Whereas last week’s Phoenix Open maintained its historical trends of being dominated by Americans, recent Honda Classic renewals suggest we may witness something closer to the home wipeout seen previously at the WGC Match Play. Four of the last five winners came from overseas, although form prior to 2007 is of little relevance as that year saw a change of venue.
Course and stats
Since moving to PGA National, three significant trends can be identified. Firstly, scoring has been difficult and the leaderboard closely bunched. Defending champion YE Yang’s nine-under-par is the lowest winning total here to date.
Secondly, outsiders have thrived. Yang and 2007 champion Mark Wilson were huge prices pre-tournament, with the latter winning a play-off between four 100/1+ shots. Thirdly, inexperience doesn’t appear to be much of a handicap, because a third of those to make the top five were playing either their first or second full season on this tour.
Having said that, it’s not clear that any particular ‘type’ of player is particularly well or badly suited to PGA National. The most important stats to follow are greens in regulation, scrambling and putting average.
2pts ew ERNIE ELS @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
While I’m generally tempted to give Ernie a wide berth these days, after so many final-day disappointments, he looks a very likely candidate at a decent price, back at the scene of his last PGA Tour victory. His plan to focus more on the States appears to paying some dividends, with top-12 finishes on all three strokeplay starts this year. Ernie lives just down the road, and always says he thrives when not having to travel. Indeed, he is talking a very good game about his chances this week.
1.5pts ew TIM CLARK @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Few players have thrown away as many good winning opportunities in the States than Clark, but while that would normally be a deterrant to backing someone, 40/1 is just too big about Clark. His last five strokeplay starts have yielded three top tens and he looked in decent nick at the World Match Play. This will be Clark’s course debut, but the profile of a tough, short par-70 is perfect for his accurate game. It’s hard to see him being too far away.
1pt ew STEPHEN AMES @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
Ames is making his PGA National debut, but his record on similar courses in Florida suggests he should have no trouble getting along with it. Three of the Canadian’s four PGA Tour titles came in the Sunshine State, including the recent Children’s Miracle Network Classic. Ames is generally very reliable in terms of hitting greens in regulation, which should ensure he stays within touch on a course where par is rarely a bad score.
1pt ew JASON DUFNER @ 80/1 (GENERAL, 90/1 STAN JAMES)
Last year was definitely Dufner’s best to date, with six top tens on the PGA Tour, and he looked a particularly improved player when finishing third behind Tiger at Kingston Heath in Australia. It must therefore bode well that he’s made the top 15 two years running at PGA National, and two top 20s already this year confirm that he remains in decent form.
0.5pt ew CHAD COLLINS @ 110/1 (BET365, BOYLESPORTS, STAN JAMES)
Collins gave us a good run for our money in a weaker event last time out, and continues to impress as one of the better Nationwide Tour graduates. All three renewals at this course have seen at least one of those rookies make the top five, so it could pay to stick with the one in the best current form. Collins’ short-game stats suggest they’ll be an asset around here, and another positive lies in the fact he won on his last visit to Florida in October.
Jones was one of those Nationwide Tour graduates to make the frame at PGA National, when finishing fourth in 2008. The Australian’s wider form at both levels show that, while lacking consistency, he contends quite regularly, and that’s enough to warrant a small each-way interest at a big price in an event where outsiders often thrive. Two of his five starts so far this year have yielded top tens.
2010 STATS: +27pts