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Honda Classic 2021 expert picks: Our not-so-bold Lee Westwood prediction

Sam Greenwood

OK, it’s pat-ourselves-on-the-back time. After last week’s hit on Justin Thomas by two of our experts (Rick Gehman and Christopher Powers), our betting panel has now predicted four of the past six winners on the PGA Tour. The best part? Our experts were not alone last week. If you pay attention to those touting golf picks on social media, JT was a victory for the community. Some even grabbed him at even higher odds on Friday evening when he was seven back. Congrats to all. Congrats to us. Let’s keep it rolling.

It won’t be easy, though, especially at this week’s Honda Classic, which boasts one of the weakest fields in the history of the event. Will that lead to a win from one of the heavier favorites like Daniel Berger or defending champion Sungjae Im? Or will it be a longshot winner week, like when Michael Thompson won here in 2013?

As always, weather will make scoring extremely difficult at PGA National, one of the toughest courses each year on the PGA Tour. Decent winds are expected each day—and from different directions each round. As our guest on the Golf Digest “Be Right” podcast, NBC’s John Wood, explains in this week’s episode, that will really put a premium on ball-striking. Wood would know, having caddied here numerous times in his former days as a looper.

Keep scrolling to read the opinions of our experts—an anonymous tour caddie reporting from the Honda Classic; three of the best data scientists in the industry (Gehman; Pat Mayo and Brandon Gdula); plus expert handicapper Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports to help us make our picks.

Honda Classic 2021 expert picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the weekJoaquin Niemann (18-1) — This kid is an absolute grinder. He’s gotten longer—we were paired with him at the beginning of last year, and he wasn’t keeping up with my guy, who’s in the top 30-40 for distance. Now he’s noticeably longer, but he hasn’t lost his grind-it-out mentality. That will serve him well at Honda Classic: I really think this course suits him to a T.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Joaquin Niemann (18-1) — Niemann remains the premier ball-striker in this field, and while most might look at the Euros in these skill sets, he excels in the wind and on tough courses. Just pray he makes some putts.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Russell Henley (28-1) — I don’t try to overreact to a missed cut because a two-round sample isn’t very predictive compared to long-term data. The long-term data shows Henley as the best iron player in this field and has a good record at PGA National, including a 2014 win already.

Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Sungjae Im (12-1) — With Daniel Berger's WD, I'm not overthinking it ... going with the past champion in this really poor field.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Shane Lowry (25-1) — This is a grind-it-out type course, and that’s Lowry’s game. Recall his win at the WGC-Firestone in 2015, him holding the 54-hole lead at the ‘16 U.S. Open and of courses his Open Championship at Portrush in 2019. All those wins were on tough courses. He seemed to find something last week at the Players, gaining three strokes on approach, but most importantly, he gained on putting, which is Lowry’s weakness. Even if that regresses to average, Lowry can contend here.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Adam Scott (25-1) — Betting Scott this week reminds me a lot of betting JT last week, which worked out OK. Both are elite ball-strikers who were coming in with some meh finishes, so their odds ballooned. The difference with Scott: He’s at a juicy number in a much weaker field than the Players field. That makes it even more enticing. He should be in the teens odds-wise in this field, no matter how he’s playing coming in. And the thing is, he’s playing just fine, at least on approach and around the green. He even putted well last week. It was just a brutal few days off the tee for the Aussie, which happens to the best of ‘em at Sawgrass. JT was the value play at the Players, now it’s Scott at the Honda.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Sungjae Im (12-1) — Sungjae's solid ball-striking makes him ideal for this course, as we saw last year. It’s no surprise that he's ranked second in FanShare's course-suitability ranking. His form is solid, too, with six top-32 finishes in a row.

Results from last season: Golf Digest's betting panel is RED-HOT. Our experts have now predicted four of the past six winners—after going up 225.30 units last season. As we’ve said, our crew gets hot and tends to stay hot, so don’t miss out on our picks! Last week, Christopher Powers hit Justin Thomas’ victory (18-1) as did Rick Gehman. That’s each of their second accurate predictions of 2021, with Powers hitting Koepka (50-1) and Gehman calling Daniel Berger at Pebble Beach (14-1). Pat Mayo nailed Collin Morikawa at the WGC-Workday three events ago at 33-1 in addition to Koepka at the WMPO. And Brandon Gdula also called Berger’s win at Pebble Beach. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!

