This week, the PGA Tour sets up shop at PGA National for the Puerto Rico Open Honda Classic. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, the Honda Classic got the short end of the scheduling stick in 2021. Nearly all of the top players in the world are taking the week off. While we are used to seeing the likes of Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, and Rory McIlroy tee it up at the Honda Classic, this week’s field will be headlined by Daniel Berger, Joaquín Niemann, Sungjae Im, and Lee Westwood. (No offense to those guys!)
The 144-player field will face a stern test in PGA National. The current forecast shows potential for heavy winds, which could make an already difficult course play even harder. In order to succeed here, players will need to hit their irons well, especially from 150 to 200 yards, and be mentally prepared to grind in tough conditions.
Here are a few players who fit that profile:
K.H. Lee $7,500
Lee finished 41st last week at the Players, which may not sound impressive, but he hit the ball extremely well, gaining 6.8 strokes combined off the tee and on approach. (He lost 4.2 strokes around and on the greens, however.) Lee has finished 38th and seventh in his two appearances at the Honda Classic. If he hits the ball like he did last week, he has a good chance at a high finish, which should easily pay off his $7,500 salary.
Zach Johnson $7,400
Yes, it’s 2021, and I am recommending Zach Johnson. Johnson has been sneaky consistent lately, missing only two cuts over 21 events in the past year. In the Honda field, he’s second in par-4 scoring from 400-450 yards, fourth in putting, eighth in accuracy off the tee, and top 30 in birdies and on approach. Also, Johnson is an excellent wind player who tends to do well when scoring isn’t super low.
Berger is ranked No. 1 in my model this week by a large margin. He is second in par-4 scoring from 400-450 yards, third in birdies, fifth off the tee, eighth in putting, 12th on approach, and 21st in accuracy off the tee. Berger almost won the Honda twice before, finishing fourth last year and losing in a playoff in 2015. Against such a weak field, he has a great chance at adding his second victory of 2021.
If you used Berger already or are just looking for a player you might not want to use the rest of the season, look no further than Shane Lowry. He finished eighth last week at the Players, gaining strokes in every category, and he is top 25 off the tee, on approach and around the green. With difficult conditions in the forecast, Lowry looks like an even better bet. Born and bred in Ireland, he’s a pure grinder, an Open champion, and always a threat when the wind is up and par means something.