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Rory wipes iPhones, creates more legal questions

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Rory’s plan to return to golf at the Master’s with a clear mind is very unlikely.

His legal battle against his former management company Horizon Sports Management is going to take a while with yet another setback in the discovery process. According to an IrishTimes report, Horizon’s attorneys are alleging that Rory McIlroy and his father Gerry violated a court order when they intentionally wiped the memory of a reported eight or more cell phones and electronic devices that may have contained relevant information concerning the case. Believing that they can still access the information, Horizon’s legal team is seeking the court’s permission to “forensically inspect” the phones used by both Rory and his father going back three years.

This case is reportedly scheduled to begin in January, since months of pre-trial negotiations have failed. If it does go to court, a resolution by April before the Masters allowing Rory to sleep easy while he attempts to complete the Grand Slam is just not going to happen. The amount of money at stake is enormous and regardless of what decision is initially made, it will be argued to death in appeals court. Any trial lawyer can tell you that the appeals process takes longer than Kevin Na’s pre-shot routine.

The facts of the case are light but here is what we know so far. Rory was unhappy with the advice he was receiving from his then manager Andrew “Chubby” Chander in 2011. Rory, needing to make a change, reached out to Horizon Sports Management for new representation, since his good friend Graeme McDowell was also represented by them. According to the allegations stated by Rory’s team, Horizon’s founder Conor Ridge apparently told Rory that his deal with Horizon would be the same as their deal with McDowell. Rory signed with Horizon in December of 2011 when he was 22 years old.  Horizon and Rory entered into another deal two years later right around the time he signed a $100+ million deal with Nike. Horizon is undoubtedly  entitled to a piece of that.

Apparently in 2013, Rory somehow learned that his Horizon deal was not the same as McDowell’s and that Rory had paid Horizon close to $7 million more in fees than what McDowell’s contract required. Rory then split with Horizon and almost immediately started his own company, Rory McIlory Inc., before filing this lawsuit.

The purpose of this court battle is to get Rory out of the remainder of his two contracts, claiming that because he was 22, “inexperienced” and did not consult his own lawyer, the contracts with “markedly inferior terms” should be void due to Horizon’s undue influence over Rory.

According to the Irish Times, Horizon’s legal team stated that Rory’s claims are baseless and that Rory was never told that he would get “the same deal” as McDowell. Horizon is countersuing Rory for millions in unpaid fees for off-course endorsements, as well as damages for the continued breach of the two contracts.

Lets take a look at both side’s argument based on what we know. Keep in mind that I have not been able to read the complaints filed in the Dublin court.

Rory’s attempt to get out of his contract with Horizon is based on the legal doctrine of undue influence in contract law. Unfortunately, there is no statutory basis giving us a clear-cut definition of what amounts to undue influence. Also, Rory’s case was filed in a Dublin court, which may have a slightly different process than a U.S. court. However, Ireland follows many of the same legal doctrines as the U.S. and their contract laws appear to be pretty similar.

Undue influence basically states that a contract is voidable because one party took advantage of another party in order to convince that party to sign an unfair contract. Unlike certain circumstances where a contract is automatically deemed void regardless if brought to court (i.e. one party is under the age of 18), a voidable contract means that a contract CAN BE deemed void only where the circumstances require.

There are two types of undue influence. Actual undue influence, or duress, where an agreement is made only after one party actually uses some sort of influence over the other party to make he/she agree against their will. This is typically done by force or threat of force or some type of bullying like badgering the person to sign. It’s pretty unlikely that Rory could be taunted or threatened into signing, and there are no facts leaning to anything of the sort so far, so we can probably rule that out.

The second type is the strongest argument Rory can make because it puts almost all of the burden of proof on the defense. Wrongdoing is assumed based on the relationship between the parties. These relationships are those where one party is in a position of power and is being trusted to act in the other’s best interest, i.e.: parent/child, doctor/patient, attorney/client.

Rory will most likely argued that he believed that Horizon would be representing him the same way they are representing McDowell and because he was only 22 and did not think to get himself a lawyer because he was “inexperienced,” and that Horizon knew that Rory was trusting Horizon to act in his best interest.

The court will first look to see if the relationship creates the presumption that undue influence occurred. It is hard to determine if a judge is likely to find this. Those relationships typically involve a pre-existing relationship where trust has already been established through a long-time, working relationship.  Rory never worked with Horizon before, thus had no history of a trusting relationship to point to. This may lead the court against the presumption, and Rory will be required to show evidence that Horizon acted in bad faith.

