Four-hundred-yard drives and 180-yard pitching wedges are now a thing of the past, as the PGA Tour shifts from the high altitude of Mexico City to the sunshine state and The Honda Classic.
The tour returns to Palm Beach Gardens and PGA National to kick off the Florida swing in what has become as close to a home game as there is on the schedule. With Palm Beach and the Jupiter area home to dozens of tour pros, the Champion Course at PGA National is a chip shot away and a convenient locale for many of the game’s best.
Defending champ Keith Mitchell returns to The Bear Trap a year after securing his first ever PGA Tour win at the Honda. Mitchell drained a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the event by one stroke over Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler.
Speaking of Koepka, he will be back on the course after skipping last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship. Koepka has slipped to No. 3 in the official world golf rankings over the last two weeks and will be playing in just his second PGA Tour event of the year.
2017 Honda Classic champion Rickie Fowler also returns after a week off, while 22-year-old Viktor Hovland will try and go back-to-back after winning his first-career tour event at last week’s Puerto Rico Open
In all, six of the top twenty players in the OWGR will tee it up at the Champion Course at PGA National, which is traditionally considered one of the most difficult layouts on the PGA Tour schedule. Consistent winds combined with a hazardous three-hole stretch (No. 15 through No. 17) known as The Bear Trap traditionally equals high drama at the Honda.
Here’s who to keep an eye on this week in Palm Beach Gardens.
Nuts and Bolts
February 27-March 1
The Honda Classic
PGA National- Champion Course
7,125 yards, Par 70
Brooks Koepka (12/1)
No one has ever dared to question Brooks Koepka’s skill set but he would be the first one to tell you that getting himself motivated week in and week out on the PGA Tour is a struggle. It’s why Koepka has dominated the majors and has just three other non-major wins on tour.
After a mediocre 2020 debut at the Genesis, Koepka returns to the golf course with some heavy motivation. He has not only been knocked from the No. 1 ranking in the world by Rory McIlroy, but Jon Rahm overtook him last week at No. 2.
Koepka played very well at PGA National one year ago with three rounds in the 60s, including a hard charging final round 66 that fell just one stroke shy of the lead. The Champion course traditionally rewards longer drivers of the ball who can gain strokes on the field putting well on the TifEagle Bermuda Greens. Koepka checks those boxes.
Billy Horschel 33/1
The ultimate Florida Gator returns to his home state playing some solid golf. Horschel is fresh off consecutive top-10 finishes at the Waste Management Open and WGC-Mexico Championship where he closed with a 68 and 65 on the weekend.
Horschel placed T-16 at last year’s Honda and went T-8 and T-4 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. He currently ranks 16th in SG: Putting and 32nd in SG: Off the Tee.
Ryan Palmer 66/1
The 2019 Honda was a classic case of too little too late for Palmer. His final round 63 vaulted him up the leaderboard on Sunday but fell just short, leaving him two strokes off the lead for a T-4 finish.
Palmer is considered one of the better wind players on the PGA Tour. In breezy conditions to begin the year, the Northwest Texan reeled off three consecutive top-25 finishes including a T-4 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
A week off has hopefully erased his bunker debacle (six shots) at the Genesis from his mind. He currently ranks 20th on tour in SG: Off the Tee.
Lucas Glover (90/1)
Glover has certainly not been lighting it up of late but his track record at PGA National is tough to ignore, especially at 90 to 1 odds.
After grinding out cuts at the Farmers and AT&T for top-50 finishes, Glover finished T-61 last week in Mexico City. He now returns to Palm Beach Gardens where he’s compiled four top-20 finishes including fourth place showings in 2019 and 2013.
Glover’s length off the tee will serve him well this week as long as his putter cooperates like it did one year ago when he gained 1.19 stokes on the field putting.