clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Fantasy Golf Picks — 2023 Honda Classic Picks, Predictions, Rankings and Sleepers

Pat Mayo breaks down the 2023 Honda Classic, making his picks and rankings for the event while previewing the course and key stats.

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2023 Honda Classic Picks.

Honda Classic FInal Bets, DraftKings Picks, Player Updates

2023 Honda Classic — Picks & Preview | Info & Research | Stats/Tools

Get link to PME RAKE FREE DraftKings Contest

2023 Honda Classic — DraftKings Picks | Netflix Full Swing Recap | Own Projections

Subscribe To the PME — YouTube | Apple | Spotify | Insta | Twitter | E-Mail

2023 Honda Classic: Field

Field: 144 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, Feb. 24
Defending Champ: Sepp Straka

The Florida swing kicks off with more of a whimper than a bang: This is the way the Honda end. This is the way the Honda ends. The unfortunate schedule placement of being the meat of a money sandwich has the Honda Class con death’s door. The last two weeks featured elevated events with $20M prize pools. The next two? Bay Hill ($20M purse) and THE PLAYERS ($25M purse). The $8.4M offered up in Palm Beach Garden is incentive enough for all the top stars to take a bye week.

Well, almost all the top stars. The inclusion of Honda regulars Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry, and Billy Horschel is the only thing separating the 2023 Honda Classic from a mid-tier DP World Tour event. It’s not all bad, though; if you’re hardcore. Min WOOOO Lee, Thomas Derty, and Adrian Meronk are bringing some international cred to the event. While Alex Noren, Matt Kuchar, JT Poston, Aaron Wise, Chris Kirk, Davis Riley, Denny McCarthy, Harris English, Danny Willett, Cam Davis, Jhonny Vegas, Taylor Pendrith, and defending champ Sepp Straka are all looking to jump start their seasons.

Pierceson Coody won in Panama on the Korn Ferry Tour a few weeks back. It was his second victory on the KFT in his past 13 starts but he has missed three of four cuts in 2023 to go along with that win.

2023 Honda Classic: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained
Total Driving Gained (Spilt 70% DD + 30% DA)
Opportunities Gained

Mayo’s Key Stats powered by

2023 Honda Classic: Course

PGA National (Champion)
Par: 70
Yardage: 7,125
Greens: Bermuda

Par 3s

A pair of sub-180 yard Par 3’s (the other two are over 215)

All four played over par last season with a bogey or worse rate of over 19% for each of them

Par 5s

Just two Par 5’s (two easiest holes on the course last season)

Scoring is critical: both had birdie rates north of 30%, and no other hole on the course had even a 20% birdie rate

Par 4s

Three Par 4’s check in under 400 and two exceed 475 (the two toughest holes on the course)

The 10-11 stretch is as tough as it gets, both posting a bogey or worse rate of over 26%

2023 Honda Classic: Past Winners

2022: Sepp Straka -10
2021: Matt Jones -12
2020: Sungjae Im -6
2019: Keith Mitchell -9
2018: Justin Thomas -8
2017: Rickie Fowler -12
2016: Adam Scott -9
2015: Paddy Harrington -6

2022: Sepp Straka (-10, one clear of Shane Lowry)

  • He was 7-back after Thursday but carded the best round of the tournament with a 64 on Friday
  • Of the top-24 finishers, 22 gained strokes on approach (Lowry and Kitayama were top-3 in approach and on the final leaderboard)

2021: Matt Jones (-12, five clear of Brandon Hagy)

  • He was the Round 1 leader after 18 holes after firing a 61
  • 17 of the top-18 finishers gained Good Drives on the field (eight of them were below average in distance)

2020: Sungjae Im (-6, one clear of Mackenzie Hughes)

  • The every-other-day approach was enough … 66’s on Friday and Sunday got him to the finish line despite being outside the top 50 after Thursday

2019: Keith Mitchell (-9, one clear of Rickie Fowler/Brooks Koepka)

  • Nothing spectacular, but no worse than 70 in all four rounds with a final round of 67 being enough to hold off the field.
  • The top-11 finishers all gained distance off the tee and GIRs on the field

2018: Justin Thomas (-8, playoff win over Luke List)

  • He was just a shot back after Thursday and his 65 on Saturday was the round of the day
  • The top-12 finishers all gained strokes putting. In fact, of the top-6 putters for the week, five finished the week T-8 or better.

2017: Rickie Fowler (-12, four clear of Morgan Hoffman and Gary Woodland)

  • He posted a top-5 round in each of the first three days (66-66-65), allowing him to cruise to victory on Sunday
  • Handle the short putts and survive the long ones. Seven of the top-9 finishers gained strokes BOTH from 0-5 and 5-10 feet on the ground. But seven of the top-9 finishers lost strokes in either the 20-25 foot or the 25+ foot bucket.

2023 Honda Classic: Notes

This is like going from the Forest Temple to the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. Riviera famously features no water whatsoever. One simple cross-country flight later, and the field is loading up on extra sleeves. That or advanced swimmingly lessons.

The water/sand combo makes this an extremely difficult scrambling course. The GIR rate is only 60% (against the TOUR average of 66%) and the historic scrambling percentage is just 55% for the field. Normally, you’d assume a short game would be a defining trail of winners at PGA National, but you’re not thinking of scrambling in the proper context. Yes, being solid around the greens is important. Unsurprisingly, no amount of chipping wizardry can mitigate wet tee shots. A missed GIR this week doesn’t mean putting from the fringe, it may mean attempting to get it up and down from 163 yards after a drop. No, not every time, but if you’re like me, you always think of worst-case scenarios with golf.

