Sungjae Im favored in Field With International Flavor at The 2023 Honda Classic. With two designated events on the PGA Tour in the last two weeks and two more in the next two weeks, many of the top PGA Tour stars are opting to skip The Honda Classic—the first of four-straight weeks of professional golf in the state of Florida.
There’s an international flavor to the event since many European players are looking to improve their Ryder Cup standing with the DP World Tour playing a lesser event in India and then off next week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Honda Classic began in 1972 and has been played on the Champion Course at PGA National since 2007. Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Mark Calcavecchia, and Padraig Harrington are the only two-time winners of the event.
The tournament record is held by Justin Leonard, who shot at 24-under 264 in 2003, but that was at the Country Club at Mirasol. The lowest score at PGA National is a 13-under 267, achieved by Camilo Villegas in 2010.
PGA National is home to five courses, and the Honda Classic is played on the Champion course, which has also hosted the Ryder Cup (1983) and PGA Championship (1987) since opening in 1981.
The course was redesigned by Nicklaus in 2002, and the tricky three-hole stretch from holes 15-17 is called “The Bear Trap,” as a nod to Nicklaus’s nickname of the Golden Bear. The biggest challenge on all three holes is water, as water borders three-quarters of the greens on the 15th and 17th while water is in play down the entire length of the fairway on the par-4 16th.
The Champion course measures 7,125 yards and is a par 70. Sepp Straka won last year’s event at 10-under, winning by one stroke over Shane Lowry in windy and rainy weather conditions over the final few holes. There is no rain in the forecast this time around with temperatures pushing 90 degrees, but wind is expected to be a factor throughout the tournament.
Two golfers who have had success here in recent years are the big favorites in Palm Beach Gardens.
Won this event in 2020 and followed it up with an eighth-place effort in 2021. He struggled last weekend in Riviera on his way to a 56th-place finish after sitting at -6 after the first two rounds. His two prior efforts from that were a fourth at Torrey Pines and a sixth at the WM Phoenix Open.
Nearly won here last year if it wasn’t for some bad luck in a final couple of holes thanks to the bad weather that rolled in. Like Im, Lowry hasn’t won in the past year on the PGA Tour, but he’s been awfully close. He also won one of the DP World Tour’s crown jewel events in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last September. He lives in nearby Jupiter, so this is a home game for him, and he’s made the cut all five times he’s participated in this tournament.
We saw Justin Rose break a long winless streak earlier this year.
Is trying to do the same this weekend. Kuchar, who last won in 2019, missed the cut at Pebble Beach but has top 10s in two of his four starts in 2023, including an eighth at Riviera. He hasn’t played here since 2011, but he does have a win in The Honda Classic in 2002.
Is looking to be the fourth first-time winner here in the last five editions of this tournament. Like Lowry, he is a resident of Jupiter so will feel at home this weekend. He proved that with a third-place finish in 2021, and he’s in good form with a top-10 at Pebble Beach and 14th last week at the Genesis Invitational.
Won The Memorial last year but has been somewhat quiet since. While consistency has been an issue, Horschel is the picture of consistency at PGA National. Since 2016, he has two top 10s and four finishes in the top 20 in six tries at The Honda Classic.
Became a first-time winner at the RSM Classic in Georgia last fall. He was quiet after that until coming back onto the scene with a ninth last week at Riviera. He’s also coming off a ninth-place finish in this event a year ago.
Is the defending champion and playing in good form, so these odds represent some good value for the Austrian. Last week’s 45th at the Genesis Invitational was his first start since the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, so he’s warmed up and ready to defend his title. He also had a hot streak at the end of last summer, losing in a playoff at both the FedEx St. Jude Championship and Sanderson Farms Championship and was seventh at the Tour Championship.
Was 25th here last year but played better than his result. He was one of just seven players with three rounds under par here, but a 74 in the third round derailed his weekend. Given that was his debut at PGA National, it’s to be expected on a tough course. Also expect the Canadian to learn from that experience.
Won this tournament for the second time in 2015 and has been a beast on the PGA Tour Champions. This is his first PGA Tour event of the season, but he’s coming off a runner-up finish at the Chubb Classic in Florida last weekend.
We like Im and Lowry as the favorites given their history here and their standing compared to the other golfers in this field. For value, McCarthy, Straka, and Kuchar are all worth looks as well.
|GOLFER||ODDS TO WIN THE 2023 HONDA CLASSIC|
|Min Woo Lee||+2200|
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