2021 Honda Classic Buys and Fades Using Strokes Gained: Target Daniel Berger at PGA National
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Daniel Berger.
They called this golf season the “Super Season” due to the larger-than-normal number of big events and majors. It has lived up to the hype through the first two and a half months of the new year, after a fantastic PLAYERS Championship over the weekend at TPC Sawgrass.
Justin Thomas broke through for his first win of the new season, overcoming some early putting woes to beat 54-hole leader Lee Westwood by two shots. Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau were in the final pairing together the second time in as many Sundays, but they played some ugly golf early on in the final round that allowed Thomas to take advantage.
It was the first PLAYERS Championship win for the now-No. 2 player in the world, and it’s certainly a boost after a rough first few months of the year.
JT will take the week off as the rest of the TOUR heads to PGA National for the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Let’s take a look at the players who will look to take some positive momentum from TPC Sawgrass to PGA National:
3 Buys for the Honda Classic
I am sure no one was more shocked than Talor Gooch when he realized he was somehow in the hunt as he putted for eagle on the 11th hole on Sunday at Sawgrass. All of the issues in the final groups brought them closer to the field, and Gooch was one of the beneficiaries. He continued to play well, despite his newfound position on the leaderboard, and posted 11-under as the clubhouse leader, ultimately finishing in a tie for fifth.
The result this week for Gooch was a big step for a young player that has shown some flashes of good play, mostly on the West Coast. He brought his game to Florida for THE PLAYERS Championship and will now look to carry that momentum to the Honda Classic.
Gooch gained 6.8 shots on approach in the elite field at THE PLAYERS, with another 7.6 strokes gained on and around the greens. He was fully dialed in and has made the cut in his last two trips to PGA National. I’m buying his momentum into next week in a field that he can take advantage of if he can continue to play at a high level.
I finally got the run I was looking for from my pre-tournament pick to win at THE PLAYERS when Daniel Berger ran off four straight birdies around the turn of his final round. It was too little too late but looking back at his week, most of the issues came on the greens.
Berger gained strokes in all metrics tee to green at TPC Sawgrass and gained more than nine strokes on the field in that category during the tournament. He simply couldn’t get enough putts to drop to truly put himself in contention, and part of that was due to a slow start on Thursday.
The recent AT&T Pebble Beach Champion will now travel to PGA National for an event in which he finished runner-up in 2015 and fourth in 2020. Berger will undoubtedly check in as one of the favorites to win this week with many top names take a week off before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, making him an even more intriguing buy.
One player that seemed to come out of nowhere and flash his name near the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend was Dylan Frittelli. We really haven’t seen much of him since the Masters last fall, in which he finished fifth, but he’s missed four cuts in six events to start the new year.
The South African ended the week ranked in the top 10 tee to green, and his approach and around-the-green game carried him to a 22nd-place finish. He was unable to overcome struggles on the greens at Sawgrass to be higher, but it’s hard not to like what he did this week with his play leading to the surface. I’m buying in on another good week in the cards for Frittelli at PGA National as he looks to improve on his 11th-place finish at this event in 2018.