Get Access to Complete Customizable XFL Projections & Optimizer

While the omnipresent aqua lurks menacingly like the mysterious, new boyfriend in every true-crime drama, there are ungodly difficult stretches on the scorecard. Stretchesssssss. Plural. The Bear Trap, (holes 15/16/17) gets its own dedicated TV feed, so obviously everyone knows how tough that plays. However, hole 5/6/7 have played equally arduous. Almost to the number. Since 2007, each troika has finished almost an identical +0.638 over par; give or take a few thousands of a stroke. They tie for the fourth most difficult three-hole stretches on the PGA TOUR (non-majors, of course). They may not have a catchy name, PGA LIVE feed, or Insta-friendly statue, but when you scan your lineups Thursday and wonder how a guy you rostered fired an 80, go take a quick gander at these six holes. The Bear Trap is death by a thousand paper cuts, while holes 5-7 yank you off the stage around the neck with crooked numbers.

Over 1,600 balls have been hit into the water in The Bear Trap since 2007. For the first time in course history, no player made it through The Bear Trap without making a bogey in 2021. It didn’t play as tough as it could have, though. Yes, the field was a combined +230 for the week, which was down from +277 in 2020 and the all-time high of +516 in 2018.

PGA National is annually one of the toughest courses on TOUR. Water is in play on 15 holes at PGA National which means the pro shop could triple the price of sleeves and still sell out before noon. Over 6,200 balls have plunged into the water since 2007. If Florida had beavers they’d have an intricate dam constituted at this point to water the grounds without electronic irrigation. There are also 67 sand traps scattered across the grounds, and they’re not simple up-and-down bunkers. They’re going to cause problems.

Oh, and the wind. No, not the Arlen boys soccer team, the swirling and gusting of air fostered by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun in combination with its own rotation. The wind generally rears its gusty head in Palm Beach Gardens, which transforms a tough course into one with scorecard colors not normally seen on our reflection spectrum.

You’d think a course under 7,200 yards would favor almost any skill set. Logically, the more accurate, shorting-hitting players would have an advantage by not always being in the water. That hasn’t been the case, however. Recent history has leaned toward the longer hitters by the time Sunday concludes. Like with the low scrambling number, PGA National has one of the lowest driving distance averages of any course: 272 yards compared to the TOUR average of 283 yards. The thing is since the deep drivers must lay up, their accuracy greatly improves, yet they still have the benefit of the short clubs onto greens. It makes the two par 5s far more gettable, and longer hitters may have an advantage in cutting through the wind if it picks up.

For the past few years, the cut line has been +2/+4/+3/+6.

DraftKings Notes

Showdown: There is a mini-hack for DraftKings lineups. Since birdie streaks are going to be sparse this week, players starting on hole No. 10 have a slightly better chance of running three in a row together and earning those very valuable bonus points. Hole No. 18, Par 5, is the second easiest on the course. Hole No. 1 is the third easiest (18% birdie rate), so if you can get lucky on No. 2, you’re going streaking. The other turn (8-9-10) has a pair of easy holes, but #10 is the second toughest hole on the course (just a 7% birdie rate)

2022: 42 players scored over 55 DK points … only two of the top-6 in DK pricing made that list. Six of the top-9 DK scorers were priced at $7,500 or cheaper.

2021: Seven of the top-9 scorers were priced at $7,600 or cheaper (five came in under $7,000). The top-3 in DK pricing all finished outside of the top-15 DK scorers for the week.

2020: Five of the top eight in DK pricing didn’t play the weekend, but two of the three that did, finished top-3 in DK scoring for the week. None of the top-7 DK scorers were priced between $7,200-$8,700.

2019: Stars and scrubs SZN. There were 10 players to score 75+ DK points … six were priced under $7,500 and three were priced over $10,500.

2018: It was all or nothing at the top. Four of the 10 golfers priced $9,000 or higher failed to make the cut, but two of the five priced over $10,000 were among the five highest DK scorers for the week (JT and Noren).

2017: Fowler was the 2nd most expensive golfer ($11,900) and he paid it off with 113 DK points (the only player to reach triple figures). That said, he was the only of nine golfers priced over $8,500 to score 75+ DK points (nine players priced $7,500 or cheaper reached 75 DK points).

2023 Honda Classic Picks

Min WOO Lee

Bound to be underpriced being a full-time international player, Min WOOOOOOO has been churning out quality results over the past six months. He’s made eight consecutive cuts worldwide, never finishing worse than T13 in that stretch. That includes five Top 5 results, the most recent coming at the DPWT opener in Abu Dhabi when lost by a stroke. The Aussie has played wind-influenced tracks well in his career. Just look at his win at the Scottish Open and he is third in this field in driving distance.

Get link to PME RAKE FREE DraftKings Contest

Jhonny Vegas

Vegas is just waiting to crush all of our souls. He’s off to a hot start (by his standards) in 2023, finishing Top 25 at Farmers and Phoenix, and making the cut at Riviera. Now, the Genesis result isn’t going to be pretty, but a deeper dive into his numbers shows an excellent ball-striking week submarined by weak chipping and outright disastrous putting. The cold putter is nothing new, but he has experienced a modicum of success on the PGA National greens in his career. Again, by his standards. He’s made each of his past six cuts at the Honda Classic and gained putting three of the past four years.

Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time.

Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy, and Traditional Season Long Fantasy).

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.