The Teddy Bear Trap?
The launch of the Florida Swing is supposed to coincide with gusts of wind that separate the mettle from the meek, but The Honda Classic is forecast to be contested under tame conditions for once. Whether Camilo Villegas' tournament record of 13-under 267 at PGA National's Champion Course – a stock par 70 – is in jeopardy remains to be seen, but it's a reasonable target.
For more on how PGA National usually plays, what's new on the course this year and much more, scroll past the ranking.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Zach Johnson, Emiliano Grillo, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Dufner and Puerto Rico Open champion Martin Trainer will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
Every course requires a level of shotmaking in the context of the strike itself and/or its timing during the competition. Then there's PGA National. It presents nothing but pressure essentially throughout the entire walk of 7,125 yards.
Its scoring average last year landed at 72.303, highest in relation to par of all non-majors in the last two completed seasons. It also was a seven-year high for the course. Furthermore, PGA National has been the most difficult par 70 among all non-majors in four of the last six seasons. As noted at the top, that's because the wind is usually howling.
When Villegas prevailed in 2010, breezes were sustained at 10-20 mph throughout. In fact, he's an outlier. His margin of victory of five strokes equaled the tournament record first established by Jack Nicklaus at Inverrary in 1977.
That convenient truth brings us back to PGA National, a track with Nicklaus' paws all over it. It includes renovation and enlargement of all 18 greens. The putting surfaces are still TifEagle bermuda, but it's new grass in advance of this week's edition. Meanwhile, greens on average now measure approximately 7,000 square feet, an increase of more than 25 percent.
In theory, bigger targets assist in battling the wind, but with relatively calm conditions expected, hole locations and green speeds will have to play greater roles in defending the course. Undulating greens are prepped to touch 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, but they may not hit that mark until the weekend since midweek rain and storms will soften all turf. Daytime highs around 80 degrees will accompany humid air.
The Bear Trap, as it's dubbed officially, consists of the par-3 15th hole, the par-4 16th and the par-3 17th, the last of which is now only 175 yards, down 15 yards since last year thanks to an updated and adjusted tee box. Of 204 par 3s played during the 2017-18 season, No. 17 was the hardest at +0.533 strokes to par; No. 15 slotted third-hardest at +0.391. And with No. 16 ranking T36 among 551 par 4s, all three holes finished inside the top-50 hardest holes on TOUR all season. None had cracked that bubble since both par 3s in 2011.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.