PGA Above the Cut: Honda Classic

Honda Classic February 23rd-26th

See ya later California. The PGA tour is heading east and starting their Florida swing with the Honda Classic from PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. This is a Par 70 course measuring around 7,100 yards, and is a difficult test so do not expect to see any -20 scores this week. Adam Scott is the reigning champ here after his -9 score was good enough for the W last year beating Sergio who finished second at -8 to par. Just to give you an idea the cut was +3 last year and only thirteen golfers finished under par for the entire week. This course is littered with bunkers, water and other obstacles which allows it to be a challenge while being relatively short in distance. This course often has wind as a factor, so as always keep an eye out to see if one tee time wave has an advantage over the other with the weather forecast.

The course is going to limit some of the bombers advantages off the tee because of all the danger lurking off the fairways. This should force the field to have to club down and puts a premium on accuracy and keeping the ball in the fairway. From there hitting a ton of greens is always important and going to be especially key this week. I will be looking at golfers who are solid tee to green as well as golfers who excel with their approach game. With the change from California to Florida we say goodbye to Poa Annua and hello to Bermuda grass on the greens. This is important to keep an eye on as I believe the ability to putt on Bermuda will be one of the more important factors this week and one I will certainly be considering. One last factor I will be looking at is that a ton of players live in Florida, with some living right by this course. It is not at the top of my list, but I always give a slight boost to players sleeping in their own homes and having local knowledge of a course.

Recap

Maybe it was just me, and I know they ended up fitting the golf into the normal Thursday to Sunday time frame, but that tournament felt like it was going on forever. Dustin Johnson is the new #1 ranked golfer in the world after his basically wire to wire victory last week. He was the clear pick, and sometimes it pays to just go with the obvious play and DJ certainly showed why that can be successful. The weather made things a little atypical, but all in all I think it was a better outcome than most predicted when they saw the forecast leading up to Thursday.

Personally, it was my best golf week of 2017 and I was happy with my core golfers. The giant field tourneys are so top heavy that it is a little bitter sweet to come right outside the top 10 beating like 99% of the people and still missing the really big paydays, but thankfully in the smaller field GPP’s I was able to sneak in a few W’s and that felt good. Besides DJ, Thomas Pieters was the key for me. I had a ton of him and he was on hot fire late in the tourney surging to a 2nd place finish. I was glad I jumped on him early because the secret is out now and I expect to see him more and more playing over here rather than in Europe. Overall it was an awesome way to cap off the California wave and I am excited to get golf back on the east coast. (Sorry to all the west coast readers who now have lock at like 4 AM that is no fun).

Targets

Top Tier

Ricky Fowler $11,900 DK / $23,400 FDraft – There are three top priced players this week and it is not a spot I am looking to make any big stands. Due to tighter pricing, you can easily pass on all three, but if I decide to start with one of them I prefer Ricky over Adam Scott and JT. Fowler has been excellent in avoiding bogeys and being able to limit the damage when he gets into trouble this year. In a week where scoring will be down due to tough conditions Ricky should benefit and I think makes sense if you are looking to go with one of the top priced golfers to start your lineups with.

Sergio Garcia $10,900 DK / $22,300 FDraft – Even though Sergio made the cut last week he was one of the few golfers I had a lot of that disappointed. Sergio was awful on the greens which sadly can be typical Sergio behavior. Equally disturbing is that I will be going back to Sergio again this week which makes me cringe a little. Having said that I really do like this spot for him and always like to target golfers that let down the masses a week before. He was runner up last year and has the solid T2G game that I am looking for this week. He does not mind playing in tough conditions and has the game that fits a grind it out tougher scoring event like this one. I expect a nice rebound performance from Sergio and if he can improve a little with the putter think he will be in contention come Sunday.

Russell Knox $9,000 DK / $17,400 FDraft – Knox is a Jacksonville University alum and Florida resident which is a plus this week. His recent form is uneventful, but looking back at his last two years he seems to get off to decently sluggish starts and rounds into form when the tour gets to FL. Knox was second in 2014 and third in 2015 at the Honda Classic so clearly this course suits his game. With only one tournament in his last five weeks there definitely is some risk, but I will rely on Knox’s stellar history at this event and take a shot with him this week.

