Friday, March 1, 2024

Honda Classic Odds 2023, Course Preview: PGA TOUR Betting

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After being spoiled with consecutive Elevated events on the PGA TOUR, this week’s tournament can only be described as, “deflated.” The 2023 Honda Classic at PGA National drew the short stick in terms of scheduling this year, sandwiched in the middle of a five-week stretch that spans the WM Phoenix Open, Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, and THE PLAYERS. So while this serves as a natural bye week for players able to set their own schedules, it presents a great opportunity for second-tier players seeking a breakthrough win. Below, we’ll go over Honda Classic odds for the 2023 tournament.

Tiger Woods and each of the OWGR top-15 players will be absent this week. The course itself in PGA National will be the main draw, featuring a climactic finish in its closing stretch with constant long iron approaches into greens surrounded by water. With a sub-standard quality of field, we should expect plenty of carnage and reloads for any tee shots and approaches off the mark in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Here’s a look at everything you can expect to help navigate 2023 Honda Classic odds.

2023 OPENING HONDA CLASSIC ODDS: THE FAVORITES

Scroll to the bottom of this article to compare complete Honda Classic outright odds across legal U.S. sportsbooks. Find the favorites in Florida this week with odds shorter than 25-1 at BetMGM here.

THE FIELD AT A GLANCE

You can’t have an Elevated event every week on TOUR and that reality sets in quite abruptly. So, this week serves as a bye for top players with greater aspirations at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and PLAYERS Championship. Now, we official turn the page from the West Coast Swing to the Florida Swing. Players will grow used to the Bermuda terrain in this stretch of the season, as this will mark the first of six consecutive events played on Bermuda greens.

A stark contrast from the last two weeks, it’s OWGR No. 18 Sungjae Im who highlights the field. He’s expected to be the standalone favorite when odds release Monday. Sungjae won this event in 2020 and played some of his best golf on Bermuda greens in this stretch of the season. Alongside Sungjae, the field includes nine OWGR top-50 players: Billy Horschel, Shane Lowry, Sepp Straka, Aaron Wise, Alex Noren, Min Woo Lee, Chris Kirk, and JT Poston.

Straka picked up his first career PGA TOUR victory this time last year, chasing down Daniel Berger and Shane Lowry to hold on to a one stroke lead in stormy conditions. He returns with greater expectations this time around, as he since ascended to OWGR No. 30 with newfound Ryder Cup aspirations. Other past Honda Classic champions in this week’s field include Sungjae Im, Padraig Harrington, Rory Sabbatini, Camilo Villegas, Luke Donald, and Matt Kuchar.

INTRODUCTION TO PGA NATIONAL

The Honda Classic unfortunately became the forgotten step child of the Florida Swing and, despite the TOUR’s efforts to move around its place on the schedule and attract better fields, it failed to do so in recent years. Honda even chose to pull out as title sponsor after this year. The Honda Classic has drawn what is arguably the worst position on the entire PGA TOUR schedule.

It is simply impossible to expect the top players to play five consecutive weeks from the WM Phoenix Open to THE PLAYERS. Naturally, every OWGR top-15 player elected to skip.

The strength of field does not quite match the quality of this course and event historically. Big names like Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, and Rory McIlroy picked up wins here. Difficult conditions reward the best all-around players and easily expose lesser ball-strikers with persistent and nervy tee shots over water hazards.

About The Course

PGA National stands at 7,125 yards as a par-70. It’s anything but your traditional short, plodder’s course, with tight landing areas off the tee and a heavy volume of forced layups from tight doglegs. Wedge play is effectively removed from this course, with only about 11% of approaches coming from within 125 yards. That’s a very unique distinction for a course of this yardage, as it instead rewards the top mid-to-long iron players. About 65% of approach shots will come from between 125-200 yards, well above the PGA TOUR average.

PGA National proves to be the most difficult course on TOUR for approaches from beyond 150 yards thanks to its exposure to gusting winds and firm and fast conditions. This places a premium on Bogey Avoidance and Scrambling, particularly benefiting player who are comfortable on pure Bermuda on and around the green. Top-tier ball strikers with proven short game on Bermuda contend in this event.

PGA National has a cut line above-par in each of the last 10 years. Its Median Field Score sat at Even par or worse in seven of the last eight years. Outside of the two par-5s, all 16 other holes feature a scoring average of Even par or worse. Depending on the wind direction, the par-5s offer no guarantees for birdies, either.

