Congrats to Bubs for taking home the Genesis; wrapping up a week that included getting embarrassed at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Challenge, fighting off retirement demons, and holing a bunker shot so he could go to the bathroom. What a ride
This week, the TOUR Moves from Hollywood; home of the stars, to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; home of the PGA Tour players.
At least 14, yeah FOURTEEN of the players in this weeks field have homes within 45 minutes of the course. Whether the home cooking helps remains to be seen, but guys will certainly be familiar with the course.
Speaking of which, PGA National Champions Course is a Par 70 track measuring 7110 yards. In other words, its not too long and doesn’t have as many par-5’s as your typical PGA Tour stop. PGA National has played host to the 1983 Ryder Cup and 1987 PGA Championship, as well as being the host of the Honda for quite a while now.
Its the finishing stretch that gets everyone’s attention however. “The Bear Trap,” aptly named due to Jack Nicklaus’ design of the treacherous holes, spans Three holes from 15-17. Known as one of, if not THE toughest stretch of holes in golf, it starts at the 15th, a 190-yard Par-3 over water, then the Par-4 16th, also surrounded by aqua, and wraps up with another par-3, the 17th, a 180-yarder surrounded by, you guessed it, water. The trio of Nos. 15-17 has accounted for 18 percent of all bogeys in the event, 33 percent of all double bogeys and 38 percent of all triples or worse. And to wrap it all up, The 18th is no slouch either. Although it is a Par-5, giving contenders one last chance to make up ground on the field, that finish is sure to create some drama.
Rickie Fowler, one of the many who lives minutes from PGA National Resort, returns to defend his title against a strong lineup that includes Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy , Tiger Woods and Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who arrives to make his first U.S. start of 2018. Fowler ended a nearly 14-month victory drought here with a four shot win over Gary Woodland and Morgan Hoffman last year – pulling away from the field with a Saturday 65.
Joining Fowler, Woods et al, will be 10 of the top 25 in the Current World Rankings.
Tiger Prediction: I went into it a bit on the podcast, but I DO think he makes the cut this week. He’s going to have to avoid the big number to do so; the water on this course providing his biggest obstacle. With that being said though, his short game should make a huge difference this week. There aren’t as many Par-5’s, which would usually not be a good thing for Tiger, but with his lack of prowess off the tee that’s not a bad thing for Woodsy. Historically the winning number has been around 10-under, so I like Tiger to shoot between 68 and 72 all four days (Par is 70 this week) and finish around 30th. Missing the cut isn’t the end of the world, but two in a row would be more of a blow to his ego than anything. Tiger wasn’t far off last week, hopefully he sharpens things up a bit this time around and really begins to move things in the right direction for Augusta.
This Weeks Picks
- Rickie Fowler
Coming off a victory here last year, Rickie has the most Strokes Gained Total in the field on this course over the past five seasons. In that stretch he has a win, a Sixth, and two other top-25 finishes. Add in an 11th in his last PGA Tour start, and Rickie looks poised to repeat. Or at least contend.
- Justin Thomas
Justin may not have the best course history here (2 cuts in 3 attempts), but the one time he did play the weekend, he finished in 3rd. Where he earns his pick is in his recent form, with three straight top-20 finishes this season; 9th, 17th and 14th
- Sergio Garcia
Sergio will be making his 2018 PGA Tour debut this week, and this is the perfect course for it. His last four starts at the Honda have yielded 14th, 2nd, 31st and 8th places finishes.
- Adam Scott
Although he’s slipped to his lowest point in the world rankings in years, and hasn’t played enough to show that he’s in good form, I’m taking a chance on Scott this week. The reason being his exceptional play on this course in the past. In his last three starts Adam has posted a Win here, as well as a 12th and 14th place finish. I look for him to get back into contention at a course he loves.
- Scott Stallings
Recent form is everything you need to look at for Scott. His last three starts? 4th, 7th and 23rd. I’ll take it. He hasnt fared too well at PGA National in the past, his best finish a 21st, but at his price point with those recent finishes, Scott is hard to avoid.
- Russell Knox & Chesson Hadley
I lean Hadley, here but didn’t want to leave Russell out of the mix. Both have their strengths and weaknesses coming into the week, so hopefully at least one of them is able to pull through. Knox’s starts as of late have left him with Four Top-30 finishes, a high of 10th at the Sony and 15th at Pebble. Here at PGA National he is coming off a MC in his latest trip, but before that a 26th, a 3rd and a 2nd.
Hadley comes in playing a little more consistent, but with maybe less of a ceiling. In Four starts this year he has made all 4 cuts, but has just one top 20 finish; a 5th at the Waste Management. In his young PGA Tour career, Hadley holds two top-25 finishes here at the Honda, with one Missed Cut
- Sam Saunders
So hot right now. Four straight top-26 finishes and a top-15 in his only start at PGA National. Simple as that.
- Ryan Palmer
If not for a MC last week, Palmer would be at the top of the list. Prior to that, his last three finishes were 2nd, 20th and 58th. He also has some good history at the Honda; coming 2nd in 2014 and making the Cut in each of the last 5 years here, with his WORST finish being 41st.
- Charles Howell III & Graeme McDowell
Torn again on my final pick. One has good recent form, one has good course history. Chucky is coming off four straight top-40 finishes, going 27th, 6th, 20th and 32nd so far, but in his last 5 starts at PGA National his best finish is 29th.
McDowell on the other hand, has only two starts on the PGA Tour this year. 26th last week and a MC, however his course history is fantastic. In his last 5 appearances Graeme has Three top-15’s, highlighted by a 5th in 2016 and a 9th in 2013.
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