The Honda Classic
PGA National Resort & Spa
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.,
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Tifeagle Bermudagass; 6,400 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass and ryegrass at 3 inches
Water Hazards: 26
Course Architect: George and Tom Fazio (1981); Nicklaus Design (2013)
Winner’s Share: $1,080,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Michael Thompson became the third, first-time winner since this event has made the Champion Course its host in 2007. He defeated Geoff Ogilvy by two shots for his victory.
Dates: February 27 – March 2
Format: Stroke play; 144 players will be cut to the top 70 and ties for the weekend. Ahhhh, no more match play!
Notes: Of the 10 best players in the world according to the OWGR, eight are playing this week. #topheavy. Holes No. 4 and No. 12 have been lengthened.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has won 13 of 14 events to start 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler and Bubba Watson have kept the engravers busy this fall and winter. Last week, Australian Jason Day brought the run to an end as he claimed the WGC-Match Play title.
After racking up 12 first-time winners in 2013, the new season has added only two more in the first 13 events as Jimmy Walker (Frys.com) and Kevin Stadler (WMPO) have broken their maidens. Both guys are in their mid-30s as well. As noted above, this has been a happy hunting ground for first-timers since the Champions Course became the host in 2007.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua now Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and now, Watson 35, keeps the Prime Time guys rolling. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime! Scott Stallings, 28, Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English, (24) and now, Jason Day, 26, are the twenty-somethings on the board. The Prime Time guys and Young Guns are level on seven wins a piece this season. The Old Guys are playing like old guys as they have zero wins this season. The Big Easy, Ernie Els, gave it a run making the final four before losing twice to take fourth.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE
Horse-for-course fans remember any data prior to 2007 goes out the window this week. How these guys performed at Herron Bay or Mirasol doesn’t interest me.
Michael Thompson was the first US winner since Mark Wilson in 2007.
2013: Michael Thompson – US
2012: Rory McIlroy – Northern Ireland
2011: Rory Sabbatini – South Africa
2010: Camilo Villegas – Colombia
2009: Y.E. Yang – South Korea
2008: Ernie Els – South Africa not in the field this week
2007: Mark Wilson - US
Michael Thompson, Y.E. Yang and Mark Wilson made this their first win on TOUR. Thompson is the only winner on this list WITHOUT multiple TOUR wins.
Jack Nicklaus is the only person to defend their Honda Classic title. Fitting, it’s his place…
The course record at the Champion Club is 61 by Brian Harman, in his first visit, in round two in 2012.
Camilo Villegas has the tournament record on this course at 13-under-par, 267.
How It Shook Out:
2007: Mark Wilson (-5); First win on TOUR; 12 players broke par
2008: Ernie Els (-6); 14 players broke par
2009: Y.E. Yang (-9); First win on TOUR; 26 players broke par
2010: Camilo Villegas (-13); 16 players broke par
2011: Rory Sabbatini (-9); 16 players broke par
2012: Rory McIlroy (-12); 25 players broke par
2013: Michael Thompson (-9); 17 players broke par
In seven events, the biggest margin of victory is two shots, including the last two years. In the other five years, the victor has one by one shot and the other year it was a playoff. McIlroy, Els and Yang have also won a major in their careers.
