THE Florida Swings starts with a visit to the PGA National Championship course which was originally designed by George and Tom Fazio with major events in mind.
- PGA National Championship: 7110 yards. Par 70.
It was the site of the 1983 Ryder Cup and the 1987 PGA Championship, won by Larry Nelson before Jack Nicklaus re-designed the course in 1990 which led to the infamous “Bear Trap” closing stretch. The Honda Classic came to town in 2007 and has become a favourite among the players.
It’s the final chance for pros to get into next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, with spots for anyone not previously qualified among the FedExCup top 10 or who moves into the world’s top 50.
Since 2007 the “Bear Trap” trio of numbers 15-17 has accounted for 18 per cent of all bogeys in the event, 33 per cent of all double bogeys and 38 per cent of all triples or worse. So to score here it looks like birdies will have to come in the first 14 holes.
Also with the course been close to the Atlantic windy conditions will play a big part. I’ll be looking at GIR, Scrambling and Putts per GIR stats.
One man who has impressed me over the last year is Georgian Brian Harman. He won the Wells Fargo in May and had a stunning T2 in the US Open in June, with five other top 10s. He fell away a bit towards the end of the season but has come back strongly this season with five top 10s from seven starts.
He missed the cut at the Farmers towards the end of January but has had a three-week break so will be revitalised and hopefully back on form. He showed in 2012 he can play the course, with a first-round 61 that helped him to a T12 finish. He also hit a 64 in 2015 when finishing T11. He has a great touch on and around the greens which will stand him in good stead for the National.
- GIR: 74.15% (4th). Scrambling: 66.94% (11th). Strokes Gained Putting: 0.907 (8th).
Noren’s only appearance here was in 2012 and he missed the cut but he has good form in windy conditions. The nine-time winner on the European Tour has decided to concentrate on the PGA Tour this year and it looks to have been a good decision.
The Swede has acquitted himself well with a T2 at the Farmer, followed by a T21 (Phoenix Open), and a T16 last week at the Genesis Open. He looks to be playing steady golf and getting used to the courses and greens in the States.
His game will suit the National and I honestly think he will be there or thereabouts at the finish. Well worth a shot.
- GIR: 67.71% (83rd). Scrambling: 62.37% (40th). Strokes Gained Putting: 0.517 (28th).
One man who won't have to bother with accommodation for the National is Fowler. The Californian has a home a few minutes down the road so no staying in hotels for him this week.
He has good form on this course, with three top 10s including his win last year. In 24 rounds at PGA National he has averaged 69.125 which is good scoring.
His only win last year was the Honda but he had a further nine top-10 finishes and this season he has kept the form going with two top 10ss and a T11 last week at Genesis.
The only problem is Jack Nicklaus is the only golfer to have retained his Honda Classic title so it’s going to be difficult for Rickie but is definitely in with a shout.
GIR: 71.43% (32nd). Scrambling: 70.83% (2nd). Strokes Gained Putting: 0.698 (18th).
- 1.5pts ew Brian Harman (bet365, 40-1)
- 1.5pts ew Alex Noren (Betfred, 35-1)
- 1.5pts ew Rickie Fowler (Coral, 9-1)
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