If the court does find that such relationship existed, however, Rory’s job is done and it will be presumed that Horizon did use their position over Rory to get him to sign a much more expensive contract. The burden of proof will switch to Horizon to rebut the presumption and show that that it did not use any position over Rory to make him agree to something without his knowledge. Horizon will most likely argue that that it did not pressure him to sign anything, did not lie or mislead him about the terms of the contract and did not prevent Rory from allowing a lawyer to review the terms of the contract.  This can be difficult to show, especially if correspondences between the Horizon and Rory were deleted.

It will essentially be a he said/they said — which will most likely cause issues in determining the credibility of witnesses and cause a judge/jury confusion in making a decision.

Regardless of the law and how a Dublin court decides, a few things do not sit well. Unless more facts come out that show behavior in bad faith by Horizon, Rory is basically saying that he shouldn’t have to pay his management company, who helped him land Nike, because he thought he was only going to have to pay what McDowell was going to have to pay. And he should not have to pay Horizon only because he thought Ridge told him he would get the same contract as McDowell, but did not exercise any type of due diligence to assure that it would be reflected in the contract because he was an inexperienced 22-year-old.

My opinion would change, of course, if facts surface that Rory was actually shown a copy of McDowell’s contract and promised the same thing, if McDowell (a Horizon shareholder) personally played any part in getting Rory to agree to a different arrangement, or if Horizon did deplorable things to try to take advantage of an inexperienced kid. The truth remains to be seen, but with the facts available today it looks as though Rory didn’t do his homework.

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Evan is an attorney licensed to practice law in Michigan. He's also a dedicated golfer with an obsession for the latest golf equipment, and frequently gets caught in public examining his swing in any reflective surface.

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. marcel

    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Horizon has any money coming from other sources apart of milking Rory since GMac is shareholder. pity they leach on young guy.

  2. Rod

    Dec 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    It goes to show that Horizon are all about the $ and you would hope that if they wanted to stay in the golf industry, they would want this to get sorted sooner rather than later.
    They might get their pay day from Rory, but I think they will damage their reputation. You should be able to have an honest relationship with your management team.
    It was interesting to see how Oakley were very verbal about getting compensation from Rory due to him ending the contract but they seemed to calm down. Perhaps they have more to loose re product sales.
    If Horizon just quote the small print, it bypasses what they are all about which is managing relationships.
    I hope Rory can get it sorted out and it’s only money. Rory needs to keep focused on his main skill which is winning golf tournaments and perhaps delegate all the commercial and legal issue to someone he can trust.

  3. Regis

    Dec 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    My guess is this is a case in Equity. Kind of like an annulment. Rory is basically asking the court to declare the contract void ab initio, meaning asking the court to declare the contract never was entered into because of the “over reaching”. Tough sell. As to the phones. Keep in mind that Rory bolted Horizon for a management group that he formed with friends and family. Those phones could contain records of non-horizon people, like his dad pertaining to setting up the new group. When did he start the concept of forming his own group and with whom? What were the conversations? Goes to his argument that he was unsophisticated. Finally there is a principle in most US courts called spoliation. Means if you delete or destroy records, the trier of fact may consider it a presumption that those deleted records were detrimental to your position

  4. Steve

    Dec 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Is Rory serious? I was 22 and didn’t know any better, really. 22 old enough to vote, old enough to drink, old enough to die in war, but to dumb to know. Arrogance is no excuse, this why there are contracts. If they pulled the wool over his eyes that is to bad on him for signing. It is common place in the music industry to screw over young talent on the first contract. Talk to Springsteen, billy Joel, or any young and dumb musician that signed on the hood of a car. He is going to have eat it and buy himself out of the contract. Write it off to being stupid

    • luke

      Dec 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      too* calling someone stupid and using incorrect grammar

      • Knobbywood

        Dec 14, 2014 at 5:12 am

        Incorrect sir

      • bradford

        Dec 15, 2014 at 7:14 am

        “too* calling someone stupid and using incorrect grammar”

        …um wut?

  5. Justin

    Dec 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Any legal binding document would have been an sent via email and probably still have been available if the phone was wiped. I would bet my next check that Rory wipes his phones like we all do when we get rid of them for a number of reasons, delete personal info, phone numbers, texts, most importantly inappropriate Pictures and Video’s since celebrities and athletes tend to end up on the web nude lately. He is 22yrs old, Rich, Famous and dates models I can only imagine the digital media on his phones and how much people would pay to get it. The question of how many phones he had is irrelevant, if you have that type of money it would be easier to have the provider send you a new phone & # then cancel the old one. Can you see Rory in the parking lot at Augusta talking to AT&T trying to change his number, me either…

  6. tom

    Dec 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Can’t see the “only 22 and did not think to get himself a lawyer because he was inexperienced” stance holding up. He was still an adult. He should have known better.

    • Ben

      Dec 12, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Totally agree. Sounds like a costly mistake… Learn from it and move on.

