Free golf betting tips for the Honda Classic from Ben Coley

Last Updated February 22 2018, 13:06Golf
Kevin Kisner in action
Kevin Kisner in action

Ben Coley has tipped a 300/1 winner and 125/1 play-off loser at the Honda Classic in the past, so don't miss his selections for this year's renewal.

Honda Classic recommended bets

1pt e.w. Kevin Kisner at 66/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Jason Dufner at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Ian Poulter at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Martin Kaymer at 66/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Louis Oosthuizen at 80/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

0.5pt e.w. Brian Stuard at 250/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

The PGA Tour returns to the east coast for the Honda Classic, where Rickie Fowler looks a false favourite in a field which includes Justin Thomas and 2012 champion Rory McIlroy.

Fowler was excellent here last year, demonstrating that he's perfectly capable of dominating what's no longer one of the strongest events on the calendar, but he's awfully short ahead of his defence. For my money, Fowler is not yet a player who should be a single-figure price when there are elite players in opposition, and the decision to swerve him is an easy one.

McIlroy's feast-or-famine record in the event includes recent form figures of 1-WD-2-MC-MC and there were better signs last week in Los Angeles, but to be frank I've no idea why Thomas isn't favourite. Third behind Adam Scott here in 2016 despite giving ground to the Australian on the greens, he's perfectly capable of scoring at PGA National and is doing so even when he's playing modestly at present.

It's tempting, then, to back Thomas and I wouldn't want to talk anyone out of doing so, but prior to Fowler's predictable success last year the event had been known to throw up a skinner or two. Potential reasons include how difficult this water-laden par 70 is, how windy it can get, and the fact that some players can rediscover their best seemingly out of the blue, usually aided by a move back to bermuda greens.

The Honda is also an event which has been kind to international players, another byproduct of the location. Many of the European crowd in particular base themselves in Florida, while along with peers from Asia and Africa they're often fairly well exposed to bermuda or just grainy greens in general.

Throw in comfort levels in the wind and exposure to other Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, and it's no surprise that we see all kinds of flags on these leaderboards, even if it was USA all the way 12 months ago.

Another factor to consider, and one which undermines the case for all three of the market leaders, is that driver isn't much of a weapon here. PGA National is a strategic course where there's much more value in finding a fairway - or at least avoiding a hazard - than was the case at Riviera a week ago or Torrey Pines before that. Combine that fact with the absence of genuine length and distance, for once, takes a back seat.

Instead, we're probably looking for someone who copes well in the wind. The forecast currently hints at a consistent, moderate breeze, but with water around every corner here it seems sure to play a part. Winners of the event, from the surprise to the straightforward, have all tended to thrive when the breeze blows.

With that in mind, I'm inclined to go to my default position for this time of year and put up Kevin Kisner for the third year running.

In each of the last two, Kisner has been a shorter price than is currently available yet he's shown some encouraging signs, particularly last year when ghosting into eighth through 54 holes only to come unstuck on Sunday.

Despite that disappointment, it was an effort which confirmed what we knew already - that this runner-up in the 2015 PLAYERS Championship thrives under the type of conditions we're expecting.

"I always struggle on the west coast," he told the Island Packet a couple of years ago, to confirm that he'll relish a return to Florida. "A good ol' Southern boy doesn't putt on the poa annua too well. I'm getting back to some grass that I like."

Kevin Kisner: Worth backing in Hawaii
Kevin Kisner should go well in Florida once more

Kisner went on to take second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, done on the nod by Marc Leishman and his million-mile eagle putt late on Sunday night (still bitter) when again selected, before gaining compensation of sorts with victory at Colonial Country Club later in the spring.

Colonial, home of what's now the Dean&Deluca, is a similar test: the course is flat, not particularly long, exposed to the elements and impossible to overpower. The same comments would also apply to the Sony Open, which Russell Henley won prior to landing this event, and Kisner's record there has improved immeasurably with two top-fives in his last three visits.

Kisner's other victory came at Sea Island in the RSM Classic - flat, exposed, impossible to overpower - so you get the drill by now. A player who is borderline world-class despite possessing an old-school golf game based around precision and touch is at his most dangerous in events like the Honda, on courses like PGA National.

The negative is that he missed the cut at Pebble Beach, but those poa annua greens caused him issues once more and at least he managed to finish on a high, making four birdies over his closing nine holes to strengthen my suspicion that his game hasn't suddenly deserted him.

Prior to that, Kisner had shot par or better in 10 of his 12 rounds in 2018, getting in position before a disappointing Sunday at the CareerBuilder, sitting eighth at halfway at the Sony Open and doing as well as most would've expected on the monstrously long Plantation Course.

But this really is all about an expected upturn for a switch east. Kisner's last five starts in the southeastern states show a win, a third, a fourth and a seventh, his sole failure (42nd) coming days after the last of those - a poor finish to the PGA Championship as he missed a massive opportunity close to home in front of friends and family.

Had Kisner shown up in California, which he basically never does, he would surely have been in the region of 33/1 - he is very similar in many respects to Brian Harman, for example, and as likely to win this as Tyrrell Hatton in my view. Given that his form out west doesn't worry me, he rates the best bet.

A similar case can be made for Daniel Berger, who was beaten in a play-off by Padraig Harrington here in 2015 (again, still bitter) when available at 125/1.

Berger is Florida through and through, gained plenty of experience of this course as a junior including when teeing it up with older PGA Tour professionals, and it so nearly paid off. He missed the cut at Riviera last week but struggles badly on poa annua and could so easily bounce back.

That said, his two subsequent efforts at PGA National have been fairly disappointing and I'd like to have seen him make a better fist of things in LA, so I'll turn instead to Jason Dufner.

