Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Honda Classic FRL Tips 2022

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For full FRL stats for the 2022 Honda Classic with tee times added click here.

With another blank week on the DP World Tour, I’ve once again taken a deeper look at the First Round Leader market for this week’s PGA Tour event. Jason Kokrak gave us a run for our money last week at 5-under through 11 holes before eventually finishing in a tie for 6th place, so let’s see if we can improve on that effort.

Using our historical FRL stats for this event, we can now investigate the tee times, incoming FRL form, event FRL history and odds of the field from the last 4 years:

We’ve added the eventual day 1 finishing positions to each of the stats sheets above and all columns can be sorted, so if you sort by the ‘Result’ column on the end you can review the data for those players who performed best.

Looking at the FRL winners and those who placed from an each-way perspective, my summary of the key factors is as follows:

Tee Times. Of the eventual FRL winners and those in the top 5 and ties after day 1, the split between AM and PM starters is biased a little towards morning starters:

  • AM starters: 16 players
  • PM starters: 11 players

Event Experience. Each of the eventual FRL winners, including the share for the lead in 2018 and 2020, had experience of the course in the past, with the exception of Tom Lewis:

  • 2021: Matt Jones, 7 starts
  • 2020: Harris English, 6 starts; Tom Lewis, debut.
  • 2019: Jhonattan Vegas, 6 starts.
  • 2018: Webb Simpson, 3 starts; Alex Noren, 1 start.

Event FRL Performance. There’s some evidence of repeat FRL efforts here at PGA National:

  • Harris English (2020) and Matt Jones (2021) had both recorded FRL top-5 in a previous year before topping the leaderboard after 18 holes.

FRL Winners’ Odds. Each of the eventual FRL winners, including the share for the lead in 2018 and 2020, was priced in the 40/1 to 90/1 bracket:

  • 2021: Matt Jones, 66/1.
  • 2020: Harris English, 70/1; Tom Lewis, 90/1.
  • 2019: Jhonattan Vegas, 80/1.
  • 2018: Webb Simpson, 60/1; Alex Noren, 40/1.

Recent FRL form. Compared to last week, there’s less evidence of recent fast starts from a number of the eventual FRL winners and those in the top 5 and ties after day 1:

  • 3 of the 27 players had a FRL win (or tie) in their recent history, as detailed on the stats pages.
  • 21 of the 27 players had finished inside the top-10 after day 1 in their recent history, as detailed on the stats pages.

Some trends to follow there and if you combine that with the firm and challenging conditions expected underfoot this week as Steve Bamford describes in his full betting preview, this should help lead us to the right kind of players.

Here’s the latest weather forecast for the area.

History would suggest that there’s a slight bias towards AM starters and with the wind expected to be at its lightest in the morning before picking up to maybe 12-15mph from noon, I’ll load my team with 3 from the morning wave.

My 3 selections for First Round Leader are as follows:

Michael Thompson 1pt EW 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Betfred

  • PGA National Starts: 10
  • PGA National FRL Best: 1st (2016)
  • Last 10 Event FRL Form: 104/50/83/36/55/4/152/2/111/44
  • Tee Time: 7.23AM

2013 Honda Classic winner Michael Thompson has produced some fast starts already in 2022 and another wouldn’t surprise here.

From 10 starts here at PGA National, the 36 year-old has carded rounds of 67, 66 and 65 twice each, with one of those 65s being good enough for a tie for the lead in 2016 alongside Sergio Garcia from an afternoon tee time.

Thompson has finished inside the top 4 after day one on 4 of his last 12 starts on Tour, including at the Sony Open in January where he opened (and closed) with a round of 63, plus at the Farmers Insurance Open where he shot 64 to sit a shot behind Billy Horschel after 18 holes. RESULT: T65

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Stewart Cink 0.75pt EW 90/1 (6EW, 1/5) with William Hill

  • PGA National Starts: 11
  • PGA National FRL Best:  2nd (2009)
  • Last 10 Event FRL Form: 29/25/83/39/50/55/13/62/88/6
  • Tee Time: 7.34AM

There was a time that Stewart Cink was always worth a look when it came to the FRL market, and although he’s not peppering the top of the 18-hole leaderboard as often nowadays, he’s still capable of producing a low round every now and then.

An opening round of 67 here on his PGA National debut in 2009 was enough for a tie for 2nd place after day 1, however it was his 2nd round 64 last year which really catches the eye. That effort put the 48 year-old in a strong position heading into the weekend before eventually recording a personal-best tie for 19th place overall.

An opening round of 67 in Phoenix on his last start was Cink’s best position in the field on a Thursday evening since the Open last July, however there have been further hints of some good underlying form of late as he sat 7th to halfway at Kapalua to start the year, and a Friday round of 63 at the Sony Open catapulted him to 5th after 36 holes.

Wins at the Safeway Open and RBC Heritage in the past 18 months suggests that he’s still more than competitive and in this relatively weak field he could shine early on. RESULT: T139

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Sepp Straka 0.75pt EW 95/1 (5EW, 1/4) with Paddy Power

  • PGA National Starts: 2
  • PGA National FRL Best: 15th (2021)
  • Last 10 Event FRL Form: 68/74/11/50/106/24/24/113/84/97
  • Tee Time: 7.01AM

Other close considerations for this week were Camilo Villegas and Rory Sabbatini, both of whom have a habit of popping up in the first round of events, and if I were chancing an afternoon starter it would have been KH Lee, however I’ll stick with a team of 3 this week.

An opening round of 74 last week hides some good underlying form for Sepp Straka as only 4 players beat his subsequent 3 round aggregate score, comprised of rounds of 68, 66 and 68.

First round efforts of late have been slow by the Austrian’s high standard, however 4 FRLs from less than 100 starts since he hit the PGA Tour is an impressive return in this market and his opening round of 63 at the Olympic Games was in stronger company than this the last time he led the field on a Thursday evening.

After a debut missed cut here at PGA National in 2019, Sepp has shown flashes of form here including rounds of 70/67 to open in 2020 where he sat in 5th place heading into the weekend, and he was handily placed last year too before a closing round of 73 pushed him down into a tie for 33rd. RESULT: T65

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 07:30GMT 23.2.22 but naturally subject to fluctuation.