Picking winners of a golf tournament is hard. Doing it consistently is downright impossible. However, finding value is something all bettors must practice in order to give themselves the best chance to make hay when the day finally comes that they select a champion.
Below, we will cover the best bets for the Honda Classic based on current form, course fit, and -- of course -- the value of their odds.
After two straight elevated events featuring loaded fields taken down by two of the biggest stars in the sport, the PGA Tour flies cross country for a field thin on elite talent. Simply put, PGA National has an unfortunate spot on the calendar. Sandwiched between two elevated events on either side, top pros are simply not going to play five weeks in a row. It's also the first tournament on bermudagrass after a month on poa and bentgrass, leaving players short on time to practice and prepare for the adjustment. Leaving an event out in the cold has its consequences -- Honda is ending its sponsorship of the event after nearly 40 years.
PGA National is a tough test even for the world's best. In a weak field, that cranks up the variance significantly. While Sungjae Im (+750) and Shane Lowry (+1500) are worthy favorites and each have solid history here, the prices on the favorites this week are just too steep to stomach. We'll start off further down the board and see if we can't find some deep long shots to find the podium.
At The Top
Jhonattan Vegas (+3400) - So far this season, Vegas has managed an incredible statistical feat and one of the widest disparities between strength and weakness we can ever recall. He ranks 1st on the entire Tour in strokes gained: off the tee but 206th in strokes gained: putting. That's seven golfers from dead last, folks.
He's solid all the way up to the green in fact, as he ranks 29th in strokes gained: approach and 19th in strokes gained: around the green. Of course, the sneaky tidbit is that Vegas has not played all that much this season. Three rounds at the AmEx followed by finishes of T25 at Torrey Pines, T23 at Scottsdale, and T56 at the Riv are enough to believe he's hitting it well but has been extremely unlucky with the flat stick. He's one to watch on his preferred bermuda this week.
Thomas Detry (+3400) - Detry has been consistent so far this season, and his finish are frequently reflective of his relative talent in a given field. The big-hitting Belgian placed inside the top 15 in four of five fall events, highlighted by a runner-up at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Notably that event and the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he was T9, are bermuda courses. He had less success on the West Coast even though he did not figure into the prime events on the schedule.
Detry has the pedigree of a top-five amateur from his days at the University of Illinois, but that has not translated to wins on the DP World Tour or PGA Tour yet. He is the beneficiary of a weak field this week but is still offered at a moderate price. While not our typical headliner, Detry is worthy of a spot on our card against this lot.
Hayden Buckley (+5500) - Buckley has an elite skill in this field, ranking fifth on the entire Tour in strokes gained: off the tee. He's also popped a few times already this season, first with a T5 at the ZOZO Championship and then with a runner-up at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Both represent a solid adjustment to new surroundings -- the ZOZO the lone event in Asia this swing season, and the Sony Open the first full event of the season a world away from the rest of mainland events.
He missed the cut at Riviera but was T29 at the WM Phoenix Open the week before, an inspiring finish against the world's best. We'll take the MC at the Genesis as a blessing in disguise, an opportunity for Buckley to head east without much wear and tear. Another solid finish could make him a winner for a Top 10 Finish (+550).
Mark Hubbard (+12000) - Top-15 finishes in two of the last three years catch the eye, and Hubbard really only stands a chance when the field strength takes a dip. His fifth-place finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship was his best of the season by a mile, though he managed respectable top-30s in the Fortinet Championship, the Shriners Children's Open, and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
On the season, he's 57th in strokes gained: approach, which is nothing special but also significant given how many of the top 50 are not in this field. There's also room to improve to his baseline, as he ranked 20th in approach last season. A hot week with the irons could be enough to put him in the mix. He looks like a decent value for a Top 20 Finish (+360).
Akshay Bhatia (+21000) - Bhatia's played just twice on the PGA Tour this season, finishing T17 in Bermuda and 45th at the RSM Classic. He started the new year with consecutive top 10s on the Korn Ferry Tour but missed his next two starts. Most striking on the 21-year-old's resume is his win on the KFT 13 months ago, just a week shy of turning 20 years old. As we ratchet up the variance, some stabs way down the board come into play. Bhatia is someone who can actually elevate his game and make a splash at PGA National.