Top-ranked college golfers making an almost seamless transition to The PGA Tour has become somewhat commonplace over the last few years. For former top-ranked amateur golfer Maverick McNealy the road to the PGA Tour has been anything but quick. After turning pro during the 2017 season, McNealy is now finally a full-time member on The PGA Tour. Unable to play his way onto the tour through limited starts early in his career, McNealy had to forge his way via the Korn Ferry Tour. After missing a few cuts at the start of this year’s wrap-around season, McNealy has quietly played some very good golf heading into this week’s API. McNealy heads into this week having made 11 straight cuts including three top 15 or better finishes in his last four starts. McNealy made the cut at The API as an amateur in 2016, so he has some expectations of what it takes to perform well at Bay Hill. Currently ranked inside the top 60 in this year’s FedEx Cup race, McNealy heads into this week looking to keep up his good play. Despite being a tour rookie, McNealy has played well enough of late to be on your radar as a strong value play the week.
In somewhat of a surprise move Billy Horschel has parted ways with the club company PXG. News of this split first surfaced at last week’s Honda Classic as Horschel was spotted wearing a Polo hat instead of his usual PXG hat. As a two time winner with PXG clubs in his bag, Horschel was easily one of the biggest names on staff for the company. Horschel confirmed via social that he is still playing PXG clubs for now as he remains a free agent. PXG also confirmed that newly signed player Chez Reavie has also parted ways with the company. Reavie had struggled to play well early this season. There is no news as of yet to what changes if any were made to Reavie’s bag.
As expected there were plenty of big numbers to be had over the first two days of play at PGA National. With plenty of big names playing poorly over the first two days, players like Luke Donald and Brendan Steele find themselves at the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend. Steele was in a similar position earlier this year at the Sony Open but was unable to seal the deal ultimately loosing to Cameron Smith in a playoff. Former number one player in the world Luke Donald finds himself near the lead on the weekend for the first since the 2017 RBC Heritage Classic. As a past champion of this event, Donald does have positive course history to build on, but at this point in his career, it’s safe to say that we are not dealing with the same golfer. With a two-round scoring average of 144, PGA National did not yield many low rounds over the first two days of play. With hard course conditions through the weekend, the relative value of par golf really increases. There will be birdies made this weekend, but I would be surprised to see a sub 65 round. Of course, these are the best players in the world, and anything is possible, but your focus this weekend is to target players who understand how to attack this course. Players who fire at pins and miss will make big numbers, so unlike other showdown slates golfers who mix in a ton of pars with an occasional birdie will grade out as good plays. When looking at stats over the first two rounds I like taking shots on guys who have hit the ball well but just have not made any putts. In a birdie fest, this type of play will usually not work, but with par being a good score you can feel a little more comfortable with this type of play. PGA Tour rookie Matthew NeSmith is a player that fits in this type of play nicely. Over the first two rounds, NeSmith has hit 22 of 36 greens, but with almost 2 putts per GIR, he only has one birdie for the week. NeSmith has proven to be a good ball striker early in his career, and with a few more converted birdie opportunities this weekend he could end up being a great source of value.
No major news to report ahead of the first round of The Honda Classic. It’s the first early lock of the season, so please double check you lineups prior to the start of round one. ResultsDB will be up and running a few minutes after lock. Good luck this week Grinders!!!
Weather is always something you have to pay attention to at PGA National. The already hard course layout often is made much harder when the wind blows. Kevin Roth’s weather report is up in the main forum, and it appears that we could have a slight weather draw over the first two rounds of play. Thursday morning golfers will have to deal with potential sustained wind speeds of 15 mph. Golfers who tee off later on Thursday will still have some wind to deal with but as players get later in the day the winds could decrease to as little as 5mph. Both waves could have strong gusts, but for now, it looks like there is a slight predicted edge to the golfers who play later on Thursday. Friday looks to have the same weather pattern, but according to Roth the difference between the two waves will be very small or even the same. While it does not sound like you should avoid any gofers from either wave, it’s not a bad idea to stack some lineups with players in the same wave in case of a strong weather draw on Thursday.
While he is not quite a household name yet on the PGA Tour, Matthew NeSmith is quietly proving he belongs on the best tour in golf. Currently ranked 4th in the FedEx Cup standings for rookies ( 62nd overall), NeSmith comes into this week looking to build on his first career top 10 at last week’s Puerto Rico Open. In 12 starts this season NeSmith has made 8 cuts including 5 top 25 or better finishes. With the potential wind in play this week and the overall tough nature of PGA National the need to target excellent ball strikers increases significantly. Through 20 plus starts last season on the Korn Ferry Tour ( 1 ranked in Gir) and his limited starts on the PGA Tour( 13th ranked in GIR), NeSmith looks to have the makeup of a player leans on accurate iron play. Priced-down in this field NeSmith is a young player worth taking a look at this week for both salary relief and upside in large field GPP’s.
After missing nearly two years of professional golf with a shoulder injury, Camilo Villegas made a return to competitive golf earlier this year. Villegas played three times this season on the Korn Ferry Tour, highlighted by a 4th place finish earlier this month at The Country Club de Bogota Championship. Playing in his first PGA Tour start since the 2018 Houston Open, Villegas will look to continue his comeback at a course that he has played well in the past. This former top 10 player in the world has 4 career victories to his name including the 2010 Honda Classic. Currently projected at a very low ownership number, Villegas is a player that not many have an interest in playing for the week. The stigma of injury is something that most take a wait and see approach on, so for those who are max multi entering GPP’s and or are a bit more risk tolerance Villegas is a player worth exploring as he continues to return to the world of competitive golf.
Last year at this point of the season Lucas Glover had already played his way near the top of the FedEx Cup standings. Glover’s 16 top 25 or better finishes earned him a spot in the tour championship for first time in ten years. Currently ranked outside the top 125 in this year’s race, Glover has struggled to play his best golf to this point in the season. Priced-down on a course that fit’s his style of golf, Glover stands out as one of the top golfers in our projection model for the week. PGA National rewards great ball strikers, and Glover has always excelled in his ability to control the golf ball. Glover has three consecutive top 25 or better finishes at this event. On a course where big numbers will be very common Glover has posted 9 of his last 12 rounds at 70 or better. Looking to build a little momentum as the tour heads East, Glover will look to build on past success at PGA National.
Jason Kokrak withdrew today from The Honda Classic and will be replaced by Chris Baker. Due to the timing of this move, we should not expect to see Baker added to the player pool.