Honda Classic 2021 expert picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Byeong Hun An (55-1) — I’m a believer in horses for courses, and Ben An just has something figured out here—with a fourth-place and a fifth-place here in two of the past three years. The guy’s got the perfect sense of humor after making that mess at the 17th hole last week. If anything, that might alleviate some of the pressure he feels to win. Don’t forget he got his start on the European Tour, and this is the type of course where Europeans always play well.

Mayo: Chez Reavie (80-1) — Reavie ranks seventh in SG/total on Jack Nicklaus courses the past three seasons, per Fantasy National, Reavie gained a staggering 5.4 strokes against the field ball-striking in only two rounds, at The Players—and proceeded to drop 7.6 strokes chipping and putting. We don’t need him to putt great, just field average, and he should contend.

Gdula: John Huh (125-1) — I rarely bet guys this long for outrights, but hey, the field is pretty weak overall, and Huh has a path to success: He rates as one of the best adjusted tee-to-green performers in the field, per my database, over the past year and has had two top-25 finishes here over the past five years.

Gehman: Brandon Wu (60-1) — The line between the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour has never been more blurred. Not only because both tours are incredibly deep, but the shutdown last year meant that no PGA Tour player lost their card. That means there are likely plenty of guys on the Korn Ferry Tour who could (and should?) be on the big circuit. Brandon Wu is one of those golfers. He won on the KFT last summer and has rattled off four consecutive top-15s across both tours. His most recent start was on the PGA TOUR, a T-7 at the Puerto Rico Open.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Patton Kizzire (65-1) — I did also bet Keegan Bradley to win (50-1), which I made my “spicy nugget,” aka our hottest take, of the week on our Golf Digest “Be Right” podcast. I feel as confident in Patton Kizzire, but he’s a name less likely to get the people pumped (sorry Patton). I love the SG/approach numbers I’m seeing the past three weeks, including at the Players, where he gained 4.1 strokes/approach. Kizzire’s putter can get hot, which paired with the ball-striking numbers trending, should be a formula to contend at PGA National. 

Powers, Golf Digest: Harry Higgs (150-1) — I’ll fully admit, this is recency bias. I interviewed Higgs last Wednesday at Sawgrass and loved what I heard, and he backed it up with a really solid performance in his Players debut. That should bode well for this week at PGA National, where Higgs will look to gain strokes on approach for the eighth straight event. The irons are hot, and I can definitely see this being a week where we get a longshot winner. No longshot would be more fun to root for than Higgs.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Rory Sabbatini (80-1) — Sabbatini comes into this event ranked 29th in Opportunities Gained over the past two months, per FantasyNational.com. He will get even more opportunities here this week as he loves PGA National. He ranks 15th for SG/total over his career at PGA National and ranks 24th in FanShare’s course-suitability ranking.

Honda Classic 2021 expert picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Lee Westwood (22-1) — Sure, this is a little dangerous. But this is a prime week for check-out mode. Westy is likely to play the WGC-Match Play next week, and he's gearing up for the Masters with a Monday/Tuesday jaunt to Augusta. If he doesn't WD, I expect these old legs to be a little beat up come Thursday/Friday. Playing in the wind is tough on anybody: Especially someone who just spent the past two weekends battling in the final group.

Mayo: Sungjae Im (12-1) — I love Sungjae—he got me a win at this event last year, but the form hasn’t been great coming in. He’s competing every week with amazing driving and putting. The irons and short game have been weaaaakkkkkkkkkk. If the putter fails to show up in rounds one or two, that’s a recipe for a missed cut.

Gdula: Lee Westwood (22-1) — Westwood is playing at the top of his game, but that doesn’t always last for three weeks in a row even if it’s based in elite iron data. His number is too short, per my win simulations, and there are a number of others I’d rather bet at similar odds.

