The PGA Tour heads east for the Florida swing as golfers start gearing up for the Masters, which is coming up quick, just five weeks away.
This week it is The Honda Classic from the Champion Course at PGA National which is a Jack Nicklaus re-design and this will mark the seventh year it has hosted the event.
Last year, it was the second hardest of the par-70 non-majors courses. National is known for the "Bear Trap" which consists of holes No. 15, 16 and 17 and is one of the toughest three-hole stretches on tour.
This is true test of golf and a lot of the players who have won here have gone on to bigger and better things. Since 1990, five different winners of the tournament have gone on to later win a major championship, and twice the winner has gone on to win a major in the same year.
Four years ago, it was Y.E. Yang who brought home the over $1 million prize then went on to win the PGA Championship as he held off Tiger Woods in a classic duel on Sunday.
Even with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship taking place last week, we have a very strong field in Palm Beach Gardens. Rory McIlroy is back to try and defend his title, winning by two shots over Woods and Tom Gillis.
Woods is also back this year - just his second career start at the Honda. He and McIlroy will be chomping at the bit to avenge last week's first round exit. Other notables include Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood.
Last year, McIlroy and Woods were co-favorites at +800 and this year only Woods has the honor at +700. He won his only other medal play event this year, the Farmers Insurance Open, and despite playing well here last year, there is little to no value taking him.
McIlroy is just not right, whether it is the new irons or something else. But he’s not playing like the top-ranked player in the world by any stretch. McIlroy is +1,200 along with Charl Schwartzel, another first-round exit victim last week.
Justin Rose (+1,500) will be our choice of the top favorites. He lost in the second round to Nicolas Colsaerts last week but he looks to redeem himself at the Honda, where he opened 66-66 on his way to a T5 last year. In his previous start at PGA National, he closed with a 64 to finish solo third in 2010, so he certainly likes it here. It doesn't hurt that he led the tour in GIR (greens in regulation) last season, the only player above 70 percent.
Lee Westwood (+2,500) is a superb ball striker which is the name of the game at National. After a T22 at the Northern Trust, he was taken down in the first round at Dove Mountain last week. He’s now back home, literally. He moved to this area in the offseason, which could add some extra spark - not that he needs it after two top 10s in his last three starts at the Honda including a solo fourth a year ago.
Fredrik Jacobson (+2,500) is no longer flying under the radar. After a T7 at Pebble Beach and a T3 at Riviera, he won his first two matches before losing to Robert Garrigus in the third round last week. He finished T16 at the Honda last year and prior to that, he had a T6 in 2010 and a T5 in 2009. If his putting is sharp, he can go low and capture his first tour win since the 2011 Travelers.
An American has not won this event since 2007, when Mark Wilson won his first ever PGA Tour event in a playoff. One player that can break that streak is Rickie Fowler (+3,000). He was ousted in the first round last week so the extra rest could be a benefit. He finished T7 at the Honda last year after missing the cut his first two starts here. A pair of T6 finishes to start the season show he is playing well.
Charles Howell III (+5,000) will be the long-shot call. He has cooled off after a fast start to the season with a T3, T2 and T9. His win over Woods last week was impressive and he should have a lot of confidence coming in. He has never missed the cut at the Honda in six starts, three at Country Club at Mirasol and three at National, where he has two T26 finishes to go along with a T10 in 2011.
Recommended tournament win five pack at the Honda Classic - All for 1 unit
Justin Rose (+1,500)
Lee Westwood (+2,500)
Fredrik Jacobson (+2,500)
Rickie Fowler (+3,000)
Charles Howell III (+5,000)
2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date after 8 events: +23.16 Units
Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge - 5 Units
Farmer Insurance Open +3.5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open +19 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship +25.66 units