Honda Classic betting preview: Rory McIlroy the man to beat in Florida
By Ben Coley
Last Updated: 23/02/16 2:38pm
After a 175/1 winner last week, Ben Coley think it's time to get on the favourite for the start of the Florida Swing at the Honda Classic.
The Honda Classic has been kind to me in the past, with Russell Henley's 2014 success my best yet and Daniel Berger oh so nearly landing the double in 2015.
Key to finding the winner here has been a little luck, of course, but also the willingness to look beyond the obvious in an event which has thrown up some huge upsets. Berger, after all, was beaten by Padraig Harrington in a play-off while the likes of YE Yang, Rory Sabbatini, Michael Thompson and 300/1 chance Henley were shock winners.
If there is to be an upset this time there are plenty of candidates but the one I think is most interesting is among the rank outsiders - Sam Saunders.
Most famous for being Arnold Palmer's grandson, Saunders has nonetheless achieved plenty by himself with a play-off defeat in last year's Puerto Rico Open showing that he can be competitive at this level.
Granted, the Honda Classic is a step up in class from that tournament in terms of field strength but he wasn't far away here in 2010, when a closing bogey saw him drop to a very respectable 17th place.
Saunders has since improved to the extent that he has earned himself full PGA Tour membership and while his recent form is poor, he'll be looking forward to a return home to Florida where he plays his best golf.
You can get prices up to 1,000/1 in places and while the temptation is to assume therefore that he has no chance, I don't believe that's the case.
Even so, I do expect Rory McIlroy to take all the beating and he's my best bet of the week.
McIlroy dropped a big hint last week that he's close to peak form again and a return to a course he knows well, one situated close to his Florida home, has to be seen as a major positive.
The world No 3 won this event in 2012 and should have won it in 2014 so while there are some bad rounds to go with the good, if he is at anything like his best he's the man to beat.
With Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler both having to get over blowing great chances to win last time, Kevin Kisner and Brooks Koepka are the next two I like.
Koepka looks short enough at 33s despite some eye-catching form here at one of his local tracks, which includes a remarkable 64 in round two last year after he'd opened with a 78.
At a bigger price, Kisner looks better value as his overall form is stronger and this test will suit him down to the ground. The RSM Classic winner missed the cut in Phoenix but is a much better player out east and should show it this week.
Both are former major winners and that's a good starting point here. After all, Harrington, Yang and Els himself have won majors as well as this event while Thompson, the shock 2013 winner, had finished second in the previous year's US Open.
That was won by Simpson, who is striking the ball so well that any improvement for a switch to bermuda greens which are typically easier to read will see him go very close indeed.
Els has produced back-to-back top-25 finishes, including at Riviera last week, and is well suited to a potentially difficult, windy challenge in a state which brings out his best side.
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