Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: The Honda Classic
The PGA Tour heads East this week as the Honda Classic kicks off a string of Florida-based events. The Champion course at PGA National is routinely one of the most difficult on Tour, and this 7,125-yard par 70 is a true test for even the best golfers in the world.
Despite a renovation to expand the putting surfaces and add over 14,000 square feet to the greens prior to last year's installment, PGA National still fell among the 10 most difficult greens to hit in regulation last year. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, PGA National quite appropriately rewards excellent approach play and punishes just about anything less.
PGA National features one of the most demanding stretches in all of golf in its 15th, 16th, and 17th holes, the aptly nicknamed Bear Trap. All three holes played over par last year, but eventual winner Keith Mitchell playing the Bear Trap in two-under on the week en route to a one-stroke victory. That stretch is followed by a closing par 5 that is naturally one of the easiest scoring holes on the course. The Bear Trap followed by a birdie opportunity makes for some wild finishes and big swings on the leaderboard down the stretch.
Given the conditions, it is no surprise to see variance at the top of the leaderboard year after year. Elite golfers have won here plenty and littered the top 10 in other years, but on less forgiving courses the fringes of the Tour stand a fighting chance. A balanced approach has proved valuable when constructing daily fantasy lineups over the past few years, but at the Honda we will want to target the very best golfers in the field, as well as the long shots who are striking it well and will be comfortable with the switch to bermuda greens.
Golfers can expect double-digit mile per hour winds on all four days this week. Some storms are expected mid-week which could soften the course, especially for early Thursday starters. It's too early to develop a gameplan based on the weather, but thunderstorms on Wednesday will definitely be worth monitoring.
Let's dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.
Course and Tournament Info
Course: Champion Course at PGA National
Distance: 7,125 yards
Fairways/Rough: Celebration Bermudagrass
Greens: TifEagle Bermudagrass
|Season||Par||Yardage||Average Score||Avg O/U Par||Rank|
As one of the most difficult courses on Tour year in and year out, PGA National poses a unique test that requires both aggression and patience. All four par 3s play over par and the 483-yard par 4 sixth hole is one of the most difficult holes on the entire Tour. Mitchell needed to reach only nine-under par last year to claim the victory, and that with a birdie on the 72nd hole.
The scrambling percentage actually spiked last year, while greens in regulation and proximity stayed flat -- so it's possible the enlarged greens made around the green play a tad easier than in the past, thanks to fewer DOA lies.
Many golfers reside in Florida, and those who grew up there are notably favorable to bermuda surfaces than the bumpy poas up north or out West. Look for a few new names to pop up this week compared to the early part of the season.
We'll stay in Florida for our comparison courses, as both Bay Hill and the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook play as difficult tracks, where ballstriking and bermuda putting reign. Stepping outside the panhandle, we can draw some similarities to Colonial Country Club in Texas, where we see either the very top of the elites or complete randos pop off thanks to catching fire with the irons or putting the lights out.
These stats will be the keys to success in the Honda Classic at the Champion Course at PGA National.
|Key Stats for the Honda Classic at the Champion Course at PGA National|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Birdies or Better Gained|
|Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda)|
Iron play and scoring are the essential elements this week. We are looking for players who gain on the field on the all important second shot to set up birdie opportunities. Birdies are in high demand this week, and while it is tempting to lean toward grinders on difficult courses, we still need scoring both for outright wagers and especially for daily fantasy, where birdies and eagles are so much more positive than bogeys are negative.
Scrambling, or strokes gained around the green if you prefer that metric, can point us toward golfers who manage to get home even when they are off on approach.
PGA National ranked inside the top 10 longest proximity to hole distances from the following ranges in 2019 -- 50-75 yards, 150-175 yards, 175-200 yards, and over 200 yards. Last year, Mitchell was terrific around the greens, but also gained in proximity from both the 175-200 yard range and 200+ range. Runners up Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler gained in both those ranges, as well as 150-175 yards.
Finding the golfers who are comfortable on bermuda and ready to spike after weeks on poa will be key this week. It is easy to downplay putting as mostly variance across surfaces and climates, but that would undersell how valuable it is to take notice when golfers have an outlier performance on certain grass types relative to their long term baseline.
Course History Studs
Koepka and Fowler tied for second last year, and while Brooks is clearly the superior player, we will lean toward Fowler in the course history department. Fowler won the Honda in 2017 and has three other top 10s here in the past eight years, with just one missed cut in that span. Koepka had failed to crack the top 25 before last year in four prior attempts.
Billy Horschel and Lucas Glover are all or nothing options -- each has three top 25s and three missed cuts in the past six years. Glover's made cuts in that span have been consecutive the last three years, including finishes of T4, T17, and T21. Horschel, meanwhile, has finished T16, MC, T4, T8, MC, MC.
Ryan Palmer plays here every year and is one of the primary beneficiaries of the switch to bermuda. Over the past eight years, he has just one missed cut and has two top-five finishes.
Jason Dufner has never missed the cut in 10 tries, and he has finished inside the top 20 in half of those.
Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.