Faves & Fades Honda Classic

2021 Honda Classic Faves & Fades: The 3 Best Players To Play and Avoid In DFS and Betting Markets

The winners of the two previous events have come out of this weekly Faves & Fades article. Unfortunately at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, that came in the form of me writing up Bryson DeChambeau as a Fade. But, we rebounded nicely last week identifying Justin Thomas on the Faves shortlist. You can stroll back down memory lane for that thought process right here.

Last week it was a tall order to find just 3 players at the top of the board to choose. This week proved an even taller order land on just 3 players to fade in such a talentless crop of contestants. But by prioritizing top Ball Strikers and Approach Players, I ultimately was able to refine this down to 3 strong conviction plays to target and avoid. And we’re off!

Faves

Playing for Cousin, Joaquin Niemann Shares Mayakoba Lead | Golf Channel

Joaquin Niemann (+2000, $10,400)

By my accounts, I’m about the 5,826th golf tipster to endorse playing Joaquin Niemann this week. I bet him at 20/1 immediately when odds opened on Monday and I would encourage anyone reading this article to scoop him up if he still stands at that number on your books as well. While I really like Sungjae Im’s game, Joaquin Niemann is to me, the clear cut second best golfer in this field behind Daniel Berger and if you were to play this event out 20 times with this field, one of the worst we’ll see all season, Niemann wins this at least one time.

Sometimes it really is as simple as seeing a value and betting it, regardless of the course history or immediate recent form. The three outrights I’ve cashed over the last 5 weeks – Berger, Morikawa, JT – were just pure value bets I scooped up based on the books mispricing the field when odds dropped on Monday, and that’s what I feel we have here again with Niemann, who’s odds have since corrected down to +1300 on certain books, even jumping ahead of Sungjae.

Niemann hits a controlled, straight, and long ball off the tee and has rode that to the tune of 13 consecutive events where he’s gained strokes OTT dating back to last August. Over his last 10 events, he is averaging 2.3 SG: OTT, 1.5 SG: APP, 0.8 SG: ARG, and 1.5 SG: P. Put that all together and that’s good enough to make him #1 SG: TOT coming into this event over the last 36 rounds. It’s also reassuring to hear that Niemann’s camp is based in Florida, and he’ll have his coaches with him on-site at PGA National.

I may not play a ton of Niemann in DFS if his popularity and ownership continue to trend up the rest of the week, but I’ll be joaquin on sunshine if we close out the sunshine state swing with one more outright cash.

Russell Henley (+3500, $9,800)

Perhaps it is divine intervention that immediately following the event in which Justin Thomas won sans Polo Ralph Lauren sponsorship, it was Mr. Henley himself who popped up #1 in my Models for the Honda Classic. And just like Justin Thomas’ wardrobe, mine too is now entirely devoid of Polos this week. Button up people, it’s Henley time once again!

It cannot be understated how much better Russell Henley is on approach than the rest of the field this week. Over the last 50 rounds, Henley is #1 in SG: APP, gaining 46.2 strokes in aggregate over that span. Chez Reavie is #2, falling a full 5 strokes behind in that stretch. The next closest player to Russell Henley in aggregate strokes gained on approach who’s also gained strokes putting over the same span like Henley has is Cameron Percy, who’s gained 31.2 strokes on approach (15 less than Henley), and has gained a mere 0.9 aggregate strokes putting in that span. Cameron Tringale is the next highest SG: APP player to have also gained at least one full stroke putting, and he falls 19 aggregate strokes short of Henley’s approach prominence. If Collin Morikawa is not in the field, Hustle Henley is the king of Approach, beyond reproach.

While SG: APP is always important on the PGA Tour, it’s especially important at PGA National, where it jumps from the 16th most important stat category by Tour average to the 8th most important at the Honda Classic, based on stat correlations with previous top performers here. And so it should come as no surprise that Henley, the 2014 Honda Classic champion, has had plenty success here, including 5 T25s in his 8 trips and a T8 last year. The top corollary course with Honda Classic success historically has been the Sony Open, at which Henley has also won and delivered his best 2021 finish with a T11.

