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Brooks Koepka
The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK
Culp's Corner

The Honda Classic Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: February 21, 2022, 1:24 pm ET

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It's time to make sure your alarm clock really works as the PGA TOUR travels from coast to coast, getting the Florida Swing started at PGA National. 

This event is known for the Bear Trap and tough scoring conditions. 

There will be 144 golfers lining up at the starting gate while the top 65 and ties will advance through the 36-hole cut line. 

 

The Course

The Champion Course at PGA National is the host course this week. It has played that role since 2007 edition. 

This venue has stood the test of time in terms of dealing with tour-wide distance gains. While many courses have added up big chunks of yardage over the years, PGA National has actually lowered the total yardage on the scorecard over the years. PGA National debuted in 2007 as a 7,241-yard layout and now plays to 7,125 yards while remaining a par 70 the entire time. 

Water and wind are the key defense mechanisms. 

Trouble is lurking around every corner with water in play on 15 holes at PGA National. 

It's no surprise then to see that the field averages 2.37 double bogeys or worse per 72 holes played at PGA National. That ranks No. 1 across all regular TOUR stops as the highest rate of big numbers. Right behind PGA National is TPC Sawgrass and Muirfield Village GC, if you're looking for other courses with loads of big numbers. Both of those courses show up on the correlated course list below. 

The Bear Trap (holes 15, 16, and 17) account for a lot of this carnage. The field has played the Bear Trap at 4,136 shots over par since the 2007 edition, with 1604 water balls. Roughly 88% of golfers that have played at PGA National have a career scoring average over-par at the Bear Trap. 

Off the tee, golfers are often nudged in the direction of clubbing down and hitting less-than-driver on many of the par 4s. It becomes a second-shot course in that regard. 

The focus for gamers should be finding steady strikers who can catch fire with the putter. Around-the-green play is not something you can rely on at PGA National because if you're missing a lot of greens then you are probably scrambling for bogeys or double bogeys, not pars. 

For turf, golfers that grew up or currently reside in the Southeast will be happy to see the bermudagrass greens. They are slightly larger than TOUR average, with an average square footage of 7,000. The greens were redone ahead of the 2019 edition so they've had a few years to grow in and mature now. 

 

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Quotes on the Course

Cameron Tringale: "The wind out here is always the biggest defense. This golf course with all the run-offs, it's a second-shot golf course, you've got to leave the ball in the right place."

Brendan Steele: "My first few years here I couldn't quite figure it out, and I thought maybe it wasn't a good course for me, but being a California guy, just had to figure out the grass a little bit and some of the strategy. I don't feel like it's a course you can just jump out your first time and have it nailed. You have to see it in all the different winds and conditions that you have."

Tommy Fleetwood:  "The wind is a massive factor all the way around the golf course. I feel like there’s so many cross-winds which bring misses off the tee, into the greens, cross-winds affect the putts, and it’s just an all-around very, very difficult test, and it tests everyone. It tests every part of your game." 

Brooks Koepka: "Obviously if you’re nervous it’ll show up. This golf course, there’s about five to seven holes where you can really take advantage of it if you hit the fairway and you’ve got a good number to the flag, and you’ve got to take advantage of those if you want to move up, and the rest of the holes you’re just kind of hanging on and trying to make par, maybe sneaking in one or two birdies. " 

Jhonattan Vegas: "I mean, to be honest, it's very hard to be aggressive around here, even with some of these pins. There's always trouble around the corner that you -- even if you're hitting it great, it's really hard to start hitting at some of those pins. Sometimes hitting it to 25 feet, 30 feet, it's a good shot, and you have to use your best judgment and go from there." 

A second-shot course with lots of discussion on the wind. 

 

Correlated Courses

Using historical data from this week's venue, we can look for other courses across the PGA TOUR schedule with crossover success (or failure). Here are the courses that pop up frequently:  

Muirfield Village GC
Quail Hollow Club
TPC Sawgrass
Sedgefield CC
TPC Scottsdale

One of the key themes is avoiding water trouble. It's the exact opposite of last week at Riv where water is not in play. It's lurking around every corner at PGA National.

 

The Weather

Thursday: Chance of showers with a high of 81 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH with gusts up to 20 MPH. 

Friday:: Sunny with a high of 82 degrees. Winds at 8 to 12 MPH with gusts over 15 MPH. 

As you might expect at PGA National, the wind looks to be a menace this week. As of now it doesn't look too extreme but at the same time it's also a steady stream of wind and notable gusts to keep golfers on their toes all week. 

Josh Culp

Josh Culp joined NBC Sports Edge in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.