Inside the Ropes
The Champion Course was developed by the brothers Fazio at PGA National for the 1983 Ryder Cup. That’s one way of breaking in a new course! It also has hosted the 1987 PGA Championship and was the permanent home of the Senior PGA Championship from 1982 to 2000. Based on those tournaments, gamers should be able to tell that this is NOT a resort-course track where 24-under is going to win. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
The Champion Course has never ranked worse than 12th-hardest on TOUR and checked in as No. 5 most difficult last year. It was the hardest par 70 used on TOUR that was not a major. It’s a difficult track for a multitude of reasons. There are 26 water hazards. That’s 25 more than the players saw in the desert last week. I don’t care how good a guy is, when they see that much water, the gears start to grind. Another issue is the weather in Florida this time of year. As many of gamers witnessed during the Daytona 500 last Sunday, plenty of wind, rain, storms, gusts, etc. can pop up this time of year. Being just off the Atlantic Ocean leaves this door WIDE OPEN. On top of all of that, add holes Nos. 15-17 as where “the tournament will be won or lost” according to the plaque that greets the players as they enter The Bear Trap. Nicklaus has loaded up these three holes with two three pars and a four par that will test the nerve of the best players with the tournament on the line. Survive and advance should be the motto. As Nicklaus courses are known, the hole gets tougher the closer the player gets to the hole. His bunkering will test the short games of the best players. His green complexes, as shown by the scores over the previous years, don’t yield many birdies. And if that’s not enough, he retooled all the bunkers last summer. Let’s have a quiz! Did he make the bunkers easier, harder or better? I’m going with a little of each from column B and C! As the mark of a great golf course, premium play is rewarded and slack play in penalized. All gamers have to do is look at the field to see what kind of courses the best players in the world enjoy playing.
Now that I have your attention, the guys who have won here have either had great short games or were premium ball-strikers. On a course where par is a very solid score I’m looking for grinders and ball-strikers this week to rise above the fold. This is not the week for birdie machines or guys who spray it with their irons. Trouble is lurking around every corner and making double bogeys on a course that doesn’t yield many birdies, especially late, is a recipe for disaster. There are plenty of holes with doglegs as well that will reward those players who can work the ball both ways consistently off the tee. No wonder this course ranks in the top 12 annually of most difficult tracks to play. Finally, the final angle this week is the TOUR returns to Bermudagrass putting surfaces. This will favor the better putters and those most familiar with this Florida grass. Remember, the Scottsdale squad = Bentgrass; Jupiter-West Palm squad = Bermudagrass; Great putters can putt any grass with a croquet mallet!
This week we have a very top-heavy filed on a very difficult golf course which doesn’t make things any easier for gamers and TOUR pros. Need proof? Two years ago, McIlroy finished first and Woods was second. Last year, Michael Thompson, who finished T70 his previous start and defeated Geoff Ogilvy who had one top 10 in his last seven months of golf. Weather, the Bear Trap and a premium field make this a great event!
The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )
Rory McIlroy (B): The 2012 champ has amends to make after his “tooth ache” incident from last year that saw him WD after a less-than-stellar partial second round. Before being knocked out in the second round at WGC-Match Play, he had finishes of T2 and T9 in two events in 2014. His base camp in the USA is right up the street and he showed in 2012 that perhaps he enjoys this track. His personal life and professional life has calmed down considerably since this time last year and that should result in better golf on the course.
Graeme McDowell (C): After almost two months on the sidelines, GMAC rewarded the brave gamer who jumped right in with him as he racked up T7 at Pebble Beach and was a beaten quarterfinalist in Match Play. In four Hondas, McDowell has signed for T31, T6, T9 and T9 last year. He also has a pair of 64s in there as well so I know he likes this layout. The harder the course, the more and more I like GMAC’s chances. He’s the OAD for this week as well.
Charl Schwartzel (C): Speaking of folks who are playing well, Charl Schwartzel showed his chops at Riviera by finishing in the top five for the second year in a row on another demanding TOUR course so this track should fit his game quite nicely. That’s not conjecture. In his three tournaments on the Champion Course over the last three years, he’s played eight of 12 rounds under par and has posted markers of T14, T5 and T9. Second choice for OAD.
Justin Rose: Another Euro with a delayed start to his 2014, Rose’s diversion was medical rather than optional as he was tending to a shoulder issue. That seems to be behind him as he battled Ernie Els before falling in the second round of Match Play last week. I wouldn’t read ANYTHING into his early exit because, one, he doesn’t fare well in that event in Arizona and two, he destroys the Champion Course. In the last six years he’s teed it up five times and finished T15, MC, third, DNS, T5 and T4 last year. If gamers would like to nitpick, his last four weekend rounds are FOUR-over combined and he still was in the top five both times. #parmachine Rose WD Monday morning with shoulder tendinitis
Lee Westwood (A): Another Euro ball-striker that I’ll look to on the more difficult courses used on TOUR. Westwood now has a year under his belt in South Florida as he and his family should be acclimated to live Stateside. He recently split from new coach Sean Foley but his T20 at Riviera relaxed those fears. He’s played this event the last four years and three top 10s to show for it as well. Two years ago he went out early and blistered the Champion Course for 63 to almost backdoor Woods and McIlroy. He would be my other OAD this week.