Gehman: Rickie Fowler (50-1) — I guess we will find out what happens when poor recent form runs into excellent course history! Fowler has off set two missed cuts at the Honda Classic with a win, a T-2 and a T-6—all in the past five years. However, it’s no secret that the last year for Fowler has been challenging. He hasn’t earned a top 10 since the 2020 American Express, 25 starts ago. He’s missed the cut in three of his last five and has struggled to put together four rounds in a row. With a big number constantly lurking at PGA National, I’m concerned about Fowler.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Sungjae Im (12-1) — This is a play on the number—kudos to those who bet him earlier in the year at the 30-1s available. I’m a huge Sungjae fan, but these odds are just too low.

Powers, Golf Digest: Lee Westwood (22-1) — To be honest, I will be stunned if he even makes it to the first tee. He said how tired he was last Sunday, then went to play 36 holes at Augusta National with his son. Now he’s got to get back to Jupiter and if and when he does, do we really think a 47-year-old who has played 180 holes of golf in 16 days (144 of them under intense pressure) can put together another strong 72 holes on a brutally difficult golf course? The man is on an absolute heater, no doubt, but it’s a big ask.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Doug Ghim (50-1) — A lot of people might fancy betting Ghim following his big spot last week, but be weary: Ghim ranks 103rd in FanShare’s course-suitability ranking this week. Most troubling is his poor historic data putting on fast Bermuda greens.

Honda Classic 2021 expert picks: Matchups

Caddie: Matt Wallace (+100) over Ian Poulter (Bet365) — Wallace’s game hasn’t been at that elite level we saw in, say, 2018-’19. But still, the guy has more firepower than Poulter and is a great wind player. I think even Poulter might admit he’s overmatched here.

Mayo: Brendan Steele (-112) over Rickie Fowler (DraftKings) — Maybe the familiar track will inspire a cameo from the old Rickie, but in no world should these two be a coin flip in March of 2021. Steele has won eight of the past 12 rounds they’ve played at the same course together.

Gdula: Wyndham Clark (-118) over K.H. Lee (FanDuel) — Clark has played near the baseline of an average PGA Tour golfer over the past year (-0.01 adjusted strokes gained per round in my database). Lee has not (-0.40). Clark should also get a boost with his distance.

Gehman: Kevin Streelman (-120) over Zach Johnson (DraftKings) — Johnson is playing with fire right now, relying on a hot putter to bail him out of trouble. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Johnson has lost a combined 10.15 strokes on approach in the past two weeks and has off set that with 12.41 SG/putting. Those starts account for two of his best three putting weeks since the start of the 2018 season. He’s staring regression in the face, and that’s a scary thought around PGA National.

Hennessey: Joaquin Niemann (-115) over Lee Westwood (PointsBet) — Some people expect Westwood to WD from the Honda after his Monday/Tuesday at Augusta. This is a lot of golf for a 47-year-old. It’s dangerous to be fading one of the hottest golfers in the world, but Niemann has fresher legs and is a popular pick to contend this week.

Powers: Adam Scott (-137) over Lee Westwood (DraftKings) — My winner over my fade. Seems like the obvious play. I’ll take any matchup I can get over Westwood this week (this won’t come back to haunt me).

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Rory Sabbatini (-120) over Patton Kizzire (Unibet) — As you can see above, I really like Sabbatini this week. On the other hand I expect Kizzire to struggle. He comes into this event ranked just 119th in the field for Opportunities Gained over the past two months. Although he should do well on this type of course, Kizzire ranks just 125th in the field this week for SG/total at PGA National.​

Matchup results from The Players: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Branden Grace (+105) over Rickie Fowler); Powers: 1 for 1 (Paul Casey (-112) over Will Zalatoris); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Matthew Fitzpatrick (-126) over Cameron Smith); Caddie, Gehman, Hennessey, Alldrick: 0 for 1.

Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Alldrick: 14-7-1 (up 5.67 units); Hennessey: 11-9-1 (up 1.11 units); Gdula: 11-11-0 (down 1.07 units); Mayo: 10-10-1 (down 0.47 units); Powers: 8-10-4 (down 2.54 units); Gehman: 7-13-2 (down 5.39 units); Caddie: 5-15-2 (down 9.08 units).