A score of -10 or less has been enough to win this event in eight of the last 10 years, and with another weak field in store, we should expect that trend to continue.

The Bear Trap

We will hear a lot about the dreaded bear trap this week. The arduous stretch from holes 15–17 play as the fourth-most difficult three-hole stretch on the PGA TOUR schedule. It sits behind only Quail Hollow (16-8), Pebble Beach (8-10) and Muirfield Village (16-18).

Water looms throughout the Bear Trap, which includes two 175-yard par-3s and a tight dogleg par-4 just over 430 yards. It always makes for a climactic finish with chasers taking aggressive lines at these tight pin locations over the water. Leaders have done their best to stay dry and escape into the par-5 18th at level par.

PGA NATIONAL COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 7,125
  • Par: 70 (4x 3s / 12x 4s / 2x 5s)
  • Greens: Bermuda
  • Average Green Size: 7,000 sq. ft. (Above Average)
  • Average Fairway Width: 30 Yards (Below Average)
  • Rough: 2.5″ Bermuda over-seeded with Rye (Average)
  • Architect: George & Tom Fazio (Renovations from Jack Nicklaus)
  • Historical Cut Line: +2 to +5
  • Comp Courses: Bay Hill, Innisbrook (Copperhead), Concession GC, Quail Hollow, Waialae CC, Colonial CC, TPC Twin Cities, TPC Southwind, TPC Sawgrass
  • Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
PGA National (7,125 Yards)

HONDA CLASSIC ODDS: BETTING TRENDS & COURSE HISTORY

Year Winner Pre-Tournament Odds Winning Score Field Median Score
2022 Sepp Straka +10000 -10 +2
2021 Matt Jones +8000 -12 Even
2020 Sungjae Im +3500 -6 +3
2019 Keith Mitchell +30000 -9 +1
2018 Justin Thomas +1200 -8 +5
2017 Rickie Fowler +1600 -12 -2
2016 Adam Scott +2000 -9 +3
2015 Padraig Harrington +40000 -6 +3
2014 Russell Henley +30000 -8 -2
2013 Michael Thompson +30000 -9 +4

Over the last 10 years, six players won with opening odds longer than 80-1. This week, it is a favorable setup to consider betting longshots. Favorites converted well here too, with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Adam Scott winning at below 20-1 odds within that span. Even players with established course history like Sungjae Im are susceptible to missed cuts here. This isn’t a week I’m looking to pay a premium for course history at as long as players enter with solid recent form.

Each of the last seven winners posted a top-16 finish in the two months prior to this event. PGA National is not a get-right spot as a complete test from tee-to-green. So, it’s best to identify players who are trending in the right direction coming out of the first stretch of the season in Hawaii and California.

Course History

After a few weeks on the West Coast swing with highly predictive course history, the Honda Classic has struggled to produce the same continuity year over year. Over the last 40 years, only Padraig Harrington and Mark Calcavecchia won this event multiple times. Given the Honda Classic’s rotating slot in the TOUR schedule each year, it’s been difficult to attract the same players year over year. A majority of the top players with proven results here opted for a rest week between the Genesis and Arnold Palmer invitationals.

Byeong Hun An

Byeong Hun An never won this event before. But with the absence of multiple regular contenders, the course horse honors bestow onto him. Over four career appearances at the Honda Classic dating back to 2018, An picked up a pair of top-five finishes. It’s not a dominant resume at PGA National, so the fact that he sits atop the course history list tells of how open this week is for the wider field to contend. It’s also a testament to how volatile and difficult it can be to repeatedly play well at PGA National.

Others Excelling at Honda Classic

After An, the rest of the top 10 in Event History includes: Shane Lowry, Luke Donald, Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im, Ryan Palmer, Sam Ryder, Harris English, Aaron Wise, and Cam Davis. Some notables in this week’s field among the worst in terms of total strokes gained at PGA National include Hayden Buckley, Nick Hardy, and Peter Malnati.

Only six players avoided missing the cut at the Honda Classic over the last five years (min. three appearances): Shane Lowry, Harris English, Sam Ryder, Mark Hubbard, Cam Davis, and Jhonattan Vegas.

Nine players in this field delivered multiple T10 finishes over the last five years: Byeong Hun An, Sungjae Im, Alex Noren, and Sam Ryder. The list of players with multiple top-20 finishes here over the last five years also includes Harris English, Mark Hubbard, Ryan Palmer, and Billy Horschel. Matthias Schwab, Adam Svensson, and Lee Hodges also each impressed with top-10 finishes in their tournament debuts here in 2022.

