The Honda Classic
PGA National (Champion)
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Event Type: full
Winner’s Share: $1,260,000 (up $36,000 from last year)
Final Leaderboard (DraftKings pre-tourney odds outright):
1- (-6, 274) Sungjae Im (30/1)
2- (-5, 275) Mackenzie Hughes (600/1)
3- (-4, 276) Tommy Fleetwood (11/1); fave
4- (-3, 277) Byeong Hun An (40/1)
4- (-3, 277) Daniel Berger (35/1)
4- (-3, 277) Lee Westwood (80/1)
4- (-3, 277) Brendan Steele (160/1)
Note: Consecutive top-10 finishes in the event: Fleetwood (3-4)
There is so much to unwrap here that one column won’t begin to cover it, but let’s start here.
South Korea’s Sungjae Im, age 21, won his first PGA TOUR title in his 50th career event and second season on the main stage.
His Sunday 66, which matched the low round of the day (and week), was highlighted by super-clutch birdie-2s (both from 7’10”) at 15 and 17, sandwiching a gutsy par 4 at 16, where he hit his second – out of a fairway bunker from 176 yards away and almost entirely over water – to 28’5”.
Im, the youngest winner of the Honda (48th edition), bested playing competitor and runner-up Hughes by one, who also fired a closing 66, while 54-hole leader (by one) Fleetwood, needed birdie at the par-5 last to force extra time, but splashed his second and walked off with bogey-6 for 71 and solo 3rd.
Im’s 6-under total was the highest winning score to par since Brooks Koepka’s 1-over in a successful defense at the 2018 U.S. Open (Shinnecock Hills), where Fleetwood finished runner-up on 2-over after a Sunday 63.
Back in December, Im went 3-1-1 in his Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne (Australia) as a rookie and captain’s pick, including a 4-and-3 drubbing of Gary Woodland in Sunday Singles.
At No. 18, he was the top OWGRer for the internationals and delivered, his 3.5 points matching (PC rookie) Abraham Ancer as the top-points getters for the losing side.
Im: “Just comparing today’s pressure, I felt a little less nervous than I did at the Presidents Cup, so experiences like that have really helped me and will help me moving forward.”
The Americans won the event (again) 16.0 to 14.0, but since the calendar has flipped to 2020, Smith (Sony) and now Im (Honda), have both hoisted trophies on the PGA TOUR.
In fact, Presidents Cup participants from December have now won seven of nine TOUR events since the calendar flipped (not including the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open – where none competed), three straight. That’s a 77.7 percent win-rate.
Im’s previous best (season and career) was P2 at the Sanderson Farms back in September, where he lost in a 2-man one-hole playoff to first-time winner and 54-hole leader Sebastian Munoz.
He had posted the clubhouse lead with 6-under 66, but Munoz capped a 70 with a clutch 14-footer for birdie at the 72nd hole to match.
Im won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 (25 starts), including in the nearby Bahamas. He also won the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour in 2019, so he’s no stranger to getting it across the finish line.
Im bagged Rookie of the Year honors last season with 16 top 25s in 35 events, seven of those top 10s.
He didn’t win, his best was T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his tourney debut, but he was the only rookie (of 26) that qualified for the season-ending TOUR Championship, finishing 19th in the final FedExCup standings.
Im, who checked in off a T29 at the WGC-Mexico, is in the published field at this coming week’s API, where he was top-rookie finisher last year (of five) and shared top first-timer honors with Rafa Cabrera Bello (of 26).
Im: “I plan on playing almost every week, maybe take an event off during the Texas swing, but nothing confirmed.”
It’ll be interesting to see who he has on the bag at Bay Hill.
Canada native (born to Korean immigrants) and South Florida resident Albin Choi was a fill-in this week.
Choi: “I got a phone call after Riviera, he was looking for a guy this week, and I know he’s had some language barriers with other caddies in the past…being a player myself and having played this course a lot of times, he wanted somebody with a little bit of experience. I accepted, and I’m glad I did.”
How Im Won the Tournament:
Ranked 1st (or T1) in: SG: Tee-to-Green; Total Birdies; Birdie or Better Percentage; All-Around
Ranked 2nd(or T2) in: Birdie to Bogey Ratio; GIR
Note: See “Leaders in Strokes Gained stats” at the bottom, along with his full stats.
