This week is a kind of homecoming game for many players on the PGA Tour: the Honda Classic at the diabolical PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Scoring is usually higher than average because of the combination of hazards and wind; the winning score for all 13 editions of this tournament has been between -5 and -13. The Jack Nicklaus-designed Champion Course places an extreme emphasis on iron play, as hazards tend to lurk closely around the greens and punish those who are slightly off with their approaches. And it’s February in Florida, so there’s always a chance that the wind will wreak havoc.
Here are some players who can handle this kind of test and would be good fantasy picks at the Honda Classic:
Ryan Palmer $8,300
Palmer is a very good wind player, and PGA National seems to suit his eye. He has gained strokes tee to green in all of the past eight Honda Classics at a massive average of six strokes per event. Plus, his game has shown signs of life this year: he was in contention at the Sony Open but stumbled late to finish fourth. At $8,300 in a weak field, Palmer is a solid piece to use in your lineup.
Lee Westwood $7,800
Let me clear up two things. First, this is not a joke. Second, yes, this is Paulie speaking, and no, Andy did not kidnap me and force me to write about Westy. The fact is, Lee Westwood’s game just fits the Champion Course perfectly, and his game has seen a rejuvenation lately. He finished third on the European Tour last year in Strokes Gained: Approach, and he won in Abu Dhabi in January. All six times Westood has played the Honda Classic, he has at least made the cut, and three of those times he finished in the top 10. His elite iron play, ability to control the ball in the wind, and patience give him a legitimate chance at contending this week.
In this fairly weak field, Rickie makes sense for One-and-Done leagues. His past eight appearances at PGA National have yielded four top-seven finishes and a win. I don’t see many other spots in the schedule where I need to use Rickie, so this week works.
If you don’t want to use Fowler, then BIlly Horschel is your next best option. Horschel comes into the Honda off of back-to-back top 10s, and he has shown an affinity for PGA National, finishing 16th or better in three of his past four appearances. Horschel is a grinder and does well when conditions are tough. His solid iron play and putting should allow him to contend this week.