The Honda Classic is played each spring in Florida and forms part of the Florida Swing. The tournament was founded in 1972 as the Inverrary Classic and since 1982, Honda has been the title sponsor.
Traditionally the Honda Classic was the lead tournament of the Florida Swing which followed the Tour’s migration from the ‘West-Coast-Swing’. However, with this year’s schedule change, it is now the final leg of the four tournament Florida-Swing. The Champion Course at PGA National continues as the tournament’s host course.
PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida has hosted the tournament since 2007. The Champion Course at PGA National was opened in November 1981 and was designed by Tom and George Fazio. The course has played host to the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship from 1982-2000.
Following a redesign of the course by Jack Nicklaus in 1990, holes 15, 16 and 17 became known as the infamous “Bear Trap“. These holes are three of the hardest on a tough and challenging course.
Water is in play on 16 holes and there are 100+ bunkers. The course annually ranks as one of the most difficult in GIR so solid iron play is key. Blustery conditions are not unusual for this time of year in Florida so an ability to play in wind is a plus. If the wind gets up the layout becomes a very tricky test and missing the fairways makes it even more of a struggle.
PGA National is a challenging layout with a premium on ball-striking making it a very similar test to that experienced at Riviera
The layout is not straightforward in terms of being able to find a profile that fits
2020 Honda Classic | Sungjae Im
Last year, 21 year old Sungjae Im, captured his first PGA Tour victory at the 2020 Honda Classic. The South Korean carded a final round -4 (66) to finish at -6 (274) for the week, the second highest winning score since the tournament moved to PGA National in 2007. It was enough to finish one stroke clear of Mackenzie Hughes and Tommy Fleetwood.
Im birdied four of his first five holes, then birdied two of the final four to capture the title. He excelled tee-to-green, topping the pile in the Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green category. This translated to a gain of 12.288 strokes or nearly 92% of his overall gain. Other stats for the week include T10 for Driving Accuracy 40th for Driving Distance, T2 for GIR and T38 in Strokes Gained Putting.
2019 Honda Classic | Keith Mitchell
In 2019, Keith Mitchell captured the Honda Classic for his first win on the PGA Tour. He carded a final round -3 (67) to finish on -9 (271) for the tournament. He birdied four of his final seven holes to finish one stroke clear of Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler.
“I was trying to focus on what was going on. My mind started wandering there a little bit at the end and then I hit a great putt”Keith Mitchell
Over 90% of his shots gained on the field average came tee-to-green, gaining an impressive 11.917 strokes for the week in the Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green category. Mitchell finished the week 8th in Driving Distance, T54 for Driving Accuracy, T22 in GIR and 38th in Strokes Gained Putting.
2018 Honda Classic | Justin Thomas
The 2018 champion, Justin Thomas signed for a final round -2 (68) to force a playoff with Luke List. A birdie on the first hole of the playoff was enough to land JT his eighth career victory.
“This was a hard win, I tried to stay really patient out there”Justin Thomas
Almost 90% of Thomas’ strokes gained on the field average came tee-to-green (14.096) with his approach play contributing the lion’s share of the gain. Thomas finished the week 1st in Driving Distance, T60 for Driving Accuracy, T14 in GIR and 28th in Strokes Gained Putting
2017 Honda Classic | Rickie Fowler
In 2017, Rickie Fowler, emerged victorious to win his 4th PGA Tour title. He carded a final round +1 (71) to finish on -12 (268), four shots clear of the chasing pack. Fowler had this to say after the final round;
“I started with a four shot lead and I still won by four, so I didn’t play great, it wasn’t a pretty round, but we got the job done. A win is a win.”
Fowler finished the week 12th in Driving Distance, T17 for Driving Accuracy, T18 in GIR and 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting. He gained a total of 7.4 strokes on the field average from putting and gained another 6.8 strokes from Off-The-Tee and Approach-The-Green combined.
2016 Honda Classic | Adam Scott
The 2016 champion, Adam Scott, finished the week 10th in Driving Distance, T10 in Driving Accuracy, 1st for GIR and 23rd for Strokes Gained Putting. The Aussie’e approach shots contributed 55% of his total gain on the field average, followed by driving at 28%.
Honda Classic Winning Formula
The following table details the breakdown of the Strokes Gained in each of the strokes gained categories for the past three champions of Honda Classic.
|2018||Justin Thomas||2.460 |
|2019||Keith Mitchell||2.250 |
|2020||Sungjae Im||2.513 |
Taking the average in each of the strokes gained categories yields the following “winning formula”.
In a nutshell, players will need to have a solid ball striking week, be able to manoeuvre the ball in windy conditions, putt and scramble well and avoid big numbers in the Bear Trap
Honda Classic Betting Tips
Daniel Berger 10/1 (E/W) – the Florida native is a regular at PGA National, losing in a playoff in the 2015 edition of the tournament. He finished T4 last year so fair to say he enjoys the course. Tops the pile in this week’s Current Form table thanks to his recent victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. His game is trending nicely again with an eye-catching T9 at last week’s PLAYERS. Around TPC Sawgrass he was 4th in SG:Tee-To-Green, a key attribute for this week’s challenge. A rock solid all-round game puts him second in this week’s Stats Analysis table. He is also 27th on Tour for GIR and 15th for Scoring Average. Event Form check, Current Form check, Stats Analysis check. All things considered, he is too hard to ignore.
Talor Gooch 30/1 (E/W) – this is his fourth trip to the Honda Classic with his best finish a T20 in 2019. Has three Top 10’s from fourteen starts this season including an impressive T5 in last week’s PLAYERS Championship. Around TPC Sawgrass he was an impressive 4th in SG:Approach-The-Green and 8th in SG:Putting. Places comfortably inside the Top 10 in this week’s Stats Analysis, he is also 29th on Tour for Scoring Average. Has the right blend of solid approach play and short game to make some noise around PGA National. Value pick just off radar.
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