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Christiaan Bezuidenhout a live Honda Classic long shot at 40/1

If you like your conditions tough and your fields eclectic, I’ve got some good news: It’s officially Honda Classic week.

At just 7,125 yards, the par-70 Champion Course at PGA National doesn’t sound too daunting, but it stands as one of the tougher tests on the annual schedule.

There’s the Bear Trap, of course, featuring the devilish three-hole stretch from 15-17. There’s always wind, with early week forecasts suggesting gusts of nearly 30 mph in the opening round and close to that for the remaining three. And then there’s the water, which comes into play on nearly every hole, resulting in 270 balls that found a watery grave in last year’s edition of this event (down from 339 the previous year).

Brendan Steele putts as Ian Poulter looks on on the 18th hole during the second round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa Champion course on Feb. 28, 2020 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Brendan Steele putts as Ian Poulter looks on on the 18th hole during the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa Champion course on Feb. 28, 2020.
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Throw ’em all together, and the result is a venue with a higher degree of difficulty than most others.

Just four times in the 15 editions of this event, since moving to PGA National in 2007, has the winning score reached double digits under-par. One of those came last year courtesy of Matt Jones, who posted a 12-under total, though no one else was better than 7-under.

Expect another stringent test this week, which should be enough to keep us entertained, even if the field leaves something to be desired. After a week in which the entirety of the world’s top-10 competed, there are exactly zero top-10 players at the Honda Classic and just five of the top 25: Louis Oosthuizen, Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Daniel Berger and Billy Horschel.

With that in mind, there’s certainly some degree of rationale behind targeting certain players with longer odds this week.

Outright Winner

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (40/1): With a weaker field, this feels like a good time to take a chance on an outright selection — and going with a player who owns exactly one career top 10 on the PGA Tour certainly qualifies as taking a chance. Don’t get this fact confused, though, for a player who could be in over his head for a victory. Bezuidenhout owns three finishes of 17th or better over his past seven stateside starts and already owns three career wins on the DP World (Euro) Tour over the past three years.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout plays his shot from the 10th tee during the second round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 18, 2022 in Pacific Palisades, California.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
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It’s not just those wins that should give us hope, but how he won them.

In 2019, he posted weekend scores of just 69-71 to win the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters at 10-under, six strokes better than anyone else. The next year, he posted a 14-under total to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship by four. And a few weeks after that, he won the South African Open at 18-under, five better than anyone else.

The point is that not only has Bezuidenhout buried his fellow contenders in those wins, but he’s tended to do it on a few occasions when scores weren’t too low, which will be the case again this week.

He also owns some nice history in Florida, with top-20 finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational each of the past two years, and his metrics should fit PGA National, as he ranks 34th in strokes gained on approach shots and 53rd in scrambling this season.

This should be a great week to sprinkle outright plays among a few of the non-favorites, and I love starting the card with potential value on Bezuidenhout, who has what it takes to win at this level.

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