2021 Honda Classic Betting Picks & Preview: Shane Lowry, Brendan Steele Provide Value in Tough Conditions at PGA National
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Shane Lowry
It’s tough to feel bad for anyone who’s spent the last several weekends parked in front of a TV showing the final rounds of what have been some truly dramatic and entertaining PGA TOUR events, but your heart does have to bleed a bit for those who didn’t have a little action on the proceedings.
After a week when Justin Thomas was priced at 20/1 pre-tournament and seemingly the entire world hopped on, it’s easy to recall stories of Sunday sweats with a smile and a knowing head nod.
It’s like the last few minutes of a horror movie, when our protagonists can finally relax, knowing the killer/monster/sharknado has finally been vanquished. Only then, right before those closing credits, as they lay on a beach sipping fruity drinks, we see proof that they shouldn’t get so comfortable.
It all sets up the sequel – and this week’s sequel is the Honda Classic, sure to inspire fear in any golf bettor feeling a little too comfortable after last week.
Prognosticating tournaments is always difficult, but even more so when extra variables are thrown into the mix. In just one of the last eight editions of this event, and three of the last 14, has the winner reached a double-digit under-par score. One of the main reasons is one of those variables – the wind always blows at PGA National.
Last year’s final round, when Mackenzie Hughes went nuts on the back-nine and Sungjae Im claimed his first PGA TOUR title, was another windswept afternoon, but based on the early forecast, that might be nothing compared with this coming week.
|Day||High Temperature||Wind (Avg/Max Gusts)|
|Thursday||89 degrees||13 mph/18 mph|
I’ll admit that these numbers are fluid, especially because that max wind gust number shifted from 38 mph on Sunday evening to “only” 24 mph on Monday morning, meaning, well, we really have no idea what to expect this weekend.
Throw in the fact that just six players in the top-50 of the OWGR – Daniel Berger, Sungjae Im, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Joaquin Niemann and Shane Lowry – are in the field, and this tourney could have one of those anything-can-happen feels to it once again.
Let’s get to the picks, starting with my favorite outright, as one of those half-dozen top-50 players has a lot of things going his way entering this week.
One player to win the tournament.
Shane Lowry (+3500)
The truth is, with Lowry in mind for this spot over the past few weeks, I was rooting against his 69-68 finish for a solo eighth place at THE PLAYERS, which undoubtedly lowered his price for this week, while increasing public interest.
There’s something to be said about momentum, though, as the reigning Open champion explained that he’s been tinkering with his putting grip and finally settled on a winner, which sounds even more promising.
Then there’s his schedule, which was to include a few days hanging at Augusta National with Lee Westwood (and perhaps more importantly, Lowry’s own swing coach) early this week before heading back home for the Honda. That’s right – home. “I like the course at the Honda,” he said. “It’s a home game for me now. I live five minutes from the course.”
That’s a lot of stars aligning for a guy who’s often put together strong finishes in bunches.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Daniel Berger (+1050) and Sungjae Im (+3000)
The hometown hero and the defending champion are clearly the class of this field and while it might be a bit foolish to chase their prices, each should be very much in play for OAD pools – especially after posting final-round scores of 67 and 66, respectively, this past Sunday.
Can either/both be saved for later events this year? Of course, but I’m always a fan of using the best players in the weaker fields, where they should have less competition to climb the leaderboard.
If I had to choose between ‘em, I’d probably go with Im right now, but knowing that many OADs exclude the previous year’s winner, you might not even have that choice to make.
Russell Henley (+3500)
The winner of this event back in 2014, Henley has spent the past six months being one of the game’s better ball-strikers with results ranging from 3rd-4th in back-to-back weeks last fall to last week’s MC, just one of three in his last 16 starts. Henley’s iron play has always served him well at this track, as he owns five top-25s in eight appearances.
Failing to cash last week might move some fellow OADers off him, so don’t be afraid to use that to your advantage.
Brandon Wu (+7000)
If you want to go even more contrarian in the pool, Wu is just sitting there waiting to be played. Really, I like him in all formats this week – even sprinkling some outrights on a Korn Ferry regular who finished T-7 in Puerto Rico (which is how he got into this one). Prior to that result, he’d finished 14th or better in five of his previous KFT starts, including a win and a pair of runners-up.
The 24-year-old isn’t just a flavor of the week, either. He ranks second on the KFT in greens in regulation, which should serve him well for this week’s test.
One player to finish top-five.
Alex Noren (+1400 for top-five)
In 2013, Noren played this event for the first time, missing the cut. The third and most recent time he played it was two years ago, when he also MC’d. In between, though, he was solo third in 2018, which proves that when he’s on his game, this should be a strong course fit.
