The best field of the season so far lines up in Florida this week, as the PGA Tour hits the east coast of America for the first time for the Honda Classic at PGA National.
The Champion course, featuring the ultra tough run of holes from 15 to 17 known as the ‘Bear Trap’, is a real test for the world’s best but was tamed last year by 200/1 shot Michael Thompson, who had shown little form coming into the tournament. Generally, though, you can bank on those that have been troubling the judge in recent outings when looking for a likely winner. The previous three champions had all claimed at least a top five finish in their two latest starts.
Rory McIlroy (2012 winner) and Tiger Woods vie for favouritism, at 8/1, while next in the betting and world number three, Adam Scott (16s), plays for the first time since early January. McIlroy appeals most of that trio, especially given the success Europeans have had in the past at the Palm Beach track (three winners in the last nine years), but, at more than double his price, compatriot Graeme McDowell looks better equipped to glow in the Sunshine State, at 20/1.
G-Mac was the comeback king in the WGC Match Play last week, making it through to the quarter finals after digging deep throughout the event to stun opponents. He has course form of 6-9-9 at PGA National and three top ten efforts in his last six starts this term. That half dozen tournament run kicked off with third place in the HSBC Champions, in which he ranked top in scrambling, and the ability to get up and down will be key given the top scrambler of the week has won two of the last three renewals.
Of the other European raiders, I couldn’t put anyone off Sergio Garcia’s 25/1 price, even though I’m still puzzled by his concession of an 18 foot putt in his defeat to Rickie Fowler in the third round at Dove Mountain last week. The Spaniard has done little wrong over the past few months, with two wins in his last four starts.
Finally, have a couple of quid each way on the defending champion, Thompson (80/1), whose accurate game has contributed to some good finishes recently. Last year’s winner should be inspired by returning to the place of his maiden tour title.
My three to follow – McDowell, Garcia and Thompson.