  7. golfing

    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Horizon means it will suck you till you can see!

    This company already did destroy 2 years of the kid majors years.

    What a bunch of money sucking people.

    From the signing of the contract at a party, to the Oakley and Nike mess
    and so on, this is not a player needs in is head, good job destroying
    a star!

  8. Mat

    Dec 11, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Just out of curiosity… can’t he argue that a verbal agreement of equity is as enforceable as the construct of the later written contract? I think this misses the point; you have “undue influence” if you were lied to, correct?

    If someone says, “you’re getting the same deal”, and then you find out it’s not at all the same deal, can’t you then argue that the subsequent signed contract was in fact misleading? One party was “in power”, and it was the one who knew both Rory’s and Graeme’s contract terms. That “power” led them to make a deal that they knew was inequitable.

    Dressing this stuff up through “he was young” or “inexperienced” doesn’t mean that the same conclusion would have come about. They could have held said “power” even if RoryCo had retained counsel. In the end, it’ll be interesting to see how this comes out. But if the narratives have a modicum of truth in that the verbal deal was “the same terms”, and the paper says otherwise, I think RoryCo will end up prevailing. The verbal contract from the agent/agency is going to be enforceable unless something else comes up.

    • Thomas

      Dec 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Disclaimer: this is not legal advice. It will depend on what the law in their jurisdiction says. Here in the US, though, a court will typically look first to the written contract. Contracts often have clauses that say any negotiations or representations leading up this contract are not admissible. In other words, if a term did not make it into the writing, it is neither admissible nor enforceable. That rule is in place to prevent exactly this situation: “they told me something different than what I actually signed.” If that rule does not exist, contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. Everyone could simply make that type of claim to get out of every contract they disliked. (So it is his burden to make sure every term is in there BEFORE he signs.) As far as undue influence, lying does not really enter that picture. (Lying plays more of a role in defrauding someone to enter into a contract, which is a different issue.) Undue influence, by contrast, looks more into the relationship between the parties: in other words, was the person signing of limited capacity to understand, and then the other side “unduly” exerted its position of trust or authority over the other to get them to sign. This to me seems to be the least likely to win: here, it was two knowledgeable business entities (or adults) negotiating or entering into a contract. They appear to have been on equal footing, and would be treated that way.

  9. real talk

    Dec 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

    So much hate for Rory on here. I’m willing to bet that all the vitriol comes from Tiger fans who can’t stand the fact that Rory absolutely owns Tiger and has been humiliating on the course for years.

    • scott

      Dec 11, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      last time I checked tiger had 14 and rory had 4 I wouldn’t say that 4 is beating 14 and that rory might still have some work to do in order to catch tiger

    • Barack

      Dec 11, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      After Rory won a bunch in 2012, Tiger won 5 times in 2013. He’s hardly humiliated the guy. Rory couldn’t win 5 this year, so until Rory wins a a faster clip than 3 year old Tiger, I’m not buying it.

      I know, I know Tiger didn’t win a major. He won the Players though. That’s a tough win. Let’s just agree that both men healthy is good for golf.

      And these sharks who got rich off Rorys back, give em hell kid. If it feels wrong to you, fight em bruh.

      Am I the only golf fan that likes Tiger and Rory?

      • Teaj

        Dec 12, 2014 at 10:02 am

        Nope I to am a Tiger and Rory fan because I am a fan of golf, the other stuff I can care less about. People like to make assumptions on both, like Tiger does not relate to fans because he does not share much in interviews and then when Rory shares to much they flog him too. Both are just humans and have a different way of expressing their views but non of this has anything to do with the way they can dominate the game of golf. I hope both can be healthy at the same time and at the top of their game so we don’t have to guess who would beat who like when Tiger was coming up and people pondered the question who would win Jack or Tiger.

  10. Daniel

    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:24 am

    The guilty party is always the one who runs, or hides things, or in this case wipes their phones clean. And wouldn’t Horizon have all of their communications with Rory saved anyway. Why do they need what’s on the phones. If it’s Rory taking to Nike behind their back, the court can just get all that from Nike right?

    I agree with everyone else on here, just pay the money and move on. Instead of Rory having enough money for 100 lifetimes, he’ll now only have enough for 90.

    • Jack

      Dec 15, 2014 at 3:36 am

      Why would he talk to Nike when they have and are paid to do the work for him? I don’t agree with what he’s claiming, since he should have had a lawyer present, unless he can prove that Horizon persuaded him to not have one in order to have him sign a contract that he did not intend to sign out of total trust.

      I wonder if he’s still friends with McDowell.