Tiger Woods (A): I learned one valuable lesson last year: Woods dominates on courses he dominates. This will be his third consecutive event at PGA National and a tale of two events it is. Year one saw him play his final three rounds in 11-under to finish runner-up to Rory McIlroy. Last year, he failed to break par in four rounds and his final round 74 saw him end up T37. Gamers, this isn’t the week or the course to try and kick-start Woods in 2014. There will be MANY more chances where his form will be better and his track record will be dominant. Kinda like Doral next week perhaps. Or Bay Hill. Or Augusta. Or Pinehurst. Or Firestone. Or Valhalla. Or TPC Boston. Or East Lake. No point in forcing a square groove into a long putter if you get my drift. #patience.
Sergio Garcia (C): He’s back on Twitter! He’s giving away 17-foot putts for par! He’s a fantastic ball-striker who has four top 10s, including a win, in his last five starts worldwide. His short game and bunker play won’t hurt either this week.
Adam Scott (A): He’s played once here and MC at 19-over par. That’s not a typo. He shot 77-82 in 2011. That’s nearly unbelievable but there was a time when Adam Scott was not playing very good golf. That is no longer the case. Anytime he’s in the field, he’s in this column. His ball-striking and mental makeup are not going to be left to chance after the calendar year he has had. On the Hawaii swing he finished T6 and T8. #normalservicecontinues
Keegan Bradley (B): It’s only a matter of time when he kicks down the door and jumps into the winner’s circle again and it wouldn’t surprise me if it came on a tough, par-70 layout like this. Finishes of T12 and T4 the last two years have Bradley pointed in the right direction and should have him confident of a big result this week. He’s a son of Jupiter who’ll have a big backing this week in the galleries.
Rickie Fowler (A): Looks like I was a bit early on Fowler as I thought he’d get it rolling at Torrey Pines. Instead, he took what he’s learned from Butch Harmon and put it to great use in the desert last week. If anyone can use their play from last week as a springboard, Fowler fits that description. The Jupiter resident knocked off the hottest player in the world, Jimmy Walker plus a few other Presidents/Ryder Cuppers on his way to third. After MC in his first two tries he’s gone T7 and T13 the last two years. Where form meets function…
Henrik Stenson (A): I can’t get his wrist problem out of my head, sorry. His results in 2014 haven’t given me a reason to do so. If there’s a week where ball-strikers will move to the forefront, this is it and he’s one of the best on the planet. His recent form (no top 25s in his last three stroke-play events) pushes down the list but he obviously has too much game to omit. Wonder if him, Rosey and GMAC will commute by helicopter from Lake Nona this week. That’s how the other half lives, y’all!
Zach Johnson (B): Like Rose, Johnson is happy to see the back of Dove Mountain in his rear-view mirror as he gets back to where he’s been hot, stroke-play golf. Starting with his victory in Tiger’s Tournament, he backed that up with a W at the HTOC, T8 at Sony and T3 at Humana. This is only his second go on the Champion Course (T30, 2008).
Billy Horschel (B): He was five-under heading into the weekend last year before 81 on Saturday knocked him out of the conversation. I don’t love 81, but I love the fact that he came back on Sunday and shot even par in also less-than-ideal conditions. He’s a quick learner, Florida born-and-bred and should be excited to get back on Bermuda.
Hideki Matsuyama (B): I’m trying to push him into a top 10 this week by leaving him off the “Chalk” segment. It’s business as usual for the Japanese youngster as he’s seven-from seven with six top 25s to his name.
