THE HONDA CLASSIC FEB. 26 – MARCH 1
This week the tour moves from the West Coast to the East and begins its Florida swing. The Honda Classic has developed into a real magnet for top players over the past few years and this week is no different. Tons of top players are in the field including number one player in the world Rory McIlroy. This week will definitely be different from a fantasy perspective as McIlroy will be an overwhelming favorite to win this event. Fantasy players will have to decide if they want to spend a huge amount of their salary on McIlroy or fade him and create more balanced lineups.
The course the players will be visiting this week is PGA National, a longer par 70 track (plays over 7100 yards), and is one of the tougher regular season tests the player’s will compete on all year. The course was famously redesigned by Jack Nicklaus years back and features the famous Bear Trap, a stretch of three treacherous finishing holes which play well over par every year.
I’ve looked at a variety of different stats this week that all focus on how hard this course is going to play. Par 4 scoring will be important as the course plays to a par 70, meaning less par 5’s will be available for players to score on. There is also a high number of bunkers on the course and accurate approach shots will be necessary to avoid the trouble that seemingly lurks at every corner. I’m giving heavy merit to both good sand save percentages and players with accurate approach proximity. As always I’ll also be considering players with local connections or good course history.
DraftKings continues to be the leader for fantasy golf and last week saw it come through with a huge announcement. On top of featuring two different 100k guaranteed tournaments at different buy-in levels every week, they are now hosting satellites for their upcoming Millionaire Maker tournament held the week of the Masters (April 9th-12th). It’s a fantasy golf event unlike any other and you can check out the articles on our site to find out more information about the upcoming tournament.
DRAFTKINGS TIERED PICKS
Top Shelf (over 10k)
Rory McIlroy (15,700): As mentioned earlier, Rory McIlroy is playing in this tournament which means fantasy players will have a very hard decision on their hands this week. Rory won this event three years ago and finished 2nd last year. He loves PGA National and has already won once on the European Tour this year as well. His price may be ridiculous but if you can find the right value plays he may be well worth it since he’s a very good bet to finish top 5 or better. I like using multiple gpp lineups with some that feature Rory and some that don’t to vary my teams. I suggest you employ a similar strategy this week as Rory is playing too good to fade completely.
2nd Tier (8k-9900)
Keegan Bradley (9800): Bradley comes into this event in excellent form having narrowly missed out on a playoff at Riviera this past Sunday. Bradley is a Florida resident who is very familiar with PGA National having played and trained there a bunch over the past few years. His last three appearances at this course have yielded two top 12’s and a T4. I think Keegan is well overdue for a win on tour and should have a very good chance of contending this weekend. He has a great approach game and is typically a very solid scrambler, if he can avoid the big numbers he may challenge Rory for the win this week.
Graeme McDowell (9700): There’s more than a few reasons I like Graeme McDowell this week. First, he has a great history at this event and a great history in general at tight, windy courses such as PGA National. McDowell has never missed a cut in 6 attempts at the Honda Classic and has three top ten’s here in the past four years. I also think McDowell tends to play his best when Rory is in the field and I expect we’ll see more of the same this week. McDowell is a fantastic putter, who also possesses great scrambling stats from the sand and off the green. His game seems to fit this course extremely well and I would not be shocked if he came out on top this week.
Harris English (9000): Like last year’s winner of the Honda Classic (Russell Henley), Harris English has also had a lot of success on tighter par 70 courses that can be affected by the wind. He’s also played very well as of late, narrowly missing his third win on tour after losing in a playoff at the Farmers. English is a great ball striker who recently has really been great tee to green. I think if he brings this same class of game to PGA National this week he can challenge for the win here. He has a top twenty finish at PGA National already and I expect him to improve on that this coming week.
Paul Casey (8400): Casey is a former number three player in the world who seems to be making his way back to good form once again. He lost in a playoff last week and now comes to a course where he has finished 12th and 4th in two recent visits. Casey had some success on a course similar to PGA National earlier this year at the Sony Open. I think Casey makes for a great gpp play as he is talented enough to take on Rory and win the tournament outright if he plays well.
3rd Tier (6k to 7900)
Robert Streb (7800): Given his poor performance last week at Riviera, I expect that Robert Streb will potentially be very low-owned this coming week and it would be easy for me to write him off as well. However, if you consider Streb’s entire body of work over the past year or so, you begin to see that Streb is a potentially great value play in the making for the Honda Classic. Streb has put up some nice results at other tough par 70 courses—similar to PGA National—which require accurate ball-striking. To add to his intrigue this week, Streb finished 18th in a strong field in his debut at PGA National two years ago. I’m suggesting that you don’t let last week’s disappointment discourage you too much and use Streb in some of your lineups.
Chris Stroud (6900): Stroud is a player who typically has more success as the season wears on. He started slow again this year but has come on recently, making his last two cuts. Stroud has excellent results at this event and finished inside the top 15 last year. He’s someone who relies on accurate approach shots and is well-suited for this course. At 6900 I think he still makes for a decent value play given his great history at PGA National and recent string of better play.
Seung-Yul Noh (6900): After an up and down start to the season Noh really put together four solid rounds last week at the tough Riviera golf course and I think this could bode very well for his prospects this week. His past results at PGA National may not jump off the page but Noh has scored low rounds here before, an attribute which could help his cause this week. He’s a very solid driver of the ball who can be deadly accurate with his approaches when his game is on. At 6900 he may be slightly more of a risk than some others at this price range but his upside could be immense if he continues his rise in form.
Boo Weekley (6500): Weekley is another Florida resident who has typically had his best success when the tour moves to the East coast. Weekley’s game is built on accurate driving and ball striking and it’s those attributes that he’s going to rely on this week to keep him out of trouble. Weekley has started the season very well with a top ten at the Humana to show for his work. He has had success at PGA National in the past, making his past two cuts at this event and also posting a 2nd place way back in 2007. I think he could possibly be the play of the week if he brings his recent solid play to PGA National.
Bottom Feeders (6k and under)
David Lingmerth (5600): Lingmerth is a player I really want to target when going under 6000 in salary this week. He’s got a very good wedge game and makes a living with accurate approach shots. He’s performed very well at tighter courses and finished at T8 here last year. He is inconsistent which is why his salary is so low, but he could be in for a big week given his trend on this course and style of game. He finished 2nd in the Player’s Championship two years ago and can compete in these bigger events. I really like him as a value play this week.
Hudson Swafford (4600): Swafford has had some decent success in his young career. Recently his play has been inconsistent but I think this week he could bring you some good fantasy returns. Swafford tends to thrive at tighter par 70 style golf courses and he recently posted a top ten at Sea Island, a tough and windy par 70 course. Swafford made the cut at the PGA National last year and I think he offers you a decent chance to make it again. He’s a risk, but at his price offers you some upside others do not.
Mark Wilson (4500): Wilson is the type of player who should be able to get you four rounds of play this week. He’s accurate and is a great scrambler around the greens. He actually won this event back in 2007 before his game took a nosedive. However, he’s put together a solid stretch of play to start the season and has made the cut at PGA National in all of his past four attempts. At his price, if he makes the cut this week he instantly becomes one of the best players on your team given his incredibly low price.
As this is the first tournament of the year with McIlroy in the field I would venture to guess that he will be highly-owned for fantasy purposes. I think there’s a very good case for fading him in some gpp lineups this week, as long as you realize there is the potential for him to blow away the field as well. Whichever way you tend to lean, remember that this week again features a difficult course and scoring will be tough to come by. Try to focus on top players who have had past success at PGA National and use lower-priced, value plays that you think will be able to get you four rounds of solid fantasy scoring.