Middle Tier

Daniel Berger $8,900 DK / $16,400 FDraft – Much like Knox I am relying more on course history rather than recent form with Berger. He was runner up in 2015 here and makes a lot of sense since he went to Florida State, prefers Bermuda greens and does not mind playing in the wind. I wish his price was a little cheaper, but unlike most weeks I must admit the pricing is very solid and there are not a lot of bargains to be had. I do not think I would use Berger in cash because he is a little erratic, but he has winning upside and I will be firing him up in tournaments.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello $8,000 DK / $14,500 FDraft – RCB is my Brendan Steele of Europe golf, I play him whenever I can and absolutely love his game. Bello is a monster when it comes to hitting greens and his game is much better suited to making tough pars rather than having to birdie a ton of holes to keep pace. I think his price is decent, and in a week where I really think most of my core plays carry more risk than I would usually like I am happy to have a steady safe option like RCB to help anchor some teams. Side note: Bello is my dark horse to win the Masters so when he does I will be referencing this article for the “you heard it here first” credit.

Matthew Fitzpatrick $8,000 DK / $15,700 FDraft – Another Euro player who I really like, but he is the opposite of Bello as he is incredibly risky. He played last year in this tournament and missed the cut on the number which I honestly like as most people will just see a MC and move on. He is super talented and if he can avoid the double and triple bogeys he should be fine because he will make more birdies than most. Like Pieters last week my strategy is to jump on some of the talented Euro players before most people see them and inflate their ownership in the coming weeks. Obviously, this strategy is risky because there are a lot of unknowns, but for GPP’s its exactly what I am looking for and Fitzpatrick fits the bill of high risk high upside probably more than anyone else in the field.

 

Lower Tier

Luke Donald $7,600 DK / $14,600 FDraft – Whoa, I certainly did not expect to be writing anything on Luke Donald as I never play him, but his recent form and course history are very solid. He fits the mold of golfer I want which is a very solid iron player, and someone who benefits from a shorter course as he is not a long hitter. Also, he excels on Bermuda greens and like most English golfers he does not mind playing in the wind. Worth a GPP flier who I think has a chance to be sub 5% owned.

Sean O’Hair $7,500 / $14,300 FDraft – Burned me and many others a few weeks back, but he catches my eye this week. Last four appearances here he has three top 25 finishes and has the all-around solid game that I am looking for this week. The price tage is low enough where he does not need a top finish to make it worth rostering him and I expect him to go overlooked with so many options to choose from.

Harris English $6,600 / $13,600 FDraft – If you do decide to try and get Fowler or one of the other top priced golfers you are most likely going to have to dip below $7k players to make it work. Due to the sharper pricing this week there are not a lot of bargains out there, but Harris English is a talented golfer who has missed the cut on the number the last two times he played in this tournament making his course history appear worse than it is. This is a situation where if I make teams that I love and only have ~6,500 left for my last man I would feel comfortable taking a shot with English.

Fades & Notes

Below are a few guys that I will be either all out fading or plan to have less exposure than the field will in GPPs.

Branden Grace – $7,900 DK / $15,200 FDraft – I faded Grace last week and for a little while it looked like that might have been a huge mistake. Luckily, he slipped down the leaderboard during the weekend and did not make too much noise. Grace struggled here last year with the Bermuda greens and I think the par 70 layout hurts him as he will see two less par 5s than he would with a par 72 track. I will look elsewhere in the 8k range this week.

Pricing – This is a week where pricing is tough and the obvious cheap plays just do not exist. To me this puts more emphasis on lineup construction in addition to the obvious important task of choosing the correct golfers. When I say “lineup construction” I am referring to making sure you are not pairing too many deep GPP plays together even if you like all the plays separately. When I make GPP lineups I do not mind having one or two guys I feel are low owned high risk plays, but having four or five is a recipe for disaster. With tighter pricing, you are not going to feel as comfortable as you did last week when making teams, but still try and make sure you have a reasonable balance of safety and upside on your lineups.

Good luck everyone!

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