2022 Honda Classic (Brief) Preview
The Start of the Florida Swing
This week’s Honda Classic certainly feels like an exhale after all the excitement in Phoenix and Los Angeles the past two weeks. Not to mention Phil Mickelson’s damning comments to Alan Shipnuck about the brewing Saudi Golf League, which seems to have caused a screeching halt to those talks.
So it’s going to be difficult for Honda to compete with anything that’s happened in the professional golf world in recent days and weeks, but what the heck let’s try and make it relevant!
The PGA Tour heads to the east coast for the first time in 2022 for the Florida swing — 4 consecutive tournaments taking place in the sunshine state: Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, THE PLAYERS Championship, and Valspar Championship.
Part of what makes this stretch of golf great is that these events are held at venues that generally play tough. Depending on how much it rains, these courses can play firm and fast. Weather conditions can get windy, blustery even, making scoring more difficult as well.
A lot of fans enjoy watching hard golf because it seemingly allows the best players to really separate themselves at these events.
As we’ll see at Honda this week, if a guy’s game is even slightly off then he could lose a few balls into the water and start hemorrhaging strokes fast. Even for the top players, the eject button never seems to be too far away. In a way it makes this event’s outcome somewhat volatile — strong players will miss the cut.
The Honda Classic is played in Palm Beach Gardens at the PGA National Championship course. It’s a Par 70 with Bermuda greens — not an overly long course, measuring at just 7,125 total yards.
The two prevailing themes or identity of the course come in the form of water and the “bear trap.”
Water comes into play on nearly every hole at PGA National, which unsurprisingly has allowed this venue to lead the PGA Tour in most balls in the water year after year. Key to success here will undoubtedly derive from avoiding these hazards as much as possible.
As you’ll hear a billion times this week, the Bear Trap is a brutal three hole stretch from holes 15–17 at PGA National, where all three holes play over par. It’s the 4th most difficult three hole stretch on the PGA Tour.
While players will look to just avoid the danger that lurks around many corners of PGA National, inevitably bad shots will happen and mistakes will occur. Golfers have to limit the damage — don’t let bogeys become doubles or worse.
While there’s no single skillset that succeeds at PGA National year over year, seemingly ball striking and scrambling will need to be leaned on immensely. Comfort on Bermuda grass greens may go a long way also.
Last year’s Honda Classic field was extremely weak due to it being sandwiched between Match Play and THE PLAYERS Championship.
This year though, Honda gets to lead off the Florida swing and has attracted more big names because of it. Not quite as loaded as Genesis or Waste Management, but nonetheless a quality mix of top guys, vets, newcomers, and Europeans playing stateside for the first time this year.
Euro Ryder Cup guys like Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood lead the charge for that latter group. It truly feels like we haven’t seen any of them play in ages, but I’m especially excited to see what Lowry and Fleetwood do this week — both seemingly have been competing well in other parts of the world lately.
Sungjae Im, Louis Oosthuizen, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, and last week’s winner, Joaquin Niemann are among the favorites who headline the field this week.
Honda has a history of both favorites and long shots finding the winner’s circle, and so I’m curious to see which way it swings this year.
The Honda Classic definitely has the initial feel of “just another tournament,” but if you enjoy major championship-like conditions then you will likely enjoy the golf being played at PGA National this week.
It’s a nice appetizer that leads into two great events in API and THE PLAYERS coming up over the next two weeks. Particularly for those of you that bet and play DFS golf, I believe it can be advantage to dip your toes into what these Florida events will be like. Often guys can just get hot and play well out of nowhere during this swing — picking up nice finishes for two or three events in a row.
In other words, I think following the Honda Classic closely will really help anyone trying to figure out who is going to play well in the weeks to come.
Anyway, thank for reading and happy GOLF.