This week the PGA Tour packs up and leaves the Golden Coast as it heads East to Palm Beach, Florida to begin its annual Sunshine State swing. PGA National will be the host of this week’s Honda Classic for the 11th straight year. Last year saw Adam Scott win the title after entering the final round tied with Sergio Garcia at -9. Scott’s final round, even par 70 was good enough for him to beat the Spaniard and bring home the trophy.
Joining the defending the Champion in the field this week are many European Tour regulars looking to gain form before heading to Augusta in just over a month. Among those making their PGA Tour season debuts this week are Ty Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Martin Kaymer.
PGA NATIONAL – PAR 70 – 7,140 YARDS
The Champions Course at PGA National is a Par-70 that features the infamous “Bear Trap”; a three hole stretch of 15, 16, and 17 that played a combined .478 strokes over par last year. Although the “Bear Trap” receives all the attention, there are actually more difficult parts of this golf course. Of the top 20 most difficult holes on Tour last year, PGA National had four of them, led by the 465-yard par-4 14th with a scoring average of .490 strokes over par. The course as a whole finished as the fifth most difficult on the season with a scoring average of 1.768 strokes over par.
Making up the challenging Nicklaus re-design are average sized but difficult fairways surrounded by penal rough, bunkers, and water hazards. Last year saw just 60% of fairways get hit off the tee. The Tour’s average Driving Distance of under 280 yards suggests that golfers will play less-than-driver off the tee in order to get the ball into preferred landing areas. Despite being average in size, the greens here at PGA National are shaped exceedingly narrow and are very undulated which lead to them being hit in regulation only 60% of the time last year. The greens are made up of Bermuda grass which will be a welcome change for many golfers who struggle on the West Coast’s bumpy Poa Annua.
Some key stats to focus on, based on prior years
- Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
- Greens in Regulation
- Driving Accuracy
- Ball Striking
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
A relevant stat every week, but gets much more magnified on difficult tracks such as PGA National. Golfers ability to get off the tee and to the green without finding any trouble along the way will be vital to succeeding here. Of the top five in SG:T2G here last year, four them finished inside the top eight.
Greens in Regulation
With a field average of 60% of greens being hit in regulation, golfers who can find themselves on the putting surface more often will be at a distinct advantage. With many deep greenside bunkers, getting up and down will not be the easiest feat here.
Although many decide to use less club off the tee, finding the fairway is still difficult. With 16 holes featuring water and with over 100 bunkers being scattered around the course, being able to keep the ball in the short grass will be pivotal.
Despite this statistic being made up of two categories that are already being looked at, it paints a clearer picture of the type of golfer being targeted. Ball striking is Total Driving (Driving Distance + Driving Accuracy) added with Greens In Regulation. Shop shaping is certainly a must around PGA National in order to navigate the tricky fairways and greens.
With more long irons being used on approach, landing on these narrow greens will prove to be difficult, evident by 60% GIR. Everyone is going to miss the green, it’s just a matter of how well they can get up and down to avoid big numbers; last year’s tournament saw 299 double bogeys or worse.