Bubba Watson closed out the west coast swing with a win at the Genesis Open last week and the PGA Tour now heads back to the east coast for the Honda Classic. PGA National is a difficult 7,158-yard, par-70 layout that is most famous for the Bear Trap (holes 15-17), which continues to be one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour each year. Due to the combination of its tough to hit fairways and winds that are forecasted to be 15-25 MPH, an emphasis is going to be placed on ball striking at PGA National this week.
In addition to ball striking, key statistics to consider when constructing a roster this weekend are strokes gained: approach, par 4 scoring, and scrambling. Also, with windy conditions and a course that features a ton of water, total driving will be important to take note of when selecting players.
- Sergio Garcia: $11,900
- Tommy Fleetwood: $11,300
- Gary Woodland: $10,700
- Jason Dufner: $10,300
- Tom Hoge: $7,900
- David Lingmerth: $7,900
Remaining Salary: $0
Since we’re looking for great ball strikers this week, I am going to start my build around Sergio Garcia. In 2017, Garcia ranked fourth in ball striking on the PGA Tour and he has been excellent in windy conditions throughout his entire career. Even though he has only played one event thus far in 2018, a 32nd place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic, Garcia has been steady at PGA National and has made every cut here dating back to 2014 while posting three top-15 finishes. He also ranked 15th in par 4 scoring during the 2017 season, which is a crucial statistic to look at on a par 70 layout.
Tommy Fleetwood continues to play like one of the top players in the world. Prior to making the cut at last week’s Genesis Open, Fleetwood won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and then posted a sixth-place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic. Fleetwood’s elite play comes from his ability to hit greens at a higher rate than almost anyone. In 2017, Fleetwood was first on the European Tour in GIR at 77.4% and he has continued to flourish in 2018 by hitting 74.5% of GIR. His ownership could also be down a bit after a difficult 37th place finish at Riviera last week.
After a disappointing missed cut at Pebble Beach, Gary Woodland is a prime candidate to rebound at PGA National this week. Prior to the MC, Woodland won the Waste Management Open and posted a T12 and T7 in his two events prior. Woodland is ranked first in ball striking and sixth in total driving to start the 2018 season. When it comes to this week’s windy conditions and tough course, these two statistics are as important as they come and will set a player like Woodland apart from a large part of the field. He also finished second here to Rickie Fowler in 2017.
Another player who is sitting at a bit of an elevated price point is Duf Daddy. Jason Dufner has made all three of his cuts in 2018, but he has yet to finish inside the top-10. As the twelfth-most expensive golfer in this week’s field, people are likely to scroll right by him on their way down to the $9,000 range. That could be a mistake because Dufner’s course history is about as good as anyone’s in the field, as he has made all eight of his cuts at PGA National. His strokes gained totals don’t really pop this season, but he ranks 27th in par-4 scoring which is key for this event.
Since the first four players I am rostering are all over $10,300, I am completely bypassing the $8,000-$9,900 range in my build which is likely to be contrarian in tournaments. Instead, I am rounding out my team with two players who sit at $7,900. Tom Hoge comes into this tournament in solid form, making five of his six cuts thus far in 2018, highlighted by a T12 at the Farmers Open. While Hoge’s strokes gained statistics aren’t the greatest, he hits 65.4% of his greens in regulation and ranks 21st in scrambling which is crucial on a tougher course.
While Hoge is justified by recent form and scrambling statistics, David Lingmerth is more of a gut call than anything else. Lingmerth has gone T75, MC, and T57 in his past three tournaments, so the form obviously hasn’t been there but he ranks 28th in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour this season. Prior to an MC at this event last year, Lingmerth actually made the cut at the Honda Open for three straight years, which included an eighth-place finish. On a course with difficult fairways and a number of water hazards, Lingmerth’s accuracy off the tee could propel him towards a weekend tee time.