With the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship behind us, it is time to move back to the familiarity of stroke play and begin the Florida Swing at The Honda Classic. When sizing up the field this week, there are a few things to consider. Not the least of which is how to boost or fade a player coming out of the Match Play.
I made a comment on Twitter that I would like Fredrik Jacobson’s chances this week if he went ahead and lost out of the Accenture Match Play on Saturday, rather than go too deep. He promptly lost out in the third round, and in doing so prevented himself from having to play roughly 65-70 holes in two days; instead playing 17. With a first-round win over Ernie Els and a second round blowout over Marcus Fraser on the resume, his loss to firecracker-hot Robert Garrigus 3 & 1 wasn’t a bad beat. I like him much more this week under those circumstances than if we would have had to have played in the wind and cold for two rounds on Sunday. He would come to PGA National mentally and physically drained, and hoping he didn’t hurt his swing playing in the wind.
While we didn’t do a traditional power ranking last week, I supposed since I picked Matt Kuchar to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play in the bracket I published, that counts as having my top man bring home the title. We’ll see if we can do it again this week.
- Charl Schwartzel – I really don’t put much weight on his first-round loss to Russell Henley in the Match Play when you factor in how well he’s played in stroke-play events the last few months. Couple that with this routinely being one of his top three events on the PGA TOUR schedule, and you have a formula for success. He tied for fifth in this event last year. Consider him for a one-and-done. I’m probably going to hold off until next week at Doral, but I won’t talk you out of him this week.
- Tiger Woods – Not too many guys played better in the first round of the Match Play than Woods, but Charles Howell III wasn't missing. He won at Torrey Pines and finished T2 here last year. I feel very good about his form and his performance on this course. Play him in any format except one-and-done. I’m eyeing him for Bay Hill in that capacity.
- Fredrik Jacobson – He’s scored top 10s in each of his three stops this year, missing out on a playoff at Riviera by a stroke. He has two top-six finishes in this event at this venue, and has never missed a cut or finished outside the top 30 in four starts at PGA National. His form and course history have never been a better match for an event than this week. He will likely be my one-and-done.
- Graeme McDowell – GMac looked good at Dove Mountain and is 3/3 in making cuts at PGA National with two top 10s. It would be a surprise if he didn't at least finish top 15 and it is likely that he will challenge for the win.
- Justin Rose – Rose has made three (of four) cuts in this event with two top fives and a T15. Lost to Nicolas Colsaerts in the second round of Match Play last week, which wasn't a bad beat. I’m waiting on him to make a big splash sometime soon, but the stars haven’t aligned for me to declare this the week.
- Lee Westwood – Ball striking, in particular GIR, is at a premium this week which favors the Englishman. That said, I’m fearful of his ability to handle the par 3s if he misses the greens. His history here includes no missed cuts in three events with two top 10s and a top 30. I don’t see a win, but I see a comfortable top 25 with him knocking on the door of a lower top 10.
- Rory McIlroy – The defending champ has played exactly three rounds this season, with none all that successful. He needs a solid week to try and calm the Nike storm. With four paydays in four tries at PGA National, this should be a venue where he can at least nab a top 25 and start to build some confidence. If he doesn't, then the mental side of his game will become a challenge very soon.
- Kevin Stadler – Stadler is nothing if not a ball-striker, but his putter has actually been average this year. That said, it seems like every time he’s in contention the live telecast cuts to him missing a 3-foot putt. He tied for ninth here last year and could be a dark horse in a field of purebreds.
- Jason Day – Coming off a third at the Match Play, he will be beaming with confidence but may be low on energy. He doesn't have enough history here to make any sweeping statements on his fit for PGA National, but if he can get through the first round without disaster he could pick up steam on the weekend.
- Charles Howell III – Chuck got over the hump and knocked off his old buddy Tiger Woods before suffering a predictable second-round letdown against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. I maintain that wasn’t a bad beat. GFC took Woods 18 holes in 2012 before losing and gave Webb Simpson all he could handle in the third round. He has two ties for 26th and a T10 in three starts at PGA National.
- Chris Kirk - His form is ridiculous right now, but his course history is just fair at PGA National. He's made both his cuts, but hasn't recorded a top 25.
- Russell Henley – Henley lit it up late in the year on the Web.com Tour on Florida courses and he played his college golf just up the road at the University of Georgia. There are certain guys that are horses for Florida courses and I could see him being one of those guys. If he shows well this week, don’t be surprised to see me burn a one-and-done on him at Tampa Bay if he plays. His first-round Match Play upset over Schwartzel was nice, and that he lost to eventual third-place finisher Jason Day doesn't speak poorly either.
The next 5: Ernie Els, Brendon de Jonge, Harris English, Billy Horschel and Nicolas Colsaerts
We will dive into this week’s games in tomorrow’s post. Until then, happy research and best of luck!