Par 70, 7,158 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 demanding precise and accurate iron play. It has smaller than average Bermuda greens, some of which are guarded by water and some tricky bunkers. The fairways are elevated and quite generous so there won’t be too much of an emphasis on accuracy off the tee.
Looking at the way this course sets up, the main stats here are GIR, scrambling, par 3 performance as this course has four very tricky par 3’s, strokes gained putting and par 4 performance. There are over 100 bunkers on this course so good scrambling and sand saves will be essential.
Water comes into play on roughly 13 holes so hitting a loose pull or slice could be very costly especially on Sunday.
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. The 18th is a straight forward par 5 and reachable with two good shots.
This course has always been known to be one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour with the average winning score being around the 10-12 under mark.
The big hitting American has been playing some great golf so far this year with a win and two top 12’s in his last four starts. Woodland had a good start to the wrap around season with a respectable T28 at the CIMB Classic, a T18 at the Shriners Open in Vegas and a T34 at the OHL Classic.
He began 2018 with a top 10 in Waialae shooting four rounds of 68 or better to finish T7 at the Sony Open. He followed that with a T12 in Torrey Pines, which included a second round 68 and a third round 66.
Woodland then travelled to Arizona where he didn’t shoot worse than a 68 to finish 18 under par. He shot an impressive final round 64 and ended up beating fellow American Chez Reavie in a dramatic one hole playoff.
He has played very well here in the past finishing T6 in 2011 and T2 here last year, which included two 66’s and a 69 over the weekend to finish four shots back from Fowler.
Statswise he ticks a few boxes here ranking eighth in driving distance, second in GIR, fifth in SG Putting, 22nd in par 4 scoring and 29th in par 5 scoring.
The Swede has been plying his trade on the European Tour over the last few years where he has racked up nine wins in total and has been making a statement in the US over the last few weeks showing some impressive form.
He has been playing good golf over the last couple of months with form figures 12,45,31,12,2,21,16 in his last seven starts.
Noren played well at the Nedbank Challenge in November finishing T12 and followed that with a T31 at the WGC HSBC Champions and a T12 at the Hero World Challenge in mid-December.
He then travelled to Torrey Pines and played superbly throughout the week shooting rounds of 70,66,69,73, but just came up short losing to Aussie Jason Day in a playoff. He has kept up his decent form over the last couple of weeks with a T21 in Phoenix, T16 last week in Riviera and could have another good week here on a course that could suit his game.
Although this is his first appearance here, Noren has been known to play well on tight, windy setups with a win at the Scottish Open in 2016, T6 at the Open last year and a number of top 10’s in both Dubai and Qatar which is encouraging for this course.
The Englishman has been in super form recently and hasn’t finished outside the top 20 in his last six starts.
Since winning the Alfred Dunhill Links and Italian Open back to back in October, Hatton followed that with an impressive T11 at the WGC HSBC Champions in China. He then travelled to Turkey finishing T16 at the Turkish Airlines Open followed by a T19 at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.
Hatton then capped off 2017 with another top 10 at the European Tour’s finale in November, finishing T8 at the DP World Championship in Dubai, which included a second round 63.
He has had a good start to 2018 with a top 5 and a top 15 in his last two starts. He played well in Abu Dhabi and didn’t shoot worse than a 70 to post T15, and followed that with a solo third at the Dubai Desert Classic, which included a 64 and two 66’s over the weekend.
He has played well here on the Champion Course in the past shooting three rounds of 68 or better to finish T4 last year. Hatton has proven to be a good wind player with a win at the Alfred Dunhill Links last year, a T5 at the Open in 2016 and a good record in the desert, this course should be right up his street.
After taking the last three weeks off, Brian Harman will return to the Champion Course this week for the for his seventh appearance.
The American has been in super form so far this season with five top 10’s and a top 20 in his last seven starts. He played well at the CJ Cup back in October finishing T5 and followed that with a solo eighth at the WGC HSBC Champions, T4 at the RSM Classic and a solo third in Kapalua at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
He started the New Year with an impressive T4 at the Sony, which included a 64, 63 in the first two rounds and followed that with a respectable T20 in California at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
In his last six appearances here, Harman’s best finishes were T11 in 2015 (which included a final round 64) and T12 in 2012 (which included a second round 61).
Statswise he also ticks the boxes here ranking ninth in driving accuracy, fourth in GIR, eighth in SGP, third in par 4 scoring and 13th in par 5 scoring.
Final selections –
Gary Woodland 1pt EW
Alex Noren 1pt EW
Tyrell Hatton 1pt EW
Brian Harman 1pt EW
Total staked = 8 pts
*Some bookies paying 7 places*
Good luck and enjoy the golf.