The Florida Swing on the PGA Tour kicks off this week with the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
Defending champion Justin Thomas heads the market at 5/1, but having backed him at 9s and 14s in the two weeks prior with little success, there is no way I’m going to put him up at 5s this week.
He’s the most likely winner based on his Sunday 62 in Mexico and his win last year, but his round four collapse at the Genesis must still be in the back of his mind and he’s far too skinny for me. Instead, my two best bets come from a little further down the field.
Woodland a solid proposition
First up is Gary Woodland at 16/1. The Florida native is one of golf’s most improved players and has established himself as one of the most consistent ball-strikers on tour – an attribute that is imperative around PGA National.
He was just touched off by an inspired 62 from Xander Schauffele at the Tournament of Champions at the start of the year and closing rounds of 67 and 69 last week in Mexico showed the game is still very much trending in the right direction. Phil Kenyon has got his much maligned putting stroke in order and he looks close to winning a fourth PGA Tour title.
Two appearances in the Honda have yielded a sixth and a close second to Rickie Fowler in 2017 so he looks a solid proposition this week.
Expect better from Simpson
He should be much more at home on the Bermuda greens in Florida, with the putter failing to deliver in Mexico last week. Last year his best putting displays came here at the Tour Championship and back in Florida during his Players victory.
His early PGA National form was nothing to write home about, but rounds of 66-72-66-72 here 12 months ago offered plenty of encouragement that this is a course that does in fact suit his eye. It’s also important to note, he returns this time around in much better form and having ended a winless run, both of which should give him plenty of confidence.
Simpson has played well at similar courses before too: third in the RSM Classic, fourth at East Lake, second at the Wyndham, fifth at the Heritage, eighth at the Valspar, fifth here, fourth at the Sony and that win at the Players, all since the start of 2018, showing his liking for courses that fit his game.
If that putters gets hot, he must have a great chance of adding another Florida title to his name.