2021 Honda Classic Picks: Our Best Outright Bets at PGA National
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Streelman
Every golf tournament is random. Every golf tournament has an element of chaos. But the way things are lining up for this week’s Honda Classic, hoo boy.
Not only is PGA National known as one of the toughest courses on TOUR, but Mother Nature also figures to play a pretty big role this weekend as there is some serious wind in the forecast in Palm Beach Gardens. A difficult track, gusty weather and a wide-open field should make the Honda Classic quite the ride.
Here are our favorite outright bets at PGA National:
Shane Lowry (+2800)
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.
Kevin Streelman (+8000)
Streelman’s ball-striking has been solid for the past few months as he’s gained strokes both off the tee and with the approach four of his last five events.
Streelman’s coming off an MC last week, but that was all short-game related, as he lost nearly three strokes in the two rounds. Shorter courses tend to be where he’s more likely to pop up as well, with his two career wins coming at River Highlands and Innisbrook to go along with some good results at Pebble Beach.
Matt Wallace (+6600)
Variance runs wild at the Honda Classic so I am not that interested in backing players at the top of the board. PGA National will challenge players throughout the weekend — especially around the Bear Trap — so the the ability to grind out par will be very important this weekend.
Matt Wallace is the exact type of grinder that I am looking for to be able to hold rounds together and avoid the big number at this course. He comes in off of an 18th-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in a tournament that turned into a similar grind.
Wallace also seems to have found a little something with his game at the API, gaining strokes in all metrics, including 1.1 on approach. The Englishman also flashed his elite short game, gaining nearly five strokes on the field on-and-around the greens.
After missing out on qualifying for THE PLAYERS he will come in well rested and likely looking to prove himself once again. Wallace is undervalued by the books for his overall skillset and his course fit at +6600, especially in this weak field.
Keegan Bradley (+5000)
Keegan Bradley is the type of golfer who can play poorly for long stretches but is always good for a TOUR win every so often. If he gets in contention, he has a shot to win. He has four PGA TOUR victories including a major (2011 PGA Championship), a WGC (2012 WGC Bridgestone Invitational) and a FedEx Cup playoff event (2018 BMW Championship).
Bradley ranks first in his past 24 rounds in the field in strokes gained: Ball striking and in an event that has been historically dominated by ball-strikers, it feels like a good time to jump on Keegan. He finished 29th last week at THE PLAYERS Championship and 10th the week prior at the Arnold Palmer Invitational so he is playing some great Florida golf.
Keegan is also one of the best in proximity on Par 3:150-200 yards, so he should have what it takes to survive the infamous Bear Trap, which features two par 3’s measuring 179 and 151. While not a good putter, he has gained strokes on the Florida greens in both of his past two starts.
I am less worried about his putting prowess in an event like The Honda Classic where the winning score will likely be in the single digits. It’s all about managing the course this week and Bradley has the right game to do just that.
Russell Henley (+3000)
The news of the Daniel Berger rib injury opens the door for the rest of the field to take advantage this week. Sungjae Im is as strong a favorite as any, but he’s slightly too short to back at a course with so much unpredictability.
Instead I’ll be siding with Henley, as his course history here shows he has quite an affinity for PGA National. The former winner here has missed just one cut in eight starts and boasts four additional top-25 finishes, including a T-8 last year.
Henley is coming off a missed cut at THE PLAYERS, but we can give him a pass as we saw plenty of stars succumb to the difficulty of Sawgrass last week. He should be back in his element at a shorter par 70 track and his long term ball-striking numbers look very strong.
He ranks No. 1 in this field in SG: Approach across his past 24 rounds and ranks fifth in total strokes gained in that same time frame. We know he putts better on Bermuda and has been playing some great golf over the past calendar year, so I’ll take my chances at 30/1 he becomes a two-time Honda Classic Champion.
Brendan Steele (+4500)
In a tournament with few who present as threatening, a strong ball-striker with a track record to match has my attention. In fact, given the variables, I thought that his odds would be shorter, so hurl something his way. Shared the lead at the midpoint last year and went out in the last pairing in the finale en route to a T4. Also proven to be streaky, so it doesn’t suck that he’s 7-for-7 in 2021.