dare touch a first-timer at PGA National, but as I stated back in my Riviera post, Hideki is the exception to most norms.  Hideki has now notched 6 straight top 25s on Tour (with one WD in between) and simply put is just a fearless scoring machine.  Being fearless can be both a positive and a scary thing on this brutal venue, but I’m betting on the former.  He also turned 22 this week, so a little birthday week magic may be in store as well.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
– Rory’s fake, pretend, made up wisdom teeth excuse for shooting 9-over on his first 9 then walking off the course was all the talk of this tournament last season, but I can already envision Kelly Tilghman from Golf Channel talking about how Rory has put all of those bad memories to bed once he takes the lead going into the weekend.  The 2012 champion here has been playing some solid golf of late, and while I don’t think he’ll win this week, I think he’s as close to a lock as there is to finish in the top 10 this week.


Brian Harman
Brian Harman
– This shorty-porty southpaw can roll his nugget with the best of em, as he currently ranks 11th on Tour in Strokes Gained-Putting.  Harman finished t-3rd at Riviera and also fired a course record (61) here last year en route to a t-12th.  Look for him to make some more noise and notch a top 15 this week.


Justin Rose
Justin Rose
– Yep, I’ll be the first to admit that picking the player that has as 1st in the Power Rankings for the week as my “Hosel-Rocket Bust” pick of the week seems crazy.  But, I have not liked what I’ve seen from Justin thus far this season, as he was scrappy at Riviera and was ousted in the 2nd round of the WGC Match Play by over-par shooting Ernie Els.  Rose’s putting is scary bad at times and I don’t believe that he’s fully recovered from a bizarre shoulder injury from last fall.  Despite his great track record here, I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever to see either an MC or a t-50th-ish finish for Rose this week.
*UPDATE- Shortly after I posted this Rose WD’d from the tourney, pretty evident his aching shoulder still isn’t fully healthy as I predicted.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: Rickie Fowler- Semifinalist!)

Matt Jones
Matt Jones
– One of the most quietly consistent players on Tour, Jones has made his past seven cuts including a t-12th in Phoenix and a t-13th at the Humana Challenge.  He’s three for three in cuts made at this event, including a t-18th last year.  A great sleeper of a pick that could very easily finish in the top 10 this week.


Joel Harrington

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