Course Comps

There are plenty of difficult and wind-exposed Bermuda layouts to reference when approximating course fits this week. After a sustained stint on the West Coast, I’m weighting comp course history a little more heavily in my model than I normally would. There are plenty of players with sticky history throughout the Florida Swing this time of year.

Jack Nicklaus has his hands all over the layout of this golf course. Concession GC– host of the 2021 WGC Workday– emulates PGA National the closest in my eyes. Apart from the Nicklaus connection, both are situated in Florida on the same Bermuda grass and water hazards. They share fairly difficult scoring and a premium on Approach play. Notable Top-20 finishers at the 2021 WGC-Workday in the field this week include Billy Horschel, Webb Simpson, and Aaron Rai.

Weather Considerations

A big factor for this week is managing the flighting of the ball around different swirling winds. Matt Jones credited his comfortability around flighting different shots into winds as key to his 2021 victory. TPC Southwind, Colonial CC and Waialae CC are similar shorter courses that require this type of maneuvering. And as far as crossover leaderboards go, Waialae CC is probably the best comp with overlapping wins at each from Russell Henley, Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar within the past decade. Matt Jones, Keith Mitchell, and Adam Scott add to the list of past Honda Classic winners with a strong history at Waialae CC.

Bay Hill, Innisbrook (Copperhead), and TPC Sawgrass also reward similar skillsets in difficult conditions. If we just want to look at a blanket SG: Florida, the top-10 players in SG: TOT over the last 36 rounds across the Florida Swing are Matt Kuchar, Sepp Straka, Shane Lowry, Alex Noren, Sungjae Im, Thomas Detry, Aaron Wise, Jhonattan Vegas, Taylor Pendrith, and Patrick Rodgers.

Finally on a more tertiary basis, I like Quail Hollow as another difficult scoring course with fast Bermuda greens that slightly favors longer hitters.

Mash that all together and the top-10 players in comp course history are Sepp Straka, Shane Lowry, Davis Riley, Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren, Jhonattan Vegas, Thomas Detry, Chris Kirk, Billy Horschel, and Brian Stuard.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER FOR 2023 HONDA CLASSIC ODDS

  • SG: APP / SG: Ball Striking
  • SG: OTT / Driving Distance
  • Prox: 125-200
  • Bogey & Double Bogey Avoidance
  • SG: TOT (Difficult Scoring Conditions) / SG: TOT (Florida Swing)
  • SG: Putting (Bermuda)
  • Course & Comp Course History

With so many high-pressure approach shots over water, it’s crucial to have narrow misses on this course. That’s especially true in the 125-200 yard range. The top-10 players in SG: APP entering this week are Russell Knox, Nick Hardy, Erik van Rooyen, Robby Shelton, Sepp Straka, Ben Martin, Sam Ryder, Ben Griffin, Satoshi Kodaira, and Davis Riley. The top-10 players in Proximity 125-200 yards are Jason Dufner, Jonathan Byrd, Charley Hoffman, Robby Shelton, Satoshi Kodaira, Ryan Armour, Ryan Moore, Bo Van Pelt, Ben Martin, and David Lipsky.

It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly this event falls from an OTT standpoint between Distance vs Accuracy. Since SG: OTT hasn’t been highly correlated either way in terms of past success, I’m going to lean more on SG: Ball Striking this week in order to include a second layer of Approach importance. With hazards coming into play so persistently, it’s probably best to weed out any players who are bottom 25% in SG: OTT or Driving Distance this week.

The Biggest Keys

Instead, I’m looking more closely at SG: TOT (Difficult Scoring Conditions), Bogey Avoidance, and Scrambling Gained, as players who fit this profile should bring the safest floors. The 10 players who rate out top-40 in each category: Sungjae Im, Ben Griffin, Alex Noren, David Lipsky, Erik van Rooyen, Aaron Wise, Matt Kuchar, Cameron Percy, Ryan Moore, and Adam Schenk.

To bring this altogether, I’m ideally looking to hone in on players who are above-average in SG: APP, Prox: 125-200, SG: Ball Striking, Scrambling, SG: TOT (Comp Courses), Bermuda Putting and SG: T2G (Difficult Scoring Conditions). Just nine players fit that criteria this week: Sungjae Im, Ben Griffin, Alex Noren, Shane Lowry, Ben Taylor, Erik van Rooyen, Dylan Frittelli, Ryan Moore, and Greyson Sigg.

