We’re back on the PGA Tour this week as Rickie Fowler looks to defend the Honda Classic trophy he won in 2017 by an emphatic four stroke margin.
Some of the bigger names drop out this week but we still have a strong field heading to Florida and having landed Phil Mickelson as a Top Ten recommendation last week, we’re looking to extend our own run of tipping form.
Fowler (+800 in the odds with offshore bookmaker Bovada) is the defending champion and the favourite this week with a clear margin over Justin Thomas (+1000) at the top of the outright winner market. The 29 year old also tops the Power Rankings and has a great record on this course but history isn’t exactly on his side. Since the event was first held in 1972, only the great Jack Nicklaus has completed a successful defence of the Honda Classic.
Thomas also has a good record here but despite that tie for ninth in the Genesis Open at the weekend, the PGA Champion has not started 2018 in the best of form. An alternative is Rory McIlroy who some offshore sports betting websites have as joint second favourite at +1000. The Northern Irishman’s current form is mixed to say the least but he is a former winner here in 2012 before losing out in a play off two years later.
Gaps open up in the betting market beyond the top three and a few points back is our reigning US Masters Champion Sergio Garcia (+1600). This is the Spaniard’s first appearance on the Tour this season and it may be a little early to commit at this stage.
Further back we have two Englishmen with excellent records in Europe trying their hands in the US. Tommy Fleetwood could only manage a tie for 37th at the weekend but has leading stats in Europe together with a January win in Abu Dhabi. According to the Power Rankings, Tyrrell Hatton may be a better option but while he enjoyed a solo third in Dubai last time out, he has less experience on the PGA and would seem more of a ‘punt’.
Other golfers with mid-range prices include Gary Woodland, Alex Noren (both +3300) and Brian Harman (+3500), all of whom are being talked up in various quarters this week. Of those three, Woodland is a definite one to watch following his win in Arizona and a tie for second here behind Fowler 12 months ago.
A distant option that really interests us is Brandt Snedeker (+5000) who gave us consistent profits in the Top Ten markets before succumbing to injury last year. Sneds is ninth in the Power Rankings this week and has two solid Top 25s in his last two outings and looks like a great value option down the market.
The same could be said for Scott Stallings and for the current FedEx points leader Patton Kizzire. Both have strong stats for this course but are way down the betting ahead of Thursday.
Finally, as we’ve seen in the last two weekends with Mickelson and Bubba Watson, previous success at an event could be a strong indicator irrespective of current form so don’t rule out two-time winner Padraig Harrington who is towards the bottom of the outrights for 2018 at +20000 (200/1).
Our Honda Classic Preview’s Course and Betting Trends with Predictions Verdict
Having used five previous venues in a relatively short history, the Honda Classic wasn’t really taken seriously until switching to the PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens in 2007. We still see a number of absentees and there’s no Dustin Johnson or Jordan Spieth this year so that can lead to some value winners.
Interestingly, this is one event on the PGA Tour that isn’t dominated by Americans and from Padraig Harrington’s victory in 2005, only four of our thirteen winners have been from the US.
The course itself is a short Par 70 at 7,158 yards but there are hazards everywhere: Water is in play on 13 of the 18 holes and it is littered with bunkers, making accuracy and scrambling the most important stats for each renewal.
Fowler and Thomas are obvious favourites but for us, the one to watch here is Gary Woodland. He’s an emerging talent with a win under his belt in 2018, coupled with relevant stats and that tie for second here last year.
If you’re not convinced, a win and a place is a betting option but we’ll commit to a Woodland win and throw in some Top Ten recommendations which will hopefully lead to an overall profit at the end of the four days. So our Honda Classic predictions are as follows: