Golf best bets at PGA National

Last week’s field at the Genesis Invitational featured 23 of the top-25 players in the Official Golf World Rankings – Tiger Woods. The tournament before that, the WM Phoenix Open, featured a similar field playing in front of the best crowd in the sport.

This week, well, things will feel different.

The PGA Tour will kick off its annual Florida Swing at the 2023 Honda Classic with a star-barren field that features just three top-20 players (Sungjae Im, Billy Horschel, and Shane Lowry) and eight from the top 50.

This weekend’s Honda Classic will begin Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6:45 a.m. ET., and will be broadcast on Golf Channel, NBC and ESPN+.

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Honda Classic preview

Not only does the limited field change the feel of the tournament and the watchability for casual fans, but it also completely alters how you want to play it from a sports betting standpoint.

At the WM Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational, you had to try and beat the best players on the planet. This week, the betting favorite is Sungjae Im at +1000. Shane Lowry, whose odds were in the triple digits for the Genesis seven days ago, is the second choice at +1600. In other words, this thing is wide open.

And adding to the chaos is the venue. PGA National is the host of the Honda Classic and is consistently rated as one of the toughest courses on the tour. There are water hazards everywhere, wind can play a major factor, and holes 15-17, aka “the Bear Trap,” are known as some of the most challenging in the sport. It’s no wonder the winning scores since 2015 have landed between 6-under par and 12-under. Don’t expect a birdie-fest this weekend.

We’ve seen some big names win here, like Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, and Sungjae Im, but we’ve also had big long shots win, like Sepp Straka and Matt Jones. 

A weak field playing on a tough course means it’s time to find some long shots. Here are a few that stand out:

South Korea's An Byeong-Hun plays his shot
South Korea’s An Byeong-Hun plays his shot
AFP via Getty Images

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2023 Honda Classic odds and predictions

Byeong-hun An (+5500, BetMGM)

After spending a year in the golf wilderness, Byeong-hun An is back on the PGA Tour and has quietly been percolating. The South Korean has made the cut in all four events he’s played in 2023 and has finished T12, T41, T62 and T37. Those results don’t scream at you, but if you look closer at his scorecards, you’ll notice that An has been undone by one poor round in each start. 

PGA National is a real test, so perhaps An has a few more wayward rounds, but if he can stay on course he’s got the upside and form to contend in this field.

Webb Simpson (+9000, Caesars)

This is a play on upside and pedigree. If this tournament was taking place 12 months ago, Simpson would be among the favorites. But, as you can tell by his odds, it’s been an ugly year for the seven-time PGA Tour winner. Simpson, however, does check a couple boxes outside of having the pedigree of a major champion. He’s got strong numbers in difficult conditions and he’s won a PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass, which is another water-happy, difficult course in Florida. The form is ugly, but this is a great buy-low spot in a bad field.

Webb Simpson plays his approach shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the Honda Classic
Webb Simpson plays his approach shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the Honda Classic in 2018
Getty Images

Erik van Rooyen (+10000, Caesars)

Van Rooyen is boom or bust. The 32-year-old South African made nine cuts in 17 starts in 2021-22, but he finished inside the top-25 five times and had a top-10 finish. In 2023, van Rooyen has made two of three cuts and posted a T6 at The American Express. The University of Minnesota also ranks fifth in this field in Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 24 rounds. 

He has the game to contend, but he also has plenty of blow-up potential. 

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