The PGA Tour launches the Florida swing at one of the toughest courses of the season with PGA National hosting the Honda Classic.
The 7,125-yard par 70 tests all aspects of a golfer’s game, with water hazards ready to punish errant ball striking, as the perilous three-hole closing stretch known as the Bear Trap provides a severe examination.
Hitting plenty of greens in regulation will be important, along with strong scrambling skills in the wind and confidence putting on Bermuda greens.
Former world number one Brooks Koepka tees up in Florida this week but the 11/1 shot offers minimal appeal with his form outside of the majors continuing to underwhelm. English golfer Tommy Fleetwood is the 10/1 favourite but is still looking for a first win in America and is easily swerved this week.
Erik Van Rooyen – Each Way
Erik Van Rooyen produced an excellent showing at last week’s World Golf Championship and could continue this form by challenging at PGA National’s Champion Course.
The South African contended at the Mexico Championship and did not look overawed competing with some of the best players in the world. A second-round 62 fired him into contention and a tie for third, having hit 72.2 per cent of greens in regulation, was a huge confidence boost heading into this week’s event.
Van Rooyen’s strength is his tee-to-green game and this quality ball-striker should relish the stiff assignment in Florida. The world number 40 has steadily climbed up the rankings and landed his first European Tour title last summer with victory at the Scandinavian Invitation. The 30-year-old’s growing reputation was enhanced last year after finishing eighth at the PGA Championship, held at Bethpage Black.
Van Rooyen is increasingly comfortable competing in high profile tournaments and looks well equipped to feature prominently again this week at 40/1.
Never give up. Tough start today, but happy with how I fought back! Onto tomorrow! 😀🙏🏻#WGCMexico pic.twitter.com/1B5Cs3BIA3
— Erik van Rooyen (@FredVR_) February 21, 2020
Wyndham Clark – Each Way
Wyndham Clark is an emerging talent and this week represents another decent opportunity to threaten a maiden PGA Tour title.
Clark made a big impression at PGA National 12 months ago, contending for the win before finishing in a tie for seventh place. His aggressive approach play paid off in the first three rounds before a tough final 18 holes scuppered his hopes of victory.
Clark will have benefited from the experience and has featured on leaderboards on a number of occasions over the last year. The 26-year-old finished fifth at the 3M Open last summer and was eighth at the CJ Cup in Korea. Clark shot a stunning opening round of 61 at the Phoenix Open at the start of this month and claimed back-to-back top 20s at Pebble Beach and the Genesis Invitational.
Ranked 19th for strokes gained putting, Clark is worth backing at 66/1 to contend again in Florida this week.
Charl Schwartzel – Each Way
Charl Schwartzel has plummeted down the world rankings but the former Masters champion can start his resurgence with a big performance in Florida.
Schwartzel missed much of last season due to a wrist injury but made a strong comeback, finishing third at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek. Three missed cuts at the start of this year was a concern but he snapped out of this run with a tie for fifth place at Pebble Beach earlier this month.
Schwartzel has four top 20s from six appearances at this tournament with fifth place his best result in 2012. The 35-year-old is extremely comfortable competing in Florida and notably won the nearby Valspar Championship four years ago.
The former world number six is motivated to return towards the top of the sport and this class act looks overpriced at 80/1.
Matthew NeSmith – Each Way
Matthew NeSmith has made an impressive start to life on the PGA Tour and could contend at a big price.
NeSmith has made all five cuts this year and his results are steadily improving. The American finished 11th at the Pebble Beach Pro Am and comes in off a promising sixth-place finish at the Puerto Rico Open last weekend.
NeSmith won the Boise Open last year on the Korn Ferry Tour to earn his spot at the top table and appears to be gaining confidence by the week. Ranked 14th for greens in regulation and 20th for total birdies, NeSmith’s all-round game could yield a PGA Tour win this season.
This will be his first look at PGA National but his recent form suggests he should not be dismissed as an each-way runner at 80/1.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee – Each Way
Kyoung-Hoon Lee is another big-priced runner worth support this week at PGA National.
Lee took a liking to the demanding course 12 months ago after three under-par rounds helped him secure a tie for seventh place. The South Korean appears to be growing in confidence after gaining experience on the PGA Tour and looks well placed for a big performance in Florida.
Lee finished last year with fifth place at the RSM Classic and his last two tournaments produced encouraging results. The 28-year-old finished 13th at Riviera and followed this up with 14th place last week at the Puerto Rico Open. A return to PGA National is bound to spark positive memories from last season and Lee is a tempting outsider at 100/1 each way.