Patrick Reed (A): He’s played five events in 2014. He’s won one of them and hasn’t finished outside the top 19. I guess his brother-in-law makes a good caddy as well! He took over for his sister, Reed’s wife, who is pregnant. That family is a really good luck charm or Reed is very good. #comboplatter
Brian Harman (B): His last time out he was T3 at Riviera and he currently holds the course record of 61 (round 2, 2012).
Matt Every (B): He might be overlooked this week because he’s MC the last two years but half of his four rounds here are UNDER par (T26, 2010). He’s another Gator who grew up in Daytona and has two top 10s in his last five, including T6 at Riviera his last time out.
Cameron Tringale (C): He’s T12, T13 and T12 in his last three events. He was solo third last year in Tampa after MC at Honda. He’ll be dialed in.
Robert Garrigus (B): His T27 and T23 the last two times out shows me he’s moving in the right direction. A very solid ball-striker, he could surprise this week. Sometimes I’ll take a flier on a guy to break out instead of waiting for back-to-back top 10s before endorsing. In deep drafts, I’ll fill with a guy like this.
Roberto Castro (C): Back-to-back T19s his last two times out, another ball-striker that fits the build of first-time winner on this track. He’s already making news this week as he’s tweeted pictures of his misspelled name on his locker. What’s the big deal? It’s the SECOND year in a row he’s been Robert Castro. #revenge
William McGirt (B): The 54-hole leader at Riviera has been close a few times in his career. Let’s see if he keeps it going this week for four rounds.
Brendon Todd (C): He’s made 12 cuts in a row; 10th in scoring; 10th in the all-around ranking;
Will MacKenzie (C): His T52 on a course he had ZERO previous successes, Riviera, was his only weekend finish this season outside the top 15 (7 of 9). He also likes the Champion Course as he has finishes of T12 (2010) and T5 (2009) in his last two trips. Shhhhhhhhhh.
Michael Thompson (C): Last year’s champ has much better form as he heads to defend his title with T19s in his last two starts. All three of his top 10s last year were early doors.
Luke Donald (A): He was second in 2008 and T10 in 2010, his only two times around PGA National. His best finish worldwide recently is T31.
David Lynn (C): He was T4 in his first appearance last year; wonderful short game. His best recent finish is T22.
Matt Jones (B): He’s three-for-three over the years with finishes of T4 (2008), T40 (2010) and T18 last year. Not a back look in a deep draft as he’s made seven cuts on the bounce as well.
Erik Compton (C): All four rounds at par or better last year en route to T4; also posted T26 and T40 in two other appearances.
Chris Stroud (C): He’s seen the weekend in five straight Hondas and his last two finishes here are T9 and T13 last year.
Jeff Overton (C): He’s four of his last six, including three straight and has two top 10s and a T18 in that span.
Peter Hanson (C): His 73 on Sunday last year dropped him from solo fourth to T13. Not bad for his first time around.
Phil Mickelson (A): I should have just given him his own column again. I have no idea. He’s never played here. After hacking out of the desert to cost him a chance to win at Abu Dhabi, Mickelson hasn’t exactly bounced “back”. His WD (back) at Torrey, T42 in Phoenix and T19 at Pebble Beach are his three finishes on TOUR this season. Again, I’ll have NO PROBLEMS finding uses for Mickelson down the road so I’m omitting him this week.
Mark Wilson: He’s only made two cuts since October in seven events and his finishes are T48 and T51; he’s missed his last three.
Brendan Steele: In 12 rounds at Honda, he’s been at par or better three times and never twice in one tournament. His early season has been solid but some courses just don’t fit certain player’s eyes.
Ken Duke: In five, full-field events in 2014, T29 is his best finish and only finish inside the top 50.
Andres Romero: In six starts in the 2013-14 season, T47 has been his best result; only two rounds of par or better in five starts at Honda.
