Honda Classic betting preview

Matt Cooper is tipping four outsiders to go well as the US Tour arrives on the East Coast for the Florida Swing.

This week the PGA Tour arrives on the East Coast for the Florida Swing which to me is always the first reminder that the first major of the year, the Masters, is not too far away.

Although the depth of the field at the Honda Classic is not of major quality, the Champions course at PGA National is exactly that.

Originally designed by Tom Fazio in 1981 it hosted the 1987 PGA Championship. Since then Jack Nicklaus has re-designed and re-configured the layout, most notably creating ‘The Bear Trap’, a fearsome three-hole stretch on the back nine that sorts the men from the boys.

But if you think using major form will help find a winner, think again.

The field has major winners who are currently struggling (Els, Singh, Harrington), it has players who could have won majors but haven’t (Westwood and Garcia) and players who will surely win majors one day (McIlroy, Kim, Fowler).

It also has a player who has never finished outside the top five on this course (Robert Allenby).

But frankly, given their form and/or win ratios, none of those players are very exciting prices.

I’m going to ignore the lot of them and turn my attention to four players the compilers might have under- rather than over-rated.

When this event was first played at PGA National Mark Wilson was something of a mystery to many – and yet deep in his previously un-illustrious career there were some hints that the course would suit him.

He had only three top fives on the PGA Tour at that stage, but two of them had come on Nicklaus courses (English Turn and Montreux) and the third was at the short, blustery LaCantera.

Like many first-time winners Wilson’s career hit a flat spot soon after that win but last year he proved it was no fluke by winning for a second time at El Camaleon (another test that bears some resemblance to PGA National).

He threatened to add a third title at Muirfield Village last June and finished the year ranked 30th for confirming he has some All-Round game.

His defence in Mexico two weeks ago was derailed by a bug that is doing the rounds, but he bounced back last week in Scottsdale, leading at the halfway stage and still holding a chance going into the final round.

A straight-hitter who loves Bermuda grass greens, Wilson is a tasty 80/1.

Next up is John Rollins who last year finished second behind YE Yang.

His form this year has been solid without ever quite getting the returns he hoped for – his best finish was eighth in the Sony Open, but his long game has been in great nick, as established when he ranked first for Ball-striking and Total Driving down Hogan’s Alley at Riviera.

Aside from course and current form there are other reasons to like Rollins this week.

He’s played well in Florida (always a plus) – not just on this course but also at Bay Hill, Sawgrass and Magnolia as well as at Mirasol in this event.

He’s also a winner on a Tom Fazio design at Atunyote and the Nicklaus layout at Montreux.

Take the 50/1.

I’ll complete the staking plan with two players who have too much in their favour to be big prices.

Australian Nathan Green has course form – he was third here in 2008.

He’s also won on a Nicklaus layout – last year’s Canadian Open at Glen Abbey last year.

He likes this sort of challenge – he has a great record at Waialae and even made the top ten there earlier this year.

His more recent form isn’t great but after two missed cuts he improved at Scottsdale last week.

The steady Aussie is worth snapping up at 150/1.

And also add Swede Carl Pettersson who, like Green, has a win on a Nicklaus layout (in his case Muirfield Village but he also boasts good form at both Annadale and Harbour Town).

Interestingly he has also done well on Fazio courses – fifth at Atunyote and fourth at Grayhawk (on both occasions he threatened to win those events).

He also led this event at the halfway stage on the Fazio designed Mirasol Sunrise course in 2004.

He’s not set the Honda Classic on fire at PGA National so far but he does have two top 25 finishes and his putting stats in the last two years have been excellent.

He’s also a winner in Florida (at Innisbrook in 2005) and 175/1 makes him an enticing prospect this week.

Matt Cooper’s Tips:

1pt e.w. Mark Wilson at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 General). Course winner who found some form in Scottsdale last week.

1pt e.w. John Rollins at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 General). Runner-up in 2009 can go one better this time around.

1pt e.w. Nathan Green at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 General). Likes this sort of challenge and was third in 2008.

1pt e.w. Carl Pettersson at 175/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Stan James). Big price for player who has won n Florida and on a Nicklaus course.

LOSS -10pts