Wednesday, February 22, 2017
What To Look For: The Honda Classic
The Tour makes the move to the Florida swing after it's West Coast tour of events and plays the 45th Honda Classic. The Honda Classic was originally the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic at the Inverrary Golf Club down by Ft. Lauderdale. It then became the Honda Classic and moved up a little north to TPC Eagle Trace and then moved to other south Florida courses like Weston Hills and TPC Heron Bay before planting itself at PGA National in West Palm Beach.
I generally like the design of the course and most of the Tour pros do as well, but it's not something they would want to play every week given its difficulty. As a Tour event, it draws huge crowds usually near 60,000 per day. Lots of people with money live in the area during the winter months. Also, the Tuesday practice round is usually a great time to go to a Tour event as Wednesday is Pro-Am day. But, with all of the players coming over from Los Angeles and so many players living nearby, they usually skip the Tuesday practice round and stay home and then go to practice at their nearby home courses like the Bear Club, Dye Preserve or the Medalist Club. So the Tuesday practice round at PGA National doesn't attract as many fans and that may provoke them to come over for the tournament instead. Also, with Doral no long a Tour stop, we may see a major increase in attendance.
There has been a sizeable shift if Tour players living in the Palm Beach area compared to the Orlando area in the past 10 years or so. Some players complained about Orlando traffic and crime, but the traffic is actually far worse in Palm Beach (I lived in Boca Raton for 6 months) and in some areas (particularly where fans have to park, which really sucks), it's not exactly a posh country club atmosphere.
Instead, the reason for the move to Palm Beach has mostly to do with the lack of private clubs that can cater to the Tour players. In Orlando, you have Isleworth, Lake Nona, Interlachen, Orange Tree (very difficult) and Country Club of Orlando (too short). There's plenty of golf in Orlando, it's just mostly open to the public. Compared to the Palm Beach and surrounding area where most of the quality golf is very private country clubs that have helicopter landing pads, full-time locker room attendants and bathroom sinks that you need to be a genetic physicist to figure out how to turn the water on and off.
The course is wet due to the rain today and it should rain a bit tomorrow. However, in the FLA rain doesn't mean necessarily soft conditions as the heat and wind can dry the course up before noon.
This is an approach shot course, particularly from 175-200 yards. In fact, Padraig Harrington won almost solely on these shots two years ago as his driving was awful and he didn't putt tremendous either. But, he was hitting these shots nearly 50% closer than the field average which allowed him to beat local Daniel Berger.
While The Bear Trap (holes # 15, 16 and 17) get most of the attention, the last critical hole on the course is #14. Essentially, yes...the Bear Trap is very hard. 15 is a par-3 surrounded by water that is hard to hit the green in regulation, but is a flat surface green with a very high make percentage. 16 is a difficult par-4 with water in the way and then 17 is ridiculously difficult, especially when the wind blows into your face. But, the deviation in score is small on these holes and therefore are not likely to decide who wins the event.
Projected Winning Score: -9
Adam Scott +1100
Justin Thomas +1600
Russell Knox +2500
Thomas Pieters +3300
Paul Casey +3300
3JACK'S DARK HORSES
Ollie Schniederjans +5000
Seung-Yul Noh +8000
Harris English +12500
Luke List +17500
J.T. Poston +20000