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Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer and you can read below to see his favorite plays for the Honda Classic, which kicks off Thursday at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.
The two shortest shots on the board at last week’s Genesis Invitational were Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong one. But there’s no time to dwell on what might have been. On we move to the Honda Classic, the start of the Florida Swing.
The Tour’s newly revamped schedule is tough on the Honda. After back-to-back ‘elevated’ events in Scottsdale and Los Angeles (and with the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship fast approaching) many top players are taking this week off. Honda itself has taken notice; the company is pulling its sponsorship of the tournament after this year.
The stage, meanwhile, will be the same as it has been since 2007: the Champions Course at PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens. Best known to fans for a water-laden closing stretch known as The Bear Trap, the course has proven to be one of the more difficult stops on Tour. In the past 16 years, only five Honda winners have reached double-digits under par. Wind is typically a factor. But this week’s forecast calls for unseasonably warm temperatures and breezes of less than 15-miles per hour.
Even in benign conditions, though, this course has plenty of trouble. Loose shots do not fare well. Translation: I favor accuracy over distance. For this week’s picks, I looked at Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, but even more at overall Ball Striking. PGA National ranks as the hardest course on Tour for approach shots of 150 yards and longer. So, I looked at Proximity to the Hole from 125-200 yards. And because many of these approaches will miss the green, scrambling comes into play as well. I also looked at Bogey Avoidance and Strokes Gained: Par 4s, as 12 of the holes here are par 4s.
Pinpointing correlated courses is tricky. Some may consider Waialae Country Club, the Sony Open host site, as comparable, given that it, too, is a windswept par-70 course with Bermuda grass throughout. But having used PGA National last week as a comp for Riviera, I’m flipping the script and using Riviera this week, along with Winged Foot, Memorial Park (Houston Open) and Pebble Beach. Both Riviera and Pebble reward good scramblers, and Pebble can also identify good wind players. Lastly, I considered how players have fared on the Florida Swing as a whole.
6 Picks To Win (and Finish in the Top 20)
Jhonattan Vegas (32-1)
People began to take notice of Vegas as a contender at this course in 2017, when he finished 4th. He hasn’t missed a cut here since. He’s also made three straight cuts in 2023 and is up to his usual ball-striking tricks, ranking 1st on Tour in SG Off the Tee and 29th in SG Approach. Vegas also ranks 2nd on Tour in Proximity to the Hole from 125-150 yards and 37th from 175-200 yards. Hit short game has been the issue but he did gain strokes putting the last time he played a Bermuda grass course, at the American Express.
Joseph Bramlett (66-1)
Bramlett also fits our ball-striking mold. Over the last 24 rounds, he is tops in this field for Greens in Regulation gained, 2nd in SG Ball Striking, and 20th in Proximity to the Hole from 150-200 yards. He has the short game chops as well, ranking 6th in Bogey Avoidance and 7th in Scrambling. He has Top 10 finishes at Pebble Beach and Houston and has never missed a cut at The Sony. Bramlett ranks 68th on Tour in Par 4 Scoring and is 6th in this field over the last 24 rounds in SG Par 4s.
Will Gordon (73-1)
Gordon made eight straight cuts to begin this season before falling at the American Express and the Farmers. He also had to withdraw Pebble Beach. But he’ll now have had four weeks of recovery from what was ailing him. Growing up in the South and playing college golf at Vanderbilt, he seems comfortable on Bermuda, but ball striking is really Gordon’s strength. Over the last 24 rounds, he ranks 3rd in this field for SG Ball Striking, 7th in SG Approach, 2nd in SG Off the Tee, and 6th in SG Par 4’s. He is also long and accurate off the tee, ranking 14th on Tour in Total Driving.
Ben Griffin (77-1)
Griffin is a Tour rookie but finished runner-up twice on this course before turning pro. A North Carolina native who played collegiately at UNC, Griffin is at home on Bermuda, and it has shown this season. He finished 24th at Sanderson Farms. 3rd at Bermuda, 16th in Houston, and 12th at the Sony Open. Over the last 24 rounds, he is 6th in this field for SG Approach, 6th in SG Ball Striking, 2nd in SG Par 4’s, and 5th in Bogey Avoidance. It will be his debut here as a professional, but the resume is promising.
Mark Hubbard (120-1)
Winners at the Honda have come from all over the odds board. Sepp Straka last year was 200-1. The year before that, Matt Jones was better than 100-1. Sungjae Im, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott ranged between 15 and 35-to-1 but Keith Mitchell in 2019 was a 300-1 shot. In other words, our card would not be complete this week without a long shot. I believe Hubbard is more of an 80- t 0 100-to-1 shot than a 120-1 chance. I’ve even seen as low as 65-1 on him. He’s finished as high as 11th and 15th here in the past with solid results at Pebble Beach too. Like many of the players we have landed on this week, he seems to perform better on Bermuda than on other putting surfaces. He’s a ball striker and is very good on approaches between 125 and 175 yards. If the ball striking is on point this week, he should find himself in the conversation once again.
3 full-tournament head-to-head matchups I really like
Joseph Bramlett (-105) over Nick Hardy
Will Gordon (-115) over Russell Knox
Aaron Baddeley (-120) over Ryan Moore
Who Chirp users like to win
Sungjae Im 32.85%
Billy Horschel 22.29%
Shane Lowry 18.38 %
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