Following two elevated events in consecutive weeks, the PGA Tour returns to Florida for the 2023 Honda Classic at PGA National.
The Honda Classic, home of the infamous ‘Bear Trap’, has drawn the short end of the stick on this year’s calendar with it being sandwiched between elevated events. Next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the 2023 PLAYERS Championship are both elevated events, therefore, many of the best golfers on Tour have elected to sit this one out.
What remains is a field consisting of just three of the world’s top 25 players per the OWGR. 2020 Honda Classic winner, Sungjae Im, last year’s runner-up, Shane Lowry, and local hero, Billy Horschel, are the three top-ranked players in attendance this week.
The Jack Nicklaus redesign, PGA National, will provide a stern test for the 144-man field this week. The 7,125 yard, Par 70, layout annually plays as one of the toughest tests on the PGA calendar.
With water lurking around every corner to punish any wayward shots and the weather often playing a factor (just ask Shane Lowry), winning scores have seldom exceeded -10 at the Honda Classic.
The difficulty of PGA National combined with many of the game’s elite players taking the week off gives us the opportunity to target a few players at deeper odds this week. Here are a few at +5000 and beyond who could exceed expectations at the 2023 Honda Classic.
2023 Honda Classic: Sleeper Picks who could surprise at PGA National
(All odds courtesy of Wynnbet. **Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.**)
Brandon Wu +7500 / Top 20 +275
Brandon Wu is the ultimate boom-or-bust player who has shown a tendency to either top 10 or miss the cut entirely throughout the early stages of his career.
2023 has been no different as Wu has made five starts this year and missed the cut in three of them. He also turned up at Pebble Beach earlier this month and finished T2 in the last non-elevated event that we saw.
Brandon has demonstrated that the elements are unlikely to deter him should conditions get difficult with some of his best finishes coming on coastal and open tracks. Wu also excels in Par 4 scoring, (35th) on the season and 8th in the field from the 450-500 yard range, an area that will be key this week at PGA National.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000/ Top 20 +230
Bezuidenhout is another player who has mixed results in 2023 thus far, but an 11th-place finish at The American Express a couple of starts ago suggests that his game isn’t too far off coming into this week.
Some of the South African’s best results on the PGA Tour have come at difficult tracks, including at last year’s Honda Classic when he finished 25th.
Christiaan has shown he is comfortable in Florida throughout the early stages of his career with three top-20 finishes at Bay Hill on his resume as well. He is talented enough to compete on a difficult track and against this week’s field.
Danny Willett +7500/ Top 20 +275
Danny Willett has more often than not excelled in events where the winning score is in the single digits.
The 2016 Masters champion is coming into this week’s Honda Classic on the back of a nice performance at Riviera against one of the best fields of the year. Danny gained over five strokes from tee to green on his way to an 18th-place finish.
The Englishman had a similar showing at last year’s Honda Classic when he gained over five strokes from tee to green but couldn’t buy a putt; losing over four strokes on the greens.
If he can improve on the greens this time around he is certainly showing that his game is in a good enough place to contend right now.
Brent Grant +25000/ Top 20 +750
Lastly, I’ll take a shot with Brent Grant who has finishes of 20th and 25th in his last two PGA Tour starts.
This includes at the Farmers Insurance Open last month when the PGA Tour rookie had a share of the lead after round one at Torrey Pines.
Driving the ball well will be important this week with so much water coming into play. So far this season, Brent ranks 22nd in SG: Off the tee on the PGA Tour and 15th in total driving.