The Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, PGA National, Florida
Par 70, 7,140 yards
The PGA National Champion Course was opened on November 17, 1981 and was designed by Tom Fazio. It was the site of the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship and the Senior PGA Championship for 19 years, from 1982–2000. The course underwent a $4 million renovation by Jack Nicklaus in December 2002, and in 2007 became the home of The Honda Classic.
The Champion Course is a tough par 70 with two par 5’s, four tricky par 3’s and 12 par 4’s and will be a difficult test for the players this week. This course has Bermuda grass greens, which is a feature on every Florida course. The fairways are quite wide and forgiving, however, the greens here are quite small and tricky and guarded by plenty of bunkers. GIR will be a stat to take in consideration this week along with accurate long iron play. There are over 100 bunkers on this course so good scrambling stats is another one to consider.
Looking at the way this course sets up, it might be worth looking at par 3 performance as this course has four very tricky par 3’s with GIR, strokes gained putting and par 4 performance also key stats here. The “Bear Trap” is a key feature on this course with the par 3 15th, par 4 16th and par 3 17th being particularly difficult and could potentially offer a thrilling finish come Sunday night. The 18th is a straight forward par 5 and reachable with two good shots.
Justin Rose 22/1
Rose has been playing well since the end of November finishing T2 at The DP World Championship in Dubai. He followed that with another good week at The Hero World Challenge in December finishing T6 on 11 under for the week. He started 2015 well on The European Tour with a couple of top 15’s finishing T12 at the Abu Dhabi Championship and T13 at The Qatar Masters.
Rose has a good record at this tournament with three top 5’s in his last three appearances. He finished T4 in 2013, T5 in 2012 and solo third in 2010. Last season, Rose ranked fourth in strokes gained tee to green, 41st in GIR, 14th in par 4 scoring and 31st in scrambling. His approach stats are also good, ranking third in approaches from 175-200 and second in approaches from 200-225. After taking the last couple of weeks off, Rose will be feeling fresh coming to a course he has played well on in the past.
Keegan Bradley 25/1
Bradley played well last week in Riviera finishing T4 at The Northern Trust Open shooting a final round 68. He has been playing well since December and put in a solid performance at The Hero World Challenge finishing T3 on 15 under par for the tournament. He followed that with a T48 at The Humana Challenge and a respectable T17 at The Phoenix Open. He has played well on The Champions Course in the past finishing T12 last year, T4 in 2013 and T12 in 2012.
Statswise he seems to tick the boxes ranking 25th in driving distance, 10th in strokes gained tee to green and seventh in approaches from 100-125. He also ranks 18th in approaches from 150-175 and third in approaches from 200+, which are two good stats for approaches into the par 4’s and par 5’s. After a top 5 finish last week and good performances here in the past, Bradley is another player that could be one to watch here.
Graeme McDowell 30/1
Gmac has been playing well over the last few months with three top 11’s in his last five starts on both the European and PGA Tour. He had a great week at The WGC HSBC Champions back in November finishing T3 on 10 under for the tournament. He followed that with a T11 at The Hero World Challenge in December. Most recently, he had a good week at The Dubai Desert Classic finishing T9 on 14 under for the week, which included a 67 in round one and a 65 in round two.
McDowell has played well on the Champion Course before with three top 10’s in his last four appearances. He finished T9 in 2013, T9 again in 2012 and T6 in 2011. Last season, Gmac ranked 12th in driving accuracy, first in stroke gained putting and fifth in approaches from 150-175. He also ranked 39th in scrambling and 14th in par 4 scoring. After a good start to 2015 and a good previous record on this course, McDowell could have another good week here.
Ryan Palmer 33/1
After missing his first cut of the season at Pebble Beach a couple of weeks ago, Ryan Palmer could be a player to keep an eye on here. He started the season well with a T22 at The WGC HSBC Champions back on November. He followed that with a T17 at The Sony Open in Hawaii and a T10 at The Humana Challenge. Most recently, he played well at The Phoenix Open finishing T2, which included a 64 in round one. He has played well here before finishing T2 last year and T26 in 2012.
Palmer is another player that ticks all the boxes statswise, ranking fifth in driving distance, 11th in GIR, 18th in strokes gained tee to green and 21st in strokes gained putting. He also ranks ninth in scrambling, second in par 4 scoring and 17th in par 5 scoring. With two top 10’s in his last three starts, Palmer could have another good week after playing so well here last year.
Paul Casey 40/1
Paul Casey had a great performance last week at The Northern Trust Open shooting a final round 68 to get himself into a playoff with Dustin Johnson and James Hahn. He was knocked out of the playoff but finished P2 on six under par for the tournament. He had a respectable start to the PGA Tour season finishing T37 at The CIMB Classic and T30 recently at The Sony Open.
Casey has played this event on three previous occasions finishing T12 last year and T4 in 2010. Casey ranks 38th in strokes gained tee to green, 30th in strokes gained putting and eighth in birdie average. He also ranks second in approaches from 75-100, sixth in approaches from 150-175, sixth in putting average and fifth in par 5 performance. After a great performance last week in Riviera, Paul Casey could have another good performance on a course he has played well on before.
Final selections –
Justin Rose 1.5 pts EW
Keegan Bradley 1.5 pts EW
Graeme McDowell 1 pt EW
Ryan Palmer 1 pt EW
Paul Casey 1 pt EW
Total Staked = 12 pts
Good luck and enjoy the golf,
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