Lowest-Ranked Stat(s): Total Bogeys (T45); SG: Putting (38th)
Im’s Position by Round:
R1: T63 (6 back)
R2: T9 (3 back)
R3: T5 (3 back)
Note: Im’s T51 on debut last year was highlighted by a day-tying-low 64 in R2 and was a 36-hole co-leader (70-64) before 77-71.
Leader/co-leaders by Round:
R1: Tom Lewis (finished: T47): Drops to 0-for-2 as 18-hole leader/co-leader
R1: Harris English (T17): Drops to 1-for-2
R2: Brendan Steele (T4): Drops to 1-for-8 as 36-hole leader/co-leader
R3: Tommy Fleetwood (3rd): Drops to 0-for-1 as 54-hole leader/co-leader
Season Leaders in Top-10 Finishes:
3: Daniel Berger, Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa, Joel Dahmen, Lanto Griffin, Tony Finau, Mark Hubbard, Tom Hoge, Abraham Ancer, Xander Schauffele, Sebastian Munoz, Brendon Todd, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz
Consecutive Top 10s on TOUR:
6: Rory McIlroy (5-5-3-P1-3-1)
3: Daniel Berger (4-5-9)
2: Bryson DeChambeau (2-5)
2: Hideki Matsuyama (6-5)
Consecutive Top-10 Streak Ended at:
2: Billy Horschel (42-9-9)
By the Numbers:
1982: Title sponsor since 1982, Honda Motor Co. is the longest-tenured title sponsor on TOUR, now in its 39th year. It’s a shame that the majority of the top players in the world don’t recognize and support that by playing. Just 12 of the Top 50 in OWGR teed it up after just 13 last year. 2018: 20; 2017: 22; 2016: 26
12/1: Im’s revised outright betting entering R4.
1: Im ranked No. 1 in SG: Tee-to-Green (12.288), as did last year’s first-time TOUR winner Keith Mitchell (11.917).
2: Im is the second straight LATE/early winner of the Honda, and third in the last four.
1245: The last four LATE/early winners of the Honda, dating to 2014, have all had 12:45 pm R1 tee times (Im, Mitchell, Fowler, Henley).
3: Im’s opening 2-over 72, was lowlighted by 3, 3-putt bogeys and needed 36 total putts. He got better: 36-26-28-24.
3: Runner-up Hughes records his third top-3 finish in 100 events, first since T2 at last season’s opposite-field Corales one year ago. It’s his first top 40 at the Honda (T59/2018) and improves to 3-for-12 on the season, brushing aside a previous-best T55 at the Houston Open back in October.
T4: Non-member and sponsor invite Westwood’s T4 was his second top-5 finish on TOUR in his last three starts and third straight top 25 (T22, WGC-Mexico; T4, 2019 Open).
3: Through 21 (non-team) events this season, the pre-tourney fave/co-fave has won three times: Viktor Hovland (12/1): opposite-field Puerto Rico Open; Rory McIlroy (6/1): WGC-HSBC; Justin Thomas (13/2): THE CJ CUP. Last season, two fave/co-faves won (in 45 non-team events): McIlroy (12/1 co-fave) at THE PLAYERS, and Collin Morikawa at the opposite-field Barracuda (10/1).
11/1: World No. 12 Fleetwood, a pre-tourney 11/1 fave outright, fell two spots to solo 3rd after a Sunday 71 out of the final twosome. Chasing his first TOUR win in 64 events, he settles for his sixth top 3, first since solo 2nd at the 2019 Open.
33: Fleetwood extends his TOUR lead in consecutive cuts made to 33. Morikawa (idle) is next-best at 20.
13: 13 (of 21) TOUR rookies teed it up with Maverick McNealy taking top-rookie honors with T11 (70-69-71-69). It’s his fourth straight top-30 finish this season.
27: 27 players were making their tourney debuts with McNealy and Robby Shelton (70-69-70-70) sharing taking top-debutant honors with T11’s.
3: Three players shot par or better in all four rounds: Shelton, Henley (T8) and Berger (T4).