Louis Oosthuizen: Back issues last week sidetracked him against Jason Day after he blasted Webb Simpson. The field is too deep this week to have to stretch for him at the top. He’s WD two of the last three years from this tournament. Last year, he made three doubles on Friday after an opening round 69. #trainwreckofcircumstances
Lucas Glover: Some gamers like fliers on what guys did last year and Glover was T4; he’s 0-fer 2014 in five events.
Russell Henley: #sophomoreslump
Nicholas Thompson: He’s played three weekends this year in nine events and has one finish inside the top 50 (T40).
Luke Guthrie: He’s quietly amassed two T23s or better and a T5 this season. His four starts in 2014 have 12 of 14 rounds played at 71 or better; Solo third here last year after being co-54-hole leader. shhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Brooks Koepka: The Euro Tour youngster from Florida State is trying to “Jordan Spieth-it” by winning his way onto the TOUR with a sponsor’s exemption. He’s won four times on the Challenge Tour to get his Euro card and was T3 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic his last time out. He also was T3 at Frys.com back in October. Nice sleeper.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.
SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement
SEASON TOTAL: $2,515,846 in 14 events
Wins: One, Jimmy Walker (AT&T Pebble)
Seconds: One, Dustin Johnson (NTO)
Top 10s: Four
Thermometer: Went from ON FIYAH to ice cold in one week; the crapshoot that is Match Play was just that, crap.
Frys.com: Gary Woodland, MC. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about when I’m using GARY WOODLAND again!
SHFC Open: Hideki Matsuyama. Time to break through, son. Matsuyama WD with injury so he was replaced with Nick Watney. He finished T48 for $15,264
CIMB Classic: Let’s try this again: Hideki Matsuyama. There’s no cut. This pleases me. His T25 after 74 on Sunday does not please me. Oh well. Here’s $53,433 into the piggy bank.
WGC-HSBC: Martin Kaymer. There’s no other place I would consider using him and he’s the defending champ on this track. #hangsonfordearlife. Kaymer’s third round 62 dared me to dream but his T8 and $161,667 is a nice deposit.
The McGladrey Classic: David Toms. He’s finished T3 in 2010 and second last year. His recent form suggests he’s playing well and I don’t see another chance to burn him down the road. It was him or CH III. Well, BOTH of my selections finished T27. I should have listened to O…T27 was good for $39,050.
OHL Mayakoba: Brian Gay. When form meets course history… Well, that was a nice theory but it resulted in T45 and $18,060. I’m glad 2013 is now over.
HTOC: Martin Laird. Since I’m off to a woeful start I see no reason to burn a premium player. Chris Kirk was my second choice but nobody wins in back-to-back starts plus he’s just had another child. Laird is the horse-for-course. The Scot finished T20 in a 30-man field for $87,000.
Sony: Charles Howell III. He plays great in the early part of the season and his record at Waialae has everything BUT a win. If you notice, I saved most of my heavy hitters for the latter part of 2013 last year and that strategy worked out. Hey, a top 10 and $119,000! Feels like a winner!
Humana: Webb Simpson has been on fire to get 2013-14 started and going low has never been a problem. It’s time to start firing at ‘em. Sigh. Another week brings another disappointing selection as I add a whopping $57,000 to my morbid total.
FIO: Same as last year, Rickie Fowler. He’s working with Butch Harmon to get to the next level and he’s played SoCal courses plenty in his young life. He finished up last week at Humana 67-66 and he’s finished T5, T20, T13 and T6 last year in four career starts. I’ll save Woods and Mickelson for down the road for bigger winner’s checks. Snedeker and Walker were also considered and are solid options for this week. Fowler was just as bad as the other four I had listed, save for Woods’ MDF cash. Tough week in OAD for most I’m guessing. MC $0.
WMPO: Ryan Palmer. He’s on fire, can really putt and was fifth here last year. His excellent 64 saw him make the cut but his 70-72 weekend resulted in T48 at $15,772. I finished strong last year because I had a stable full of studs from The Open Championship through the FedExCup Playoffs. I’m not panicking. Yet.
AT&T PEBBLE: Jimmy Walker is the pick this week. He’s a beast on the West Coast and he’s had time to recover from his illness after MC at Torrey Pines. BANG TRISCUITS. Winner, winner, chicken dinner and $1,188,000.