  11. Pat

    Dec 11, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Mo money, mo problems. Seriously though, filthy rich people are driver by one thing and that’s greed. Rory is no different. I do agree with you however. He should settle this out of court and move on. I don’t see how he’s going to win his suit based on the stories and the premise on which he is defending his position. Nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to sign the contract. He did it willingly. He needs to man up and take care of his issues or else it will affect his game negatively for the the 2015 season.

  12. Slimeone

    Dec 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Why did he have eight iPhones?

    • Marshall Brown

      Dec 11, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Media kept getting his number, so he had to change phoned constantly.

      • Rich

        Dec 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

        Doesn’t mean he needed a new phone each time. He’d just switch the number if that was the reason

        • Marshall Brown

          Dec 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

          You are right, I didn’t think about that. I just read that somewhere yesterday and assumed it was the reason.

  13. Bobsyouruncle

    Dec 11, 2014 at 1:19 am

    No matter the outcome, this has to hurt Horizon’s reputation and bottom line. What other athlete and especially a hot upcoming talent is going to want to sign a contract with them now?

    In the meantime, all the lawyers on both sides are getting paid handsomely for battling this out in the courts. Life is good for someone.

  14. Pingback: Rory McIlroy Wipes iPhones, Creates More Legal Questions | Golf Gear Select

  15. sam

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    i don’t think this will effect him mental much at all.
    its just money he can cover it..

    • real talk

      Dec 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Take this for what it’s worth…

      One of my best friend’s dad is very well connected in the golf world and a close friend with Rory. He thinks the world of Rory BTW. Rory doesn’t care about the money. This is all about respect and principle for him. Rory treats everyone with class but when you cross him he will unleash h***.

  16. Fsubaseball21

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I’m sure Rory has been told numerous times that this mess should have been settled long before papers were filed. When you open yourself up to discovery you had better be sure all of your bases are covered. Just my opinion but Horizon wins this case easily. Shame on both of them for not getting into a room and working something out like normal human beings. Horizon was shady but at the end of the day 22 years old makes you an adult.

  17. golfpros1

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    He dropped his guard because he was use to dealing with Chubby, a person that is unique in this business by not messing over his clients and believing a handshake means as much as a contract. Rory made a mistake leaving chubby and this is what he got for his decision.

  18. Stan

    Dec 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Couldn’t have picked a better picture of Rory for this article. Mr. Shifty Eyes.

  19. mark m

    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Its a difficult case for Rory to make and its would set a bad precedent. So would every 22 year old that applies for a credit card, loan, mortgage, etc and enters in to a legal financial arrangement argue that they were too stupid to read what they were signing and therefore the contract is void? I think not.
    This and Rory is hard pressed to prove that he was harmed by this deal seeing as they landed him Nike and at the end of the day if he pays what he owes he won’t exactly be broke, only slightly less rich.

  20. dave

    Dec 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    why doesnt he take some of the $200+ M from Nike and call it a day? im sure Nike can’t be happy about the timing of all of this. Cut a check and move on! (easier said than done iknow) but why fight this hard !!

  21. Law

    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Good bye Rory. It was nice seeing you at the top of the game for a while.

  22. Donnie

    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    First, how could he have not consulted with a contract attorney, given what (even a stupid 22 year-old would have to known was millions of dollars) was at stake. He needs to “fire” his dad. Here’s a 100k a month allowance pop, I love you!… Second, if Graeme really is a “shareholder” in the company and he was promised “the same deal as Graeme” then he probably does have some legal ground to stand on, albeit shaky. A smart guy would say, “how many shares does Graeme own?” Oh really? I want three times that number, and boy what a good deal you are getting… If the relationship were successful how many other golfers would he have attracted to this management company??
    Dear Rory, I would like to introduce you to a term called a “flat fee” when you have 100’s of millions coming your way, you should get familiar with the concept.

  23. luke keefner

    Dec 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Make a deal, settle out of court,slap each other on the back, shake hands and move on. Its not like any of these people need the money…

  24. Mike honcho

    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    He probably wiped it to get rid of the pics of Caroline

  25. Golfraven

    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Of course he was paying more because he was earning far more the GMAC that time. Still a rip off from this management group and hope they loose the case. the claim with the iphone devices is a joke.

    • Rich

      Dec 11, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Ok, based on what? How do you know it’s a joke?

      • Golfraven

        Dec 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm

        Fair question. I think that his personal devices don’t hold an evidence for this particular case. Doubt his contractual conversation went over whatsapp. Nobodies business what he has stored on his iphone. The facts are clear in this case, he signed an agreement which he later didn’t agree with and he is free to cancel it with some additional fees – as for any contact in real life. Although I agree he was rather naive not get legal advise.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Kangaroos, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 3rd and 4th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 3rd hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Podcasts

Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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