Cuts Made: 12
Top 25s: 7
Top 10s: 4
Top 3: 3
Season Form: 1-29-MC-34-36-10-21-11-3-39-49-P2-19
Note: This is Im’s fourth career podium in 50 events, with three of them coming this season.
Im on Sunday:
After kicking off with 72, day- and week-tying-low 66, and 70, he began T5, three back of leader Fleetwood.
Playing out of the fourth-to-last twosome, Im hit eight (of 14) fairways and 10 greens in regulation, gaining 1.962 strokes approaching and 2.488 tee-to-green.
He squared three bogeys at holes 7, 12 (3-putt from 32'9") and 13, outflanked by seven circles at 1, 3-5, 11, 15 and 17, all from between five and 11 feet.
Im posted a tidy 1.400 putts per GIR and 2.686 SG: Putting with 24 total putts, buoyed by two par-savers from between 13 and 19 feet.
OUT: 3-under 32 (4 birdies, 1 bogey); T1 w/ Fleetwood and Steele (both thru seven holes)
IN: 1-under 35 (3 birdies, 2 bogeys); WINS by 1 (over Hughes)
Im’s TOUR Career:
Cuts Made: 39 (78.0%)
Top 25s: 23 (46.0%)
Top 10s: 11 (22.0%)
Top 3s: 4 (8.0%)
Wins: 1 (2.0%)
Wins by Season:
Im at Honda:
Top 25s: 1
Top 10s: 1
Honda Form: 1-51
Strength of Field:
With a Strength of Field rating of 261 (down 37 from last season), Im banks 46.00 world-ranking points and 500 FedExCup points:
OWGR: From 34 to 25 (up 9); career high
FEC: From 12 to 2 (up 10); career high
Field Scoring Average:
This was the 48th Honda, 14th and 14th consecutive at PGA National.
Sungjae Im: 72-66-70-66
SG: Total: 13.271
A total of 69 pros from a field of 144 pros made the 36-hole cut of 3-over 143:
34 (of 72) EARLY/late
35 (of 71) LATE/early; 1 WD (Bronson Burgoon)
12 (of 21) tourneys so far this season with a traditional draw:
LATE/early: 4 (Im)
R3: 66: Mackenzie Hughes
R3: (1): Jason Dufner (68)
R4: (0): NONE
Multiple Bogey-free Rounds:
9 winners were in their 20s (Im age: 21)
11 were in their 30s
1 was in their 40s
Im’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 69 players):
Birdies: 19 (T1)
Bogeys: 13 (T45)
Birdie or Better: 26.39% (T1)
Birdie to Bogey Ratio: 1.46 (2nd)
Par-3 Scoring: 2.94 (T6)
Par-4 Scoring: 4.02 (T8)
Par-5 Scoring: 4.25 (T4)
Driving Distance (all drives): 280.0 yards (26th)
Driving Accuracy: 38/56 (T10) at 67.86%
GIR: 50/72 (T2) at 69.44%
Proximity to Hole: 36’6” (14th)
Putts per GIR: 1.780 (29th)
Total Putts: 114 (T26)
One-Putts: 32 (T14) at 44.44%
Putts by Round: 36-26-28-24
Scrambling: 15/22 (T5) at 68.18%
Leaders in Strokes Gained:
1. Brendan Steele (4.467)
2. Sepp Straka (4.213)
3. Jhonattan Vegas (3.555)
4. Shane Lowry (3.340)
5. Tommy Fleetwood (3.260)
11. Sungjae Im (2.513)
1. Russell Henley (10.649)
2. Gary Woodland (7.633)
3. Adam Long (7.137)
4. Luke Donald (6.903)
5. Sungjae Im (6.256)
1. Mackenzie Hughes (6.396)
2. Dylan Frittelli (5.352)
3. Byeong Hun An (5.310)
4. Brian Stuard (4.043)
5. Sungjae Im (3.519)
1. Charl Schwartzel (9.011)
2. Lee Westwood (6.966)
3. Scott Stallings (6.604)
4. Vaughn Taylor (5.780)
5. Sam Burns (5.411)
38. Sungjae Im (0.983)
1. Sungjae Im (12.288)
2. Russell Henley (9.388)
3. Cameron Davis (9.244)
4. Byeong Hun An (9.104)
5. Tommy Fleetwood (9.028)