NTO: Dustin Johnson goes to bat this week for Team Glass. His form is excellent and the fact that he’s banged top 10s in half of his trips here doesn’t hurt either. Tacos for everyone! Johnson’s solo second adds $723,600 to the bank! #heatwave
WGC-Match Play: Ian Poulter will be my hedge this week. His recent starts hardly inspire but there’s no doubting his inner fortitude in Match Play. He is the 2010 champ and was fourth last year. I don’t see myself using him anywhere else this season. Hunter Mahan would be choice No. 2 but I don’t like his draw with the sizzling Zach Johnson. Don’t forget Mahan played in the last group in the U.S. Open and The Open in 2013. Ah, Poults…$48,000.
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell is the choice this week. There has been no rust after his time off this winter and I’m encouraged after his result at Pebble and WGC-Match Play. I’m using Mickelson at Pinehurst so this is an easy play.
GolfChannel.com Fantasy Golf
Glass ($4,672,174; Rank: 8,173)
Group 1: Rory McIlroy
Group 2: Graeme McDowell
Group 3: Matt Every
Group 4: Erik Compton
Rob Bolton ($4,685,384; Rank: 8,071)
Group 1: Rory McIlroy
Group 2: Charl Schwartzel
Group 3: Brian Harman
Group 4: Ben Crane
Ryan O’ Sullivan ($4,624,481; Rank: 8,505)
Group 1: Rory McIlroy
Group 2: Graeme McDowell
Group 3: Will MacKenzie
Group 4: Camilo Villegas
Ned Brown ($6,728,796; Rank: 481)
Group 1: Rory McIlroy
Group 2: Charl Schwartzel
Group 3: Matt Jones
Group 4: Russell Knox
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.
Lee Westwood-- He looked good at the NTO in his T20 finish and his recent record at the Honda Classic is very good with a T9 in '10, a fourth place in '12 and a T9 last year.
Tiger Woods-- It's very tempting to fade Tiger Woods this week based on his recent limited play, but I don't feel comfortable doing it because we haven't seen much of him this year. A safer play might be to use Adam Scott or Rickie Fowler, however Tiger played well here just two years ago when he tied for second place.
Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
Zach Johnson-- I'm sure that he helped to wreak many a bracket last week as everyone tried to ride his hot hand, however you look back at his recent history and he tends to bow out early. He doesn't have a recent history at the Honda Classic, so he is all about trying to play one of the hottest players to start the new year.
Rory McIlroy-- It's a total gift this season that McIlroy is a Group B player. He started the season on the European Tour with a T2 in Abu Dhabi and a T9 in Dubai. He won this event in '12 and is one of the must use players this week.
Hideki Matsuyama-- He has played well on this year's TOUR with a T16 at the FIO, T4 at the WMPO and a T23 at the NTO. He doesn't have a record at the Honda Classic, so he all about rolling with the hot hand.
Keegan Bradley-- Justin Rose was my original pick for this spot, but he withdrew on Tuesday morning. Instead, I'm going to use Keegan Bradley, who has notched three top 20 finishes in five stroke-play events this year. Bradley has played well here the last couple of years, with the highlight being a T4 finish in last year's edition of the Honda.
Chris Kirk, Matt Jones, Michael Thompson, Billy Horschel
Charl Schwartzel-- I was very high on him a couple of weeks ago at the NTO until I heard that he had to withdrawal from the Pro-Am on Wednesday. Of course, he then went on to play as well I thought he would with a fifth place finish. Schwartzel has had very good recent success at the Honda with a T5 in '12 and a T8 last year.
Graeme McDowell- A very good final round at the AT&T Pebble Beach moved him into a T7 finish and the good play continued last week at the WGC-Match Play, where he tied for fifth place. His recent play at the Honda has been very strong, with a T6 in '11, T9 in '12 and a T9 last year.
Sergio Garcia, Chris Stroud, Luke Guthrie
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at The Honda Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.