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2023 Honda Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 20 Feb 2023

THIS week sees the end of an era. The Honda Classic has been a regular feature on the PGA Tour, but Honda Motors has announced the end of its sponsorship of the tournament at PGA National.

Among those who have committed to the event are defending champion Sepp Straka, and former winners Sungjae Im, Padraig HarringtonRory Sabbatini and Camilo Villegas. Hoping to join that list is Billy Horschel, who is playing five weeks in a row. 

“There’s a lot of goals I haven’t checked off and I’ve always wanted to win in the state of Florida, obviously more than once, but before my career is over,” said Horschel, a graduate of the University of Florida and Jacksonville Beach resident. “I would love to win and hope it is the Honda Classic this year that gets me that first one.”

Horschel has seven career PGA Tour victories, the most recent the 2022 Memorial, and he committed to the Honda Classic way back in October. 

“I like playing a lot of the same places,” Horschel said. “I like going to places that I enjoy the course, enjoy the fans and support I get, enjoy the tournament directors and the staff that puts on the tournament.”

Horschel has played here 10 times. He has two top 10 finishes, including tied for fourth in 2017, five shots behind champion Rickie Fowler. 

“I love this course,” he said. “It requires a player who is on top of their game. You can’t fake it around PGA National. I’ve always enjoyed playing that golf course. It requires a little bit extra than other PGA Tour courses that we play.”

Billy Horschel

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

Im has averaged more than 30 tournaments in his four years on the PGA Tour, playing Honda each of those. He followed his 2020 title with an eighth-place in 2021 before missing the cut last year. Im’s 2020 Honda title is one of two on the PGA Tour along with winning the Shriners Children’s Open in 2021.

Straka held off Shane Lowry last year for his maiden win on the PGA Tour. Straka trailed by five shots entering the final round and tapped in for birdie in the rain on the final hole to beat Lowry by one shot to become the first Austrian winner in PGA Tour history. He shot a 4-under 66 on Sunday to finish at 10 under and earn $1.44 million.

Lowry shot his third consecutive round of 67, his nine-under total for the week coming up one short. Daniel Berger, who led by six shots with 19 holes left, fell apart in the final round, his 74 leaving him 7 under for the week and three shots behind Straka.

Lowry needed to make a 45-footer for birdie on the final hole to force a playoff. It missed, and with that, The Honda Classic had a new champion - one who came into the week ranked 176th in the world, and whose claim to fame as a pro probably was being the first round leader at the Tokyo Olympics. Now he has his sights on the Ryder Cup.

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, US captain Zach Johnson is in this week’s field and said: “I’m a golfer first, so I want to play good golf. I want to win golf tournaments, and I would love to make my team and not play. So that is a priority. In order to do that though, a lot of work has to be done. A lot of, you know, work in the dirt, to be cliche, has to be done.

“I’m looking forward to that. I think the beauty of where I am right now is that my body is still good and I can still go out and play a full schedule and still maintain other responsibilities. So that’s a pretty unique posture. Yeah, I’m excited for this year. I’ve done a lot of work and more to come.”

In truth, this week’s field is not the strongest. If you are looking for a good each-way wager then you could do an awful lot worse than having a flutter on Sungjae Im. The South Korean golfer just loves competing - and he is a former winner of this event.

Tournament Winners

It was won in 2015 by Padraig Harrington, in 2016 by Adam Scott, in 2017 by Rickie Fowler, in 2018 by Justin Thomas, in 2019 by Keith Mitchell, in 2020 by Sungjae Im, in 2021 by Matt Jones and last year by Sepp Straka.

Form Guide

Sungjae Im has made a solid start to the season, finishing seventh at the Shriners, tied fourth at the Farmers Insurance Open and tied sixth at the Phoenix Open. He has two PGA Tour wins to his credit and is ready to make it three victories.

The Course

PGA National’s Champion course opened in 1981 and staged the Ryder Cup in 1983 and the US PGA Championship in 1987. It underwent a $4m renovation in 2002. The tough three hole stretch of the par-3 15th, par-4 16th, and par-3 17th holes is known as "The Bear Trap," named after Jack Nicklaus who is nicknamed the Golden Bear and redesigned the course. It is a par 70 measuring 7,048 yards and the winner is going to be looking for a score around 270.

To Win:

Sungjae Im. As consistent as anybody out there

Each Way:

Billy Horschel. Really wants a win here

Each Way:

Adrian Meronk. Brilliant ball striker

Five to Follow:

Sungjae Im. Obsessive competitor

Billy Horschel. Great short game

Adrian Meronk. Could be a star on the PGA Tour

Min Woo Lee. Great driver of the ball

Chris Kirk. Four-time winner on the PGA Tour

Outsiders to Watch:

Satoshi Kodaira. Has shown some good form

Danny Willett. If he is fit he can still win anywhere

Zach Johnson. Still a class act

Padraig Harrington. Former winner

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup

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