Although less emphatic about it than Kisner, the 2013 PGA champion will also be more comfortable out here and tends to play a light schedule in the early weeks of the year for that reason, although it didn't stop him winning in California two years ago.

More recently, he's added another title to his collection at the Memorial Tournament, which is noteworthy given that host venue Muirfield Village is perhaps the best-known Nicklaus-designed course in the US.

Dufner's victory there came at Fowler's expense, and there are others who've shown a liking for both - including Henley, Michael Thompson, Rory Sabbatini and Mark Wilson, all surprise winners of this title.

His record here is very solid (eight cuts made in eight visits) and Dufner is suited to scoring conditions so severe that eight-under would've won three of the 11 renewals at PGA National and placed in each of the other eight.

Bizarrely, he's even putting really well at the moment and if this habitually reliable ball-striker brings that to PGA National, he seems sure to go well.

Kisner and Dufner both ranked highly in par-four scoring last year, another potential pointer on this par 70, and the former is among the best in the field based on 2018's embryonic numbers.

That angle points towards the first of my rest-of-the-world selections, the divisive Ian Poulter.

Truth be told I had to mull over this one for quite some time, as it's well known that Poulter is yet to win a stroke play title on US soil and it's a long time since he won an event of any description.

However, this Florida resident has plenty to play for this week as a top-six finish should just about earn him a desperately-coveted return to the world's top 50 and, with that, an invite to the WGC-Mexico Championship.

From there, it's possible that Poulter might still be able to plot a path to the Ryder Cup but before that he'll expect to play well in the Open Championship at Carnoustie and confirm that there's life in the old dog yet.

Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter is playing close to his Florida home this week

Poulter, who ranked 22nd last season in par-four scoring, finished sixth in the Dubai Desert Classic two starts back and there was enough to like about his performance in Phoenix, where he played nicely for three rounds only to make a meal of his Sunday effort.

I would imagine Poulter gets a rougher time than most at TPC Scottsdale and he's another who we should expect to improve for a return to these calmer climes - albeit the atmosphere at holes 15 and 17 can still get pretty feisty as the Bear Trap shows its teeth.

The last time Poulter teed it up this close to home he finished second in the PLAYERS Championship and five visits here show five cuts made, including when he probably should've won the title when it instead went to Harrington.

That ability (or lack of) to close out remains a concern but there's enough juice in the price, and enough evidence to suggest that this event is as good a fit as any for the 42-year-old.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat has two top-six finishes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on his CV already and might have been underestimated at 125/1 following his victory last time, while Emiliano Grillo says he'd happily play this course every week, is another with a strong book of Florida form and has shown some signs of life again lately.

However, I can't get away from the fact that proven international players who love demanding conditions have gone particularly well here, some out of nowhere, so Martin Kaymer gets another chance.

I wrote last week that the German has been hinting at a return to top form lately and that his controlled fade might just work the oracle at Riviera, where he ultimately flattered to deceive in finishing 53rd.

Still, a bogey-free second round to make the cut having started the tournament with a double-bogey six is perfectly acceptable in the grand scheme and Kaymer should improve for it, now he returns to Florida where he owns a home.

Kaymer spoke of how well-suited he feels to this challenge when fourth last year, a performance which came on the back of a three-week break.

Some of his career highlights have come on the east coast where he won the PLAYERS Championship before adding a US Open at Pinehurst later that summer and while not in that sort of form for a while now, he's often come to life at courses he knows and loves.

A former Dunhill Links winner who relishes the challenge of battling the wind, Kaymer is perfectly capable of bettering last year's effort where everything in the bag proved reliable.

On a similar note, it's surely worth taking a chance on the brilliant but frustrating Louis Oosthuizen.

Like Harrington, here's a former Open champion who excels in the wind and while putting was decisive in this event last year, most of the time it's a test of ball-striking which allows those who struggle on the greens to compete.

PGA National has inspired many a major champion to conjure a return to form - Lucas Glover and Geoff Ogilvy would be two fairly recent examples - and Oosthuizen has generally been in decent form but for a narrow missed cut in Dubai last time out.

Tied for second in last year's PLAYERS alongside Poulter, Oosthuizen has plenty of strong form in Florida where he has top-10 finishes at Innisbrook, Bay Hill and Doral, but truth be told he goes close often enough in just about any state to be of interest at 66 and 80/1.

Last year, the South African again hit the crossbar in a major as he finished second in the PGA Championship while he was third in Phoenix. As for this course, his only start since 2013 came a year ago and he finished a solid 21st, hitting more greens than anyone in the field despite having just flown in from Perth.

There are plenty of others to consider here, such as Nicklaus specialist and Colonial winner Chris Kirk, or Ollie Schniederjans who beat Grillo on his way to a junior title here in 2009 and could so easily bounce back to the form which saw him go close at Scottsdale.

Patton Kizzire has sneaky course form and boasts recent victories at two correlating tournaments, but with five strong each-way plays in the bag already the last on my list is 250/1 shot Brian Stuard.

As mentioned, we've seen some shocks here and often from players who have been struggling out west but improve for the switch east.

Stuard, whose lone PGA Tour win came in Louisiana, is another who could demonstrate that scope for improvement with three top-30 finishes here in five starts showcasing an affinity for the layout.

That makes sense, as he excels in the events Kizzire has won - the OHL Classic and Sony Open - and those top-30s could so easily have been better still, as he was eighth through three rounds on his last visit and contended to a point in both 2013 and 2014.

Stuard, who has carded rounds of 65 and 66 on this devilishly difficult golf course, has two top-five finishes in 10 starts this season and always on golf courses which suit his accuracy-based game, so back him for another.

Posted at 1700 GMT on 20/02/18.

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