2023 Honda Classic Predictions: Winners, Sleepers, Busts, and Holes to Watch at PGA National
After two incredible elevated events to close out the West Coast Swing, the PGA Tour shifts to the other side of the country this week as the Florida Swing kicks off with the Honda Classic.
As it has since 2007, the famed Champion Course at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens serves as the venue for the 156-player field, a field that will be missing the vast majority of the game’s top players. But that doesn’t mean the Honda Classic is entirely devoid of notable names.
World No. 18 and 2020 champion Sungjae Im is the highest-ranked player in the field and is one of five top-40 players who will tee it up at PGA National, the others being Billy Horschel (No. 19), Shane Lowry (No. 20), defending champion Sepp Straka (No. 31), and Aaron Wise (No. 39).
Past major champions Padraig Harrington, Webb Simpson, Danny Willett, Jimmy Walker, and Zach Johnson will tee it up at the Honda Classic as well.
So let’s see how this week could play out.
2023 Honda Classic predictions
Here are a few predictions for the 2023 Honda Classic from Sportscasting golf experts Luke Norris and Jack Dougherty.
Luke Norris: Shane Lowry
A year ago at the Honda Classic, Shane Lowry stepped to the par-5 finishing hole at PGA National needing a birdie to get to 10-under, which wound up being the winning score. Unfortunately, a massive storm rolled in at the wrong time, and he was only able to make par, leaving him one short of a playoff with winner Sepp Straka.
That said, I think the 35-year-old Irishman will have a little chip on his shoulder heading into this week and will play some fantastic golf on a course he obviously knows how to play well. The Champion Course at PGA National is annually one of the most challenging tracks on the PGA Tour, and Lowry fired three consecutive 67s to close out this tourney last year to get himself into contention.
My only concern is that he’ll be a little fatigued, with this being his third straight week of action. He’s been a bit up and down recently, but I like his chances here.
Jack Dougherty: Thomas Detry
Jon Rahm has made the most consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour with 24 in a row. Second on that list is Xander Schauffele with 17. And third place? That would be Mr. Thomas Detry with 15. In nine starts this season, Detry has recorded two top-10 finishes and a runner-up at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
The German can absolutely bomb the ball off the tee, which should give him a crucial advantage over the weaker field this week. As long as he avoids the trouble lurking around every corner at PGA National, Detry should be in the mix on Sunday for his first PGA Tour win.
Luke Norris: Hayden Buckley
Hayden Buckley may not be quite ready for big-time tournaments, but I really like the 26-year-old in this weaker field.
In his last three starts, he missed the cut at Torrey Pines, tied for 29th in Phoenix, and missed the cut this past weekend at Riviera.
However, in the start before those three star-studded tourneys, Buckley finished solo second at the Sony Open, finishing just one shot back of Si Woo Kim, who made a clutch chip-in late in the final round. Tee shots are critical at the Honda Classic, and of the 156 players in this field, Buckley ranks second in strokes gained off the tee, 11th in strokes gained tee to green, and fifth in both strokes gained total and driving accuracy over the last six months.
Not bad for a guy coming into the week at 55-1.
Jack Dougherty: Danny Willett
Danny Willett hasn’t been heard from much since his unexplainable Masters victory in 2016, but he’s quietly been playing some good golf this season.
The Englishman kicked off the 2022-23 campaign with a runner-up finish at the Fortinet Championship, and he’s coming off a top-20 finish in a loaded field at the Genesis Invitational. In a more wide-open tournament this week, I think Willett can find himself in contention on the weekend.
Most likely bust
Luke Norris: Aaron Wise
Aaron Wise comes into the week as one of the top five or six favorites, and I’m really not sure why. Does the 2018 Rookie of the Year have talent? Absolutely. But we haven’t seen much great golf from him this season.
In nine worldwide starts since his encouraging finish at the Tour Championship, Wise has just one top-10 finish. And not only has he missed the cut in his last two starts at the American Express and the WM Phoenix Open, he also missed the weekend at this very tournament a year ago. Wise ranks 94th off the tee this season and 116th in strokes gained approach. That doesn’t say favorite to me.
Jack Dougherty: Sungjae Im
With a brutally weak field at the Honda Classic this weekend, Sungjae Im has been pegged as the overwhelming betting favorite at +750 odds. No one else is lower than 15-1 to win.
Look, I understand why Im is such a big favorite. He’s the highest-ranked player in the field, and he won at PGA National back in 2020. But Im missed the cut at the Honda Classic last year, and the South Korean isn’t playing well enough to be priced in the Jon Rahm range. I think he fails to perform up to expectations this week.
Luke Norris: No. 18
Following the signature three-hole Bear Trap, the Champion Course at PGA National closes with a par-5 that was recently lengthened to play more than 600 yards. You’ve got a double dogleg (first left, then right) with bunkers and water everywhere and a green that’s perched out and hangs over the lake on the right. What more do you want from a finishing hole?
Jack Dougherty: No. 15
The par-3 15th hole at PGA National marks the start of The Bear Trap, one of the most difficult three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour schedule.
It isn’t an intimidatingly long hole at just 180 yards, but the swirling winds and dangerous water hazard short, right, and long of the green will make players think twice about their club choice. Bailing out deep or left isn’t a picnic, either, because of the sloping green that runs toward the lake. Par is always a good score at No. 15.