Golf Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for 2019 Honda Classic
John David Mercer, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Webb Simpson
The West Coast Swing is over and that means the PGA Tour will head to Florida for this week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Justin Thomas (+500), Rickie Fowler (+1000) and Brooks Koepka (+1200) headline a relatively weak field at PGA National, considered one of the toughest courses on tour.
Here are our golf experts’ favorite bets for this weekend:
The Field vs. Thomas/Fowler/Koepka (-300)
I’ll get to this one, but first, let’s review the last one: If you tailed my favorite bet at the WGC-Mexico Championship last week, you’re welcome for the sweat — and I hope you got paid the full amount. I picked Tiger Woods to finish top-10, with the caveat that we should live bet this even if he started slow.
Well, he opened with an even-par 71 — and then went on to finish T-10. Can you believe some people wring their hands over betting football games? I mean, this one offered a full four days of heartburn. It was glorious.
Anyway, let’s get to this week. I get it: We’re betting against the three tourney favorites here. It includes the last two champions of this event. The recent PGA Tour winners’ list reads like a who’s who of big-name players.
And Thomas, especially, appears ready to win something by six shots very soon. Even so, I’m taking the field. I’m taking 141 guys against three. Despite the back-to-back run of elite-level winners at PGA National, this is a course where traditionally anything can happen.
I’ve got the likes of Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Cameron Smith and a whole bunch of other solid players on my side. And frankly, while I can easily see JT successfully defending his title, Fowler and Koepka don’t scare me too much here, so this is basically a bet against Thomas.
While the odds aren’t the typical longer price I usually like for a fave bet, putting up $300 to win $100 here feels pretty safe.
Webb Simpson to Top 20 (Even)
Simpson should be a good fit for PGA National with how good his approach game is. I wanted more than +2500 to win, but I think he’s better than 50/50 to finish inside the top 20.
He was fifth here last year and had six straight top 20s this year before having that streak snapped in Mexico last week. I think he’ll get back in form this week.
Sergio Garcia (+100) over Gary Woodland
In golf head-to-head matchups, I prefer to take the approach of fading players I think are overvalued than trying to buy the best in the field. I think Woodland qualifies this week. He has mixed results at this course historically: Since 2013, he’s placed 68th, 61st, 2nd and 49th.
That boom-or-bust nature defines Woodland, who admittedly has been way more boom than bust of late. I’m just worried about course fit: This is one of the hardest tracks on tour, with water lurking on nearly every hole.
As a result, by far the most predictive metrics historically have been bogey avoidance — both long-term and short-term. Woodland struggles in that area more than any of the other studs, so I’ll be fading him this week in favor of more stable hole-to-hole players. Getting plus odds is nice, too, as I’d have Sergio favored personally.
Dylan Frittelli (+100) over Sung-Jae Im
The Honda Classic tees off at PGA National on Thursday (Feb. 28, 6:45 a.m. ET). Last week there were several head-to-head matchups I liked, but this week there’s really one matchup that catches my eye: Dylan Frittelli vs. Sung-jae Im.
He’s off to a strong start in his rookie year. He’s finished in the top 15 four times and has gained strokes with the approach in seven of the last 10 events.
Sung-jae Im ($7,300 DraftKings; $9,200 FanDuel) has missed the cut in two of his past four events due to his cold putter, averaging over 30 PPR at both Genesis and Pebble Beach — although it’s also worth noting that Genesis and Pebble had rather poor conditions. Despite the missed cuts, he managed to keep his bogeys to a minimum, averaging just 6.8 per tournament over the past five weeks.
But the FantasyLabs PGA Models point to Frittelli.
Over the past 75 weeks, Frittelli has the superior numbers in a few important metrics.
- Adjusted round score: 69.9 vs. 70.2
- Driving distance: 302.7 vs. 294.0
- Field strength: 83.5% vs. 65.8%
Additionally, Frittelli has the slightly higher DraftKings salary ($7,400 vs. $7,300).
Because of how correlated DraftKings pricing is with odds to win, I’d be tempted to bet any underdog at plus money if he had the higher DFS salary.
I wouldn’t bet on Frittelli any lower than +100, because I think his odds of finishing ahead of Im are just slightly better than 50%.
But of the two, I definitely prefer Frittelli.
Webb Simpson over Daniel Berger (-155)
Simpson’s 68.3 Long-Term Adjusted Round Score (LT Adj Rd Score) is superior to Berger’s 69.2 by 0.9 strokes. And, after backtesting every metric in the FantasyLabs Trends tool, bogey avoidance stood out as one of the most important stats this week, and Simpson is an elite bogey avoider, sporting a 63.6% scrambling rate and averaging just 7.7 bogeys per tournament.
Meanwhile, Berger is averaging 8.9 bogeys per tournament, and he struggles on par 4s, averaging +0.8 adjusted strokes on them over the past 75 weeks. His par-4 metrics pale in comparison to Simpson’s -2.0 adjusted strokes, a mark that trails only Justin Thomas in this field.
Additionally, Simpson is a cut-making and top-25 machine, making the cut in 91% of his starts over the past 12 months and finishing in the top 25 in 73% of those starts in the timeframe. Berger checks in at 71% of cuts made and 35% top-25 rate, respectively.
I wouldn’t bet this past -165.
Adam Scott (+120) over Gary Woodland
Scott getting this price against Woodland, who I know is playing great, is a good price. This matchup is basically a coin flip according to my numbers so I’m taking the value with Scott.
Sung-Jae Im -1.5 over Dylan Frittelli (+115)
I disagree with Freedman on this one. I’m going back to the bank with Sung-Jae Im. I think Im ran out of gas a little bit after he played five weeks in a row and after a week off he should be refreshed and ready to go here.