An opening 78 at THE PLAYERS put him behind the eight-ball last week, but his ball-striking numbers were all positive during a second-round 70 before he missed the cut. I like him to be in the mix on Sunday afternoon this week.
One player to finish top-10.
Brendan Steele (+550 for top-10)
Last year at this event, a ticket from Steele to my buddy Jason S. (yes, a real person) led to a Jason S. ticket on Steele to win (a full four-day sweat), which in turn led to one of my favorite pieces I’ve written in a long time.
I’ve already been told by Jason S. that a Steele Sunday sweat is going to mean another wild weekend of on-site degenerate activities and I’m already willing to bet that it’s going to happen again.
Steele has about a half-dozen courses that he smashed each year and this one is firmly on that list, as he’s finished 14th or better in four of his last five starts here.
A top-10 play might even be cautious; don’t be afraid to go bigger.
One player to finish top-20.
Tyler Duncan (+600 for top-20)
There are a handful of players I always look at when the wind is supposed to blow. Marc Leishman is usually first on this list. (He’s not in the field.) Rickie Fowler is up there. (But not right now, when he’s playing well below his potential.) Andrew Landry is a sneaky one. (Don’t be afraid to have some investment in him this week.)
And then there’s Duncan, who is quietly moving his way up this list. The results are, well, not great lately – he doesn’t have a top-20 since last year’s Wyndham Championship – but I think strong weekend breezes should give us reason to take a shot on this prop.
One player to finish top-30.
Richy Werenski (+225 for top-30)
So far this year, Werenski has made eight starts. He finished inside the top-30 in the first one. Outside the top-30 in the next one. Then inside, then outside. Inside again, outside again. See the pattern yet? Two weeks ago, he was T-4 at the API. Last week, he MC’s at THE PLAYERS.
Well … this seems like a get-right week at the Honda, where he was T-17 last year.
One player to finish top-40.
Cameron Percy (+125 for top-40)
Last week, the 46-year-old Percy was the oldest first-timer in the Players field, where he made the cut and posted a final-round 68. The Aussie has now finished 29th-MC-7th-21st in his last four starts, which suggests he’s trending in the right direction
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
My initial play in this space was Gary Woodland, but he was a Monday withdrawal due to a positive COVID-19 result, meaning his 8-for-8 made-cut streak will endure for another year. I’m perfectly fine replacing him with Scott, who owns a tremendous record at this one in his own right. In eight starts, he owns five top-25 finishes, including a win five years ago.
I think Scott will show up with a little extra motivation this week, knowing he’s one of the best players in the field and chasing his first win since last year’s Genesis.
His ceiling is high, but so is his floor, which makes him a smart high-end DFS choice this week.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
Strong winds? Tough conditions? That’s Matt Wallace’s music. OK, so maybe he’s no Matt Fitzpatrick when it comes to having his best stuff when it’s playing the hardest – and maybe he doesn’t fit the usual definition of “lower-priced option” — but this week should be right up Wallace’s alley, where he already owns a T-20 in two career starts, and with very few big-name players in the field, it shouldn’t be tough to squeeze him into your lineups.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Byeong-Hun An (+7000 for FRL)
Here’s hoping one of the game’s better ball-strikers, worst putters and increasingly entertaining tweeters can shave off, oh, about 18 strokes from last week’s opening-round score. An was cruising along with a decent Thursday round at TPC Sawgrass, only to finish 11-6 and post 83. He not only stuck around to play the next day (an equally unimpressive 79), he was able to poke fun at himself for the scores.
If the golf gods are watching, perhaps a little karma is coming his way in the first round of this one.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Talor Gooch (+3500)
One of the prevailing themes over the past few weeks is that form travels, as Bryson DeChambeau and Lee Westwood comprised the final pairing at the API, then repeated at The Players. Gooch was one of the biggest surprises on last week’s leaderboard, but the underrated ball-striker should be able to continue some momentum at PGA National, where he’s finished 38th-20th the past two years.
I like him in all formats, but matchups might be a specific target, as he doesn’t miss many cuts, offering two chances to cash these bets.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Cameron Tringale (+4000)
It’s often just as important to know which player(s) you don’t like on a given week as which ones you do. That’s a tough one to figure out this week, though, with just seven players in the top-50 in this field and none of them an easy write-off.
Instead, I dug a bit deeper for my fade. There’s nothing I specifically dislike about Tringale in general – in fact, I liked him last week, though he MC’d coming off five straight finishes of 31st or better. Those numbers alone could have some people jumping back onboard this week, but at some point, a player’s record at a certain event becomes more than a coincidence.
In 10 career starts at this one, Tringale has missed only three cuts, but doesn’t have a single result inside the top-25. There’s obviously something about this course which doesn’t suit him, so hold off on playing him until he gets to a track he obviously enjoys more.