I’ve been driving the Russell Henley bandwagon for a long time now, and there are few players on Tour I’d be happier to see win than him. Please Russell, let me get these #HenleyGivenSunday tweets out my drafts, and custom henley tees printed already.

Cameron Davis (+5500, $8,600)

Cameron Davis is someone I’ll typically have more exposure to in DFS than betting, because he outscores his fantasy finishing position like no other. Over the last 36 rounds, Davis ranks #19 SG: TOT, and yet he pops to #3 in DK Points behind only Joaquin Nieman and Daniel Berger, without the luxury of a win in that span. And while this is not exactly a scorer’s paradise we’re lining up at this week, the ability to make birdies will go a very long way on a track where +4 may very well be enough to make it to the weekend.

Cameron Davis’ ball striking has been exceptional lately, ranking 4th in SG: BS, thanks primarily to his driver, which ranks him 5th SG: OTT. He’s also 9th in SG: T2G, which goes a long way in indicating success at the Honda Classic. Last year, Davis finished T8, gaining strokes in all major categories, highlighted by 6.1 SG: APP. Coming into the Honda Classic this year, his irons are hotter than ever, gaining at least 2.5 strokes APP in 4 of his last 6 events.

Davis also ranks out well in Opportunities Gained (#4), Birdies or Better Gained (#4), Driving Distance (#8), and P4 Scoring (#14), which should help give him a great leg up this week. In a field as bereft of talent as this, I’ll back the young freak athlete at these odds any day.

Fades

Faux Suede Coat | Adam scott golfer, Adam scott, Open championship

Sungjae Im (+1400, $11,000)

It’s not you Sungjae, it’s me. PGA National tends to give us a volatile board by the end of the week, given the amount of danger that even the most skilled players in the field can so easily find themselves in. Because of that, +1400 is unfortunately an un-bettable number for me, regardless of the player. This is also an event that tends to have historically favored players in either the middle 20-40 range, or absolute 200+ bombs, so I don’t find the need to chase a repeat win from Sungjae as the highest-priced player on DK.

When Sungjae won this event last year, he was averaging 0.7 SG: APP over his last 10 events coming in. This year, the irons are a bit colder, losing an average of 0.3 strokes over his last 10 events. He had also lost at least 2 strokes on Approach for 3 straight weeks coming into THE PLAYERS last week, where he played about even to the field on approach.

Over the last 3 months, Sungjae has 0 T10s in the 7 events he’s played. I’m sure he’ll have a fine showing this week, but I’m not onboard with his top-tier valuation coming in.

Adam Scott (+2500, $10,100)

I don’t get the impression that Adam Scott is hungry to win this event. He’s got a Honda Classic win under his belt already and has been open with the media all week in saying that getting tuned up for The Masters is his focus.

If Adam Scott was, say 40/1, I’d probably take a flier on his value, but as the 5th overall favorite, I’m going to pass. He has lost an absurd 10.4 strokes OTT over his last two events in Florida, which bodes disastrous at PGA National if he can’t correct that immediately. I was also surprised to see that Scott has just one T20 finish in his 13 starts over the past calendar year. There are plenty of players who come in at longer odds and stronger recent T2G form who’d I’d rather pivot to than Scott this week.

Rickie Fowler (+4500, $8,900)

I have nothing positive left to say about Rickie Fowler and at this point will probably blindly bet against his Matchup this week, regardless of who they put him up against on the board. It’s very clear that the swing changes he’s going through continue to be a trial & error process. While his success as a past winner of this event is most certainly factored into the +4500, $8,900 valuation, he’s given us no reason to expect that he can snap back to his vintage self on his tried and true course history tracks, after seeing him recently miss the cut at both THE PLAYERS and WMPO.

At this price, you are essentially asking Rickie for a T20 to break even, and he has just one T20 finish in his last 14 events. The ball striking and approach play have been ugly over the last 36 rounds, ranking 88th and 121st respectively, and a difficult course like PGA National which puts a premium on ball striking and approach play isn’t exactly the get-right spot Rickie needs right now.