Correlation And PGA National

The correlation charts for success at PGA National call for a similar profile of Par-4 Scoring premiums along with Bogey Avoidance and SG: T2G. As a par-70, there is far less advantage to be had from Par-5 Scoring this week. There hasn’t been much of an edge for par-3 specialists, either.

We see the biggest jumps compared to TOUR average in the importance of SG: APP and Scrambling. I’ll be dialing up the importance of those metrics heavily for in my model this week. Par-4: 350-400 will also be a premium range for scoring this week, as three of the par 4s will fall within this range.

In terms of other stats to avoid, Prox 200+ and 3-Putt Avoidance were among the least correlated with success at PGA National.

Top 10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top 10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at PGA National

Just eight players rate out above average in each of the above top-10 stat categories for PGA National: Sungjae Im, Ben Griffin, David Lipsky, Thomas Detry, Sam Ryder, Aaron Baddeley, Erik Barnes, and Denny McCarthy.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: MATT KUCHAR

The best players on the PGA TOUR are either not here, in poor recent form, or going to be priced at unbettable premiums. Kuchar (OWGR No. 85) is far from being considered one of the best players, but his career resume may be the best in this field.

A look down the list of Honda Classic winners shows each of the last seven champions posting a top-16 finish in the first two months leading in. Stronger correlations come from performance at the Sony Open and Genesis Invitational. Kuchar looked his best at those two events, finishing T7 at the Sony Open and ranking top-5 in SG: T2G entering the final round of the Genesis Invitational.

He picked up his first career TOUR victory at this event 21 years ago and, despite some steady success at this event for the Florida native – which has ranked him No. 13 in the field in terms of SG: TOT at PGA National – his last appearance here came in 2011. We know the Honda Classic historically has taken a back seat to WGCs and PLAYERS in this stretch of the schedule, so the impetus to break that 12-year hiatus from this event may simply mean that Kuchar reevaluated which course set up he has the best chance to win at in this stage of his career.

A difficult, sub-7,200 yard Bermuda layout versus a weak and unproven field of competitors is the perfect recipe for Kuchar at this juncture of his career. He ranks No. 1 in SG: TOT (Comp Bermuda Courses), and top-10 in Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling Gained, and SG: P (Bermuda). All of that should play to his benefit in the expectedly-difficult conditions ahead this week.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT 2023 HONDA CLASSIC

Though not the most inspiring field to bet this week, it is reassuring to know there are no powerhouses like Jon Rahm to worry about at the top of the Honda Classic odds board. This truly does feel like a wide open event, with the top names entering in imperfect form and seemingly all dominant course horses missing from the field. I would be lying if I said I’m looking forward to watching this event, feeling the hangover of the WM Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational recently, but a good outright sweat would change that quickly come this weekend.

With all the course fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early toward the 2023 Genesis Invitational player pool below. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for Draft Kings:

For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m prioritizing SG: APP, Comp Course History, Prox 125-200, and Recent Form (SG: TOT: L12). Then, a more balanced mix of Scrambling + SG: ARG, SG: P (Bermuda), SG: T2G (Difficult Scoring Conditions) and Bogey or Worse Avoidance.

Model Favorites

To no surprise, it’s 2020 champion Sungjae Im who emerges in the No. 1 spot in my model this week. As a past winner, T7 finisher here in 2021, and the highest OWGR-ranked player in the field, Sungjae will be the betting favorite in a class of his own this week. He’s shown a preference to Bermuda greens early into his career and will enter in great form. He’s No. 1 in the field in SG: TOT whether looking over the last 8, 12, 24, 50, or 100 rounds.

After Sungjae, my model’s top-10 rounds out with: Ben Griffin, Alex Noren, Shane Lowry, Ben Taylor, David Lipsky, Chris Kirk, Charley Hoffman, Thomas Detry, and Erik van Rooyen.

It’s going to be an uncomfortable week to put a card together, as players like Denny McCarthy and Alex Noren, who were 100-1+ longshots last week will now suddenly be among the favorites below 35-1 odds. These outlier weeks are the most difficult to project odds for, but also tend to lead to the most value when shopping odds across multiple sportsbooks. There’s a long list of players I’ll be looking to target when odds open Monday, starting with Alex Noren, Erik van Rooyen, Matt Kuchar, and Hayden Buckley.

Thanks for reading and good luck navigating 2023 Honda Classic odds!

2023 HONDA CLASSIC OPENING ODDS TABLE

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