2022 Honda Classic Round 2 Buys & Picks: Look To Kramer Hickok For Big Friday Move & Fade First-Round Leader

2022 Honda Classic Round 2 Buys & Picks: Look To Kramer Hickok For Big Friday Move & Fade First-Round Leader article feature image

Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kramer Hickok (USA)

  • After Round 1 at the Honda Classic, Kurt Kitayama sat atop the leaderboard.
  • Chris Murphy sees value elsewhere and suggests not backing the leader.
  • Check out his breakdown and predictions at PGA National below.

As expected in the opening round of the Honda Classic, players found PGA National to be a grind throughout their opening 18 holes. There were some birdies and a couple of eagles, but also plenty of bogeys, double bogeys and "others." Forty-four players made it through Thursday under par, with Kurt Kitayama leading the way with an opening round 6-under 64.

Kitayama made just one bogey in his opening 18, and bunched together three birdies to start his day and four more late in the round. He will take a one-shot lead into Friday over former Honda Classic Champion Rory Sabbatini. They both took advantage of the morning conditions, while Daniel Berger and Chris Kirk were able to match Sabbatini's 5-under 65 from the afternoon wave.

There were plenty of other names that saw their day go in the other direction including one of the pre-tournament favorites, Louis Oosthuizen, who shot a 5-over 75. The worst round of the day went to young Matthew Wolff, who continues an up-and-down stretch of golf that dates back to this time last year.

As we look for buys and fades, the key this week will be dialing in on the players who have their entire bag in order from tee to green. All of the past four winners have ranked first in that metric at the end of the week, so we will be looking to add some buys that were strong in that category on Thursday.

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Strokes Gained Explanation

Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly played by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.

Using the millions of data points it collects, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.

Every situation in golf is different. Strokes Gained measures how players perform relative to the situation.

In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics:

  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
  • Strokes Gained: Approach
  • Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
  • Strokes Gained: Putting
  • Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)

In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.

You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

Watching the play on Thursday morning, Billy Horschel was one player who really stuck out as playing well tee to green, but leaving shots out there with his putter. He simply couldn't get any of his birdie looks to drop, and he had plenty as he gained better than two strokes on the field on approach. Horschel holed just over 53 feet of putts across his round on Thursday with his longest coming from only 8-feet-9-inches.

The Florida Gator started 2022 with some solid finishes, including a T-6 just a few weeks ago at the WM Phoenix Open. He will roll out in the afternoon on Friday at PGA National as he looks to get a little hotter on the greens and position himself for a late tee time going into Saturday. The names around and ahead of him provide us with decent odds going into Round 2, but the best buying opportunity is likely in matchups and DFS.

One player who sticks out to me with some potential to move up the board and be in the mix this weekend is Kramer Hickok. He recently talked about how he just seems to play well around PGA National and has a certain comfort level on this course that he doesn't necessarily feel at other venues early in the year.

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He showed that a bit on Thursday as he opened the week with a 1-under 69, carried by an iron game that gained 3.44 shots on the field. Hickok had three birdies and an eagle, but it was a poor bunker shot on the fourth hole that kept him from posting a lower score. He lost 1.39 shots to the field around the green on that hole as he posted a double bogey six. If he can keep the ball striking heading in the right direction when he gets back out there on Friday morning, he is a player that I like as a cheap DFS option and for a Top 20 type of finish on the week.

Shane Lowry was a popular player to start the week and he really didn't do much to disappoint on Thursday. He got through the day with an even par round, but he was really stung by two bad shots that caused him trouble during the round.

The first was on his outward nine as he started on hole 10, and when he got to the last leg of the Bear Trap he left his second shot in the bunker at the Par 3 17th. It cost him a bogey. He would bounce back with a birdie on the 18th, but when he got to the second Par 5 of the day, a wayward tee shot caused him to have to play out sideways. He would drop another shot, this time on the hole that played as the easiest on the course in the opening round.

Overall, Lowry gained strokes in all metrics on Thursday outside of around the green, which is generally his strength. A closer look at those numbers show that it was a result of that extra-long stay in the bunker on 17 where he lost more than a stroke to the field. He's someone I will look to bounce back with a low round on Friday and maybe even get himself within a few shots of the lead going into moving day at PGA National.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

There was just nothing to lean on to see this opening round coming from Kurt Kitayama. He had missed the cut on TOUR in each of his first four events of the year, only gaining strokes in two of those first 10 rounds of 2022. His 6-under 64 is part of the reason we love golf — any given day these pros can put it all together and go low even on the toughest of tracks. I do, however, have my doubts about Kitayama's ability to keep it going across four rounds.

I don't have any stats from Thursday that are going to lead us to believe that he will fall back on Friday, but recent history tells us that it's hard to expect him to continue to play well. The 2015 UNLV grad has just two made cuts in his last 12 tournaments on the PGA TOUR and only one of his last fiver on the DP World Tour. He will garner some attention following his low opening round in several markets, but I'll fade him with the expectation he may fall back on Day 2.

I've got some interest in Danny Willett this week, especially in DFS, but I have some concerns about him going into Friday. He certainly started hot with three straight birdies and was able to hold those together by the end of the day to finish at 3-under on the round.

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My concern going into Round 2 is how his game started to fade down the final nine holes. The former Masters Champion lost strokes on approach on each of his last four iron shots, one of which at 16 cost him a bogey. Willett won in the fall on the DP World Tour, but hasn't had much form since that time. He seemed to get bailed out a bit by a hot putter on Thursday, which masked some of his deficiencies with his ball striking — that is where my concern lies as we head into Friday.

There aren't a lot of guys who stick out otherwise on the strokes gained side as the players near the top really stand out above the rest of the field tee to green. I'm going to pick on Martin Contini because he is new to this stage.

One train of thought may be that he is playing as well as anyone in the field after he rolled through Monday Qualifying to get into this event, but my concern is the stage for the 27 year-old Argentinian. He will be sleeping tonight with his name on the first page of the leaderboard at a PGA Tour event for the first time in his career and that can be difficult to follow up, which is the crux of my fade.

If you need some stats to help, he did lose strokes to the field on approach on Thursday, but much of that came on one hole. He also gained on seven of his final nine iron shots, which would be another point for hesitation. I'm still going here mostly because it's tough to really peg others who stand out for the Friday fade.

StrokesGained Data for All Players in Round 1

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