Stat attack!: Honda Classic preview

By John AntoniniFebruary 25, 2014, 8:52 pm

As comebacks go, the Honda Classic has made a successful one. Thought of for years as the step-child of the Florida swing, the tournament has made a massive strides on the strength of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus’ involvement and the move to the PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course. This year seven of the top nine players and 26 of the top 50 on the World Ranking are scheduled to compete.

They’ll have to contend with the famed Bear Trap – the par-3 15th, par-4 16th, and par-3 17th holes, where water comes into play on every full shot. These holes are not for the faint of heart. They have played over par the last four years and the par-3s were among the PGA Tour’s 50 toughest holes in 2010 and 2011. But how much impact did they have on the top of the leader board? What role did they play in determining the winner of the tournament?

Since 2010 the outcome of the Honda Classic was a direct result of play on the Bear Trap holes in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In those years, the winner played better at the Bear Trap than his nearest competitor. But in 2013 winner Michael Thompson (pictured) played two strokes worse than runner-up Geoff Ogilvy on the holes and still won by two strokes.

How the leaders played the Bear Trap (2010-2013)

 2013    
 Player Bear Trap Result
 Michael Thompson +1 Won
 Geoff Ogilvy -1 Two back
 2012    
 Player  Bear Trap Result
 Rory McIlroy -3 Won
 Tom Gillis +1 Two back
 Tiger Woods -1 Two back
 2011    
 Player Bear Trap Result
 Rory Sabbatini -1 Won
 Y.E. Yang  Even One back
 2010    
 Player Bear Trap Result
 Camilo Villegas Even Won
 Anthony Kim +4 Five back

When Thompson won a year ago, he led the field in birdie percentage on par-4 holes, shooting under par on 12 of the 48 two-shotters. He followed in the footsteps of 2011 winner Rory Sabbatini and 2010 champ Camilo Villegas, who also dominated the par-4s. Like Thompson, Sabbatini made birdie or better on 25 percent on the par-4s, while Villegas was under par on a whopping 31.25 percent four years ago.

How the leaders played the par-4 holes in 2013

 Player Subpar scores Birdie percentage
 Michael Thompson 12 25%
 Geoff Ogilvy 7 14.58%
 Luke Guthrie 9 18.75%

Four players who are in the top-10 on the PGA Tour in par-4 scoring average are in the field at the Honda Classic. Here’s how they have fared in the past at this event.

Par-4 scoring leaders in the Honda Classic

 Player Par-4 average Honda history
 Zach Johnson 3.87 Hasn't played since 2008 (T-30)
 Boo Weekley 3.90 Playoff loser in 2007, no other top-10s
 Jeff Overton 3.91 Four cuts made with a best of T-6 (2011)
 Charles Howell III 3.94 Seven straight cuts made; best of T-10 (2011)

Although Thompson was the first American winner of the Honda Classic since Mark Wilson in 2007, the Honda has crowned just one European champ (Rory McIlroy in 2012) since moving to PGA National in 2007. However, several golfers from across the Atlantic have played well at the Champion course. In addition to McIlroy in 2012, Justin Rose was third in 2010 and Luke Donald was runner-up in 2008. Like McIlroy and Donald, several Europeans who have struggled recently are playing this week and might be good bets to reverse their fortunes. Rose, however, won’t be one of them as he withdrew because of a recurring injury to his right shoulder. In addition to the players listed below, Padraig Harrington won the 2005 Honda Classic when it was held at the CC of Mirasol (Donald also won at Mirasol in 2006.)

Top Europeans at the 2014 Honda Classic

 Player Results at PGA National
 Rory McIlroy Won in 2012
 Luke Donald Second in 2008, T-10 in 2011
 Lee Westwood Fourth in 2012, T-9 in 2010, ’13
 Paul Casey T-4 in 2010
 Freddie Jacobson T-5 in 2009, T-6 in 2010
 Graeme McDowell T-6 in 2011, T-9 in 2012, ’13

The three top Americans on the World Ranking are also playing this week, but they haven’t had as much success at the Honda Classic as their European counterparts. Top-ranked Tiger Woods was second in 2012, but was T-37 last year in his second Honda start as a professional. Fifth-ranked Phil Mickelson is making his first Honda appearance since 2002 and No. 7 Zach Johnson is playing for the first time since a T-30 in 2008. The Honda Classic is one of four current PGA Tour events that Woods has played at least three times without winning. It’s worth noting that he has finished second in three of the four.

PGA Tour events where Tiger Woods has made the most starts without winning 

 Tournament Starts Best finish
 Northern Trust Open 11 Second in 1998, T-2 in 1999
 Barclays 8 T-2 in 2009, 2013
 Honda Classic 3 T-2, 2012
 Waste Management Phoenix Open 3 Third in 1999

One final thought: The Honda Classic has followed the WGC-Accenture Match Play on the PGA Tour schedule six times in the last seven years and in four of those years the Honda winner wasn’t in the Match Play. But if you want a player who can piggy-back on his Match Play success – as Accenture runner-up McIlroy did in winning at PGA National in 2012 - look no further than Rickie Fowler. The consolation-match winner at Dove Mountain was T7 and T13 at the Honda Classic the last two years, is 58th on tour in par-4 scoring and was second in the 2010 Memorial Tournament, the other Tour event Nicklaus headlines.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.