Honda Classic 2021 expert picks: Top 10 (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: James Hahn (+750) — He had those hot nine-hole stretches last week—it’s just a matter of putting it all together for him. Though the results don’t show it, he’s playing much better than the players in this similar odds range—I think there’s decent value here.

Mayo: K.H. Lee (+650) — K.H. Lee is a mixed bag in terms of results, but if you look at his career best finishes, they’re all on Bermuda tracks. So that’s step one. He’s made the cut in both appearances at PGA National, including a T-7 in 2019. The driving has had peaks in 2021 thus far, the irons have been fairly consistent, and the chipping has been boom or bust, hopefully this is the perfect course where they all align.

Gdula: Cameron Tringale (+350) — Tringale, like Henley, was cut last week, but TPC Sawgrass and PGA National don’t really require the same skill off the tee. Tringale’s missed cut had more to do with putting than anything else, too.

Gehman: Keegan Bradley (+450) — We are entering uncharted territory with Keegan Bradley, who is notoriously excellent from tee-to-green and struggles mightily with his putter. However, Bradley has gained strokes putting in each of his last two events. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, he hasn’t gained in that category for three consecutive events since July 2015. If Bradley can be anywhere close to an average putter this week, he’ll likely find himself on the first page of the leader board.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Adam Scott (+300) — In this field, Adam Scott should be able to find a top-10 even with an average week (for him) ball-striking. He was tinkering with a different driver shaft last week, which explains his poor ball-striking week, and these decent odds.

Powers, Golf Digest: Adam Long (+650) — After missing “100 cuts in a row” (his words, not ours), Long finally found something on the weekend at TPC Sawgrass. This week in Jupiter is a home game for him, and his family, who bailed on him last week, will be out in full force this time. I think we get an inspired performance out of the former AMEX winner.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Cameron Davis (+400) — Davis is playing some super golf right now tee to green. He comes into this event ranked first in SG/tee to green over the past two months and third in Opportunities Gained, per FantasyNational.com. He will enjoy taking this form to PGA National; he ranks 22nd in the field for strokes gained/total historically at PGA National and 19th in our course-suitability ranking.

Top-10 results from The Players: Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Corey Conners (+650); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Daniel Berger, +400); Everybody else: 0 for 1

Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 6 for 22 (up 16.1 units); Powers: 2 for 22 (down 5 units); Hennessey: 3 for 22 (down 7 units); Mayo: 2 for 22 (down 7 units); Tour caddie: 3 for 22 (down 9.45 units); Gdula: 2 for 22 (down 9 units); Alldrick: 0 for 21 (down 21 units).

One and Done pick

Gehman: Sungjae Im — Im provides the most “natural fit” for PGA National. Not only is he the defending champion but he’s proving spectacular in Florida during his young career. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Im is averaging 1.84 strokes gained per round in his 35 career rounds in the Sunshine State. That’s the best mark in this field by a wide margin (A. Scott is second, +1.23) and he comes in with Top 30 finishes at each of the previous three stops on this swing. He’ll need to improve his iron play if he wants to win, but the rest of his game has been sharp enough to create a steady floor.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. Players: Bryson DeChambeau

Hennessey: Adam Scott — I’m riding with my guy CP. He has the hot hand. He talked me into betting Adam Scott, now I’m riding his coattails with this OAD pick. Is he now sharp? I think the answer is yes, since he’s tied with our actual experts for most wins this season … that sentence pained me to type.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. Players: Jordan Spieth.

Powers: Adam Scott — All my eggs are in the Adam Scott basket this week. What could possibly go wrong?

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. Players: Tommy Fleetwood.

By The Numbers:

Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:

+1.904 The number of strokes over par that PGA National played, on average, last season. It was the third most difficult course on the PGA TOUR schedule.

2.20 — The number of strokes gained from tee-to-green, on average, by Byeong Hun An at the Honda Classic. That’s the most of any golfer in this field dating back to 2015.

$11,000 — The price on DraftKings for Sungjae Im this week—that’s the lowest price for the most expensive golfer since Will Zalatoris was $10,900 at the 2020 Corales Puntacana Championship.

2,080 — The number of days since Keegan Bradley has gained strokes putting in three consecutive events, dating back to July 2015. He enters this week with two in a row.

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.