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Well, we called for DJ week and nailed it! It was predictable, given his elite course history, solid form, and positive weather draw. When DJ is locked in, he's tough to catch. And now, he's #1 in the world rankings for the first time in his career. I'm excited for this week's Honda Classic, since I'll be at the tournament most of the week.
The Honda Classic is held at the Championship course at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It's notoriously one of the hardest courses on Tour, where par is a good score. The course is a par-72, but the tournament officials set it up as a par-70, making scoring much more difficult. The course is full of bunkers, water hazards, and tricky bermuda greens. The wind blows nonstop, making elite ball-strikers our main target. PGA National features the Bear Trap, a 3-hole stretch (15-16-17) full of water hazards that completely changes the tournament every year. Players can make birdies, pars, bogeys, doubles, triples, and even the occasional quadruple bogey during this stretch. We can categorize this course as a less-than-driver course, so players who contend will be gaining strokes on approach shots, around the green, and putting. I don't often look at stat splits, but I will be targeting players who excel on bermuda greens, in Florida, and in the wind.
This week's field is headlined by Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Branden Grace, Justin Thomas, and a ton of the top European Tour players. If I had to pick one of these guys to win this week, it would be Adam Scott.
What stats are important?
Birdie or Better % (BoB%):
There are really not many weeks where we aren't going to target birdie or better percentage, because that's what fantasy golf scoring is all about. Guys like Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Anirban Lahiri, Brooks Koepka, and Luke List come to mind in this week's field when targeting birdie makers. Bombers, you see. It's possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP): PGA National is a ball-striker's course, so I'm targeting elite iron players this week. I'm going to target SG:APP because players who find the most greens and give themselves the most birdie opportunities will capitalize most. The thick, bermuda rough has been grown out this week, making scrambling very difficult. If you have a player who sticks approach shots inside 10' consistently, he's going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Kevin Kisner, Justin Thomas, Kyle Stanley, Brendan Steele, and Francesco Molinari.
Par 4 Scoring (P4): Since we have a par-70, players will contend with an two extras par-4 this week. Because of that, P4 scoring will be key. Guys like Justin Thomas, Jason Dufner, William McGirt, Francesco Molinari, and Rickie Fowler pop out as names to target this week. We can also put some added emphasis on long par 4s – those over 450 yards. You'll see a lot of similar names, but also one of my favorite GPP plays: Ollie Schniederjans.
Proximity 175 – 200 yards: I don't often look at proximity stats because they're often skewed by small sample size, but this one popped for me when going through course research. PGA National is a short course, but this yardage pops up on many par-4s and par-3s. I'm going to look at 2016 stats due to sample size, but some of the names that pop are Adam Scott, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, David Lingmerth, and Ryan Palmer (all of whom have average to above average course history).
1. ADAM SCOTT [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #7
After a bit of a PGA Tour layoff, Scott came back into form with a solid 11th place finish at Riviera. He comes back to PGA National where he's the defending champion, and should be full of confidence. On paper, Scott is a lock. He's an elite ball-striker, scores well on par-4s, scrambles well, loves bermuda greens, and checks the box on the proximity yardage I'm targeting this week. He should be used in all fantasy formats.
2. RICKIE FOWLER [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #14
Fowler hasn't been in great form recently, but he's coming off a 4th place finish in his last start. I'm high on Fowler this year overall, and no better place to start than here. Fowler is part of the South Florida contingent, so this is a home game for him. He's made five cuts in a row at the Honda Classic, including two top-7 finishes. He's obviously comfortable on bermuda greens, and tends to handle the windy conditions better than most.
3. SERGIO GARCIA [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #9
Sergio is a great play this week, and any week where we are targeting ball-striking and accuracy. Garcia finished runner-up here to Scott last season, and 8th in 2014. He struggled a bit with consistency at the Genesis Open, but that was mostly due to his struggles on the poa greens. Garcia is much more comfortable on bermuda grass, which he's shown here and at Doral over the years. Garcia is coming off a recent win in Dubai, and should be full of confidence.
4. DANIEL BERGER [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #33
It's no secret that this is a home game from Berger, who lives just minutes from the course. He almost completed the narrative in 2015, where he lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. Berger recently switched clubs, but showed a level of comfort while recording a 7th place finish in Phoenix. He should fit this course to a tee, considering his skills in the wind and on bermuda greens. Berger is a great par-4 scorer and ball-striker, who makes plenty of birdies.
5. LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #24
I'm a bit surprised Louis is playing this week after a long weekend of golf in Perth. It seems he – and many other European Tour regulars – is using this event as a tune-up for next week's WGC-Mexico. Louis is an elite ball-striker who has Florida ties, but his record here is…bad. Two MCs and a WD don't fill me with confidence. In any event, he's a major champion and elite talent who can win here.