Golf picks: Honda Classic predictions & best bets from Diane Knox Balas

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Diane Knox Balas


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Diane Knox Balas loves golf (she’s Scottish, so of course she does) but let’s just say she’s much better at analyzing golf than playing! The same cannot be said for her brother, Russell Knox, who’s a 2-time winner on the PGA Tour and fueled Diane’s initial passion for the sport. A seasoned TV and radio host, Diane has given out 8 outright winners since joining the Pickswise team in April 2022. Her general rule is she has to have three stand-out reasons for each pick and spends her time studying stats, playing form and little nuggets of information from golfers’ lives on Tour. Diane lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Garrett, son Greyson and two English Bulldogs Bowser & Barkley. You can follow her antics on Twitter @KnoxyDiane and Instagram @dianeknoxbalas.

New strategy – just put money on John Rahm and Max Homa every week and the pot will steadily grow!

It’s like these guys are playing ping-pong with PGA Tour wins right now. Another exceptional victory from the Spaniard, who’s won 5 of his last 9 worldwide starts. Although he has said he doesn’t need a world ranking to validate his game, he’s back to No. 1 in the OWGR. Plus, he’s won just shy of $10 million so far in 2023 and we haven’t even reached March! Rahm is on a Tiger-esque run. In addition, Homa finished right behind him in solo second.

We made some money with Patrick Cantlay’s top-10 finish at +320 last week at the Genesis Invitational. However, the prop bet we really wanted to cash was the Tiger top-20, and despite it looking good after Saturday, he fumbled down the home stretch to finish T45.

Here’s this week’s opportunity/challenge now that the West Coast Swing is over – we have a golf tournament in Florida WITHOUT the likes of Rahm, Homa and Cantlay, and the door is wide open. The Honda Classic takes place down in Palm Beach Gardens, and it’s Jack Nicklaus’ PGA National that will provide the challenge. The highest-ranked players teeing it up this week are Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im and Shane Lowry, and last year’s winner Sepp Straka will try to defend his title.

A very different field of players compared to the last two weeks of elevated events, but the course always poses a tough challenge. I was hoping that the 2019 champion, Keith Mitchell, would continue his run of form and tee it up at the site of his debut win, but no luck. However, I look forward to these “lesser-field” events to see who will step up.

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PGA National: What you need to know

Get ready for the perils of The Bear Trap, plus water, water and MORE water!

PGA National is a par 70 measuring 7,125 yards. Guys will be hoping to stay dry on the fifteen holes that feature a water hazard, including the three-hole stretch of 15, 16 and 17 that’s “affectionately” known as The Bear Trap. For this year’s tournament, some bunkers have been removed, or reduced, on holes 13, 16, 17 and 18.

Accuracy off the tee is going to be key in avoiding all the hazards and last year’s champion, Sepp Straka, hit 23% more fairways than the field average. Straka also gained in distance, so total driving (distance plus accuracy) is the stat to look for. Approach is also a big stat for this week, combined with a hot putter on these greens. Talking of the greens, we’re back to Bermuda grass this week which will be very welcomed by a large chunk of the field after putting on tricky Poa out on the West Coast.

The wind blows around PGA National too, with 13 mph winds forecast on Thursday, so I’m also looking at all-around brilliant ball-strikers who are coming into the week with some recent form behind them.

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Knox’s Knockout Honda Classic Picks

Shane Lowry (+1400)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook

When looking at the guys at the top of the field this week, Lowry is my pick. First up, he finished runner-up last year. It’s no surprise that you have to be an accurate ball-striker to play your way around PGA National, and last year he hit 13% more fairways than the field’s average. He also gained almost two strokes in approach. This season, he leads approaches from inside 100 yards, as well as total driving (a combo of accuracy and distance). The Irishman is coming off a 14th-place finish last week in LA, and this will be his third consecutive tournament. He’s here for one reason and one reason only – to win this tournament after coming so close last year.

Matt Kuchar (+2800)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook

The last seven winners of the Honda Classic have recorded a top-16 finish in the weeks prior, and Matt Kuchar finished T7 at the Sony and then 8th at the Genesis last week. Kuch won the Honda back in 2002 and hasn’t played in the tournament since 2011, so what a story that would be! The Floridian is back in his home state and on familiar turf (literally) and sitting at 16th in strokes gained: total for the season.

Billy Horschel (+3000)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook

The guys are back on Bermuda grass this week, and who loves Bermuda grass? Florida Gator Billy Horschel! He’s had four top-16 finishes in his last six appearances in the Honda, and two of those were top-8. Billy hasn’t had a great start to 2023 with two top-32 finishes and two missed cuts, but as I said this guy performs best when playing closer to home. He’s middle of the pack in accuracy off the tee, but leads in par 3 birdies, which will be a nice stat to have in the back of your mind when playing The Bear Trap.

Peter Malnati (+13000)

Available at DraftKings Sportsbook

When looking at his current form, Malnati has been playing some great golf. He’s had three top-20 finishes in his last four starts, and one of those was a T4 at Pebble Beach. Peter is an excellent putter and sits at 8th on the Tour this season, plus 10th in consecutive GIR will put him in good stead this week too, where accuracy and the approach shot will be key to scoring.

Honda Classic Prop Bets

Hayden Buckley top-10 (+600)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

Hayden Buckley has been playing some great golf of late, and has two top-5 finishes this season. He was runner-up at the Sony Open, and when looking at course comparisons, Waialae comes out top. Buckley is one of the top ball-strikers on Tour and 5th in strokes gained: off-the-tee, as well as 7th in total driving. I like him to have another good week.

Jason Dufner top-20 (+800)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

Dufner is using his career exemption on the Tour this year, and the biggest highlight in a long time came two weeks ago in Phoenix when he finished just outside the top-30. That had to boost the 45-year-old’s confidence as he comes back to a course he knows well, and loves. Jason’s had five top-15s here and his current best stat, approach from 125-150 yards, will be an important one this week. We just need some putts to fall!

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The Pickswise golf handicappers are on hand with expert Golf Picks and Golf Predictions as well as tournament previews and analysis throughout the PGA Tour, including all of the majors.

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