Honda Classic 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

Honda Classic Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. The PGA Tour returns to Florida and Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Honda Classic 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

After an exciting string of West Coast action, the PGA Tour now travels East to kick off the Florida swing with the Honda Classic. This tournament has been a staple of the PGA Tour since 1972, and it has been held at the Champion Course at PGA National since 2007. The Honda Classic is known for its extremely difficult conditions, annually ranking as one of the top-10 hardest tests on the schedule. The infamous 'Bear Trap' consists of holes 15 through 17, and ranks as one of the most difficult three hole stretches that players will see all year.

There are multiple reasons why PGA National is so difficult, despite only tipping out to 7,125 yards on the scorecard. The Fazio design features firm and fast Bermuda greens, 26 different individual water hazards, and is susceptible to high winds. Each of the last 10 years, the winning score has fallen between six and 12 under par. Players will face intimidating tee shots with narrow landing areas surrounding by bunkers and water on both sides. Avoiding the hazards will be absolutely paramount this week, yet the occasional water ball here feels somewhat inevitable, so identifying players who are elite scramblers has proven to be a worthy strategy. I will primarily be targeting players who are accurate off the tee, are strong middle iron and bunker players, have experienced success on Bermuda-grass greens, and thrive in more difficult scoring conditions.

Let's dig into my Round 1 3-Ball selections.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Shane Lowry (+110) vs. Stewart Cink (+210) vs. Zach Johnson (+220)

Selection: Shane Lowry (+110) (Bet $100 to win $110)

When breaking down single round matchups, I tend to side with underdogs, but every so often we are given a 3-Ball where the favorite is head and shoulders above his playing partners. I feel that is the case this week with Shane Lowry, who I am extremely high on in all markets for the Honda Classic. The former Open Championship winner has shown a strong affinity over the course of his career for difficult scoring conditions. Outside of his Open Championship title, Lowry has multiple major top-10s to his name, including a recent fourth-place finish at the windswept Kiawah Island, site of the 2021 PGA Championship. I also believe he is under-valued right now because he hasn't played in the United States since November, but a T12 at Abu Dhabi, a T24 at the Dubai Desert Classic, and a T14 at the Saudi International to start the season shows me that the Irishman is in fine form.

While Zach Johnson does make sense at PGA National for his solid short game and history of success on Bermuda greens, I have a difficult time trusting his ball-striking right now. In his most recent start, he lost a whopping 4.6 strokes off the tee and 0.7 strokes on approach, good for his work ball-striking week since last May. A demanding off the tee course with water on nearly every hole like PGA National is far from an ideal get right spot.

Stewart Cink enters this week in similarly questionable form. He has failed to record a single top-20 since he won the RBC Heritage all the way back in April, and he has lost strokes both off the tee and on approach in three consecutive starts. Lowry is the far superior player in this group, and I was shocked to see him at plus money.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Sungjae Im (+125) vs. Louis Oosthuizen (+160) vs. Lucas Herbert (+275)

Selection: Louis Oosthuizen (+160) (Bet $100 to win $160)

I believe that Louis Oosthuizen is going to win this golf tournament, so why not back him to get off to a hot start in round one? The 39-year-old is presented with a rare opportunity this week that I do not expect him to come across often. Oosthuizen's game is far better suited for tougher tests, as he ranks sixth in this field in strokes gained approach, sixth in scrambling, second in bogey avoidance, and second in difficult scoring conditions. His 11 top-10s in major championships speak for themselves. The issue is that the perfect courses for Oosthuizen always attract the best fields in the world, ala major championships. Yet the Honda Classic is probably the only course on the entire PGA Tour schedule that provides major champion conditions, yet with one of the worst fields of the year. The door is wide open for the South African to pick up his first victory on American soil.

Moving on to his competitors, Sungjae Im doesn't scare me this week as much as he seems to scare others. I am aware of his track record here, but PGA National is not the type of course where players can just show up and perform well every year. There's just far too much variance involved with all the water. Even the players with great course history have a few stinkers in there as well. I wasn't very impressed with Im's ball-striking at the Genesis, and I do find him to be over-priced in this field. Oosthuizen laps him statistically when running through my numbers.

Lucas Herbert is obviously in a different class of player than both Oosthuizen and Im, and while I find his odds appealing, he is one of the worst players in this field off the tee, which is a recipe for disaster at PGA National. Since the calendar flipped to 2021, Herbert has lost a combined 19.6 strokes from tee to green in only six rounds of golf. Not great, Lucas. I'll gladly side with Oosthuizen, who I would make the favorite in this 3-Ball.

Round 1 3-Ball: Billy Horschel (+125) vs. Cameron Young (+190) vs. Patrick Reed (+210)

Selection: Patrick Reed (+210) (Bet $100 to win $210)

Alright, it's time to go out on a limb. I'll admit, it's very hard to make a case for Patrick Reed based on his recent form, yet PGA National is actually the perfect get right for the former Masters Champion. Similar to Oosthuizen, Reed is at his best on harder courses, ranking second in this field in scrambling and first in scoring in difficult conditions. The only time that Patrick Reed has shown life in the last six months was at the Bermuda Championship, a windy, difficult, Bermuda-grass course with a terrible field. Sounds awfully familiar. The Honda Classic is the perfect week to embrace variance, as even the best ball-strikers will inevitably find themselves in the water. These odds just seem too high to me, so I'll take my chances with the underdog.

As far as his competitors, Cameron Young is simply over-priced coming off a highly publicized second-place finish at the Genesis Invitational. I'm high on his talent long term, but playing Young this week would be a buy when his stock is at a high point. Last week was an emotional grind, as Young contended for the first time in a huge tournament. This feels like a natural letdown spot.

Similar to Sungjae Im, I understand Billy Horschel's popularity this week, but I find him to be a pretty easy fade at his price point. Yes, he played well at the Farmer's and WM Phoenix Open, but he also gained a combined 10 strokes putting. Horschel is a good putter, but not once in his entire career has he gained over five strokes putting in three consecutive starts. I'm expecting some regression with the flat-stick this week, and he still remains one of the weaker iron players in this entire field. Hold your nose and cover your eyes, but Reed is the play.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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