The Honda Classic First-Round Leader Tips: Zach can get off to a flyer in Florida

American Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson can come out of the blocks fast

The PGA Tour concludes its four-week stint in Florida with The Honda Classic and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks to be First Round Leader at PGA National...

"As a man who won an Open that was briefly halted by high winds - the 2015 edition at St Andrews - the weather forecast should hopefully play into his hands. Johnson is an expert in blowy conditions and will cope better than most."

Back Zach Johnson E/W @ 66/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 6 places

Weather forecast for Thursday: It's going to be windy! While the sunshine will be welcome, the gusts of 15-20mph are not. The early groups may get a couple of hours in with speeds around 10mph but by 10am it's 16mph and the afternoon wave will have to deal with 19mph winds throughout their rounds.

First-round leader history:
2020 - 66 Harris English, Tom Lewis
2019 - 64 Jhonattan Vegas
2018 - 66 Alex Noren, Webb Simpson
2017 - 64 Wesley Bryan, Cody Gribble
2016 - 65 Sergio Garcia, Michael Thompson
2015 - 65 Jim Herman

Strategy: Of those 10 names above, six went off in the morning and four in the afternoon. The windiest years were 2016 and 2018 so perhaps those are worth more. This year, strong winds are forecast again but the a.m. wave may get slightly less of it early on and a softer course so the morning starters are favoured.

Jump in for Johnson

Zach Johnson has made a habit of fast starts in this event.

The American has played this event eight times and ended day one inside the top 25 in six of them.

His best two opening-round performances have come in the last two years. In 2019 he fired a 4-under 66 to sit second after 18 holes. And last year a Thursday 67 put him tied third.

As a man who won an Open that was briefly halted by high winds - the 2015 edition at St Andrews - the weather forecast should hopefully play into his hands. Johnson is an expert in blowy conditions and will cope better than most.

While not in amazing form, he's still made his last 13 cuts on the PGA Tour, his best this season a tied sixth on another course where it gets windy, Sea Island.

He fired a second-round 68 at TPC Sawgrass last week when T41 and his 08:09 tee-time looks beneficial.

Take Johnson at the industry-best of 66/1.

Shane should be ready to thrive

There's a bunch of Claret Jug winners on the Honda Classic trophy - Padraig Harrington (twice), Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Todd Hamilton, Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara, Mark Calcavecchia (twice) and on it goes.

The obvious common factor is being able to perform in the wind so I'll also add in the current Open champion Shane Lowry.

The Irishman will surely arrive on the first tee with a spring in his step. He's coming off an impressive top 10 at The Players Championship and has just enjoyed a two-day trip to Augusta National with Lee Westwood.

Lowry lives five minutes from this venue, PGA National, which has to be a big help and he's twice made good starts in his three Honda appearances.

Shane Lowry (720).JPG

In 2016, one of the windier Thursdays, the Royal Portrush hero fired 67 to sit in the top five after the opening lap. And a R1 69 last year was good enough for T11.

He was third after day one at Sawgrass last week and I'll back him for another quick start here from his 08:09 tee-time. Take Lowry at 33/1.

Pick early starter Percy

I also want a player pre-8am given that they'll have relatively calmer conditions for longer, even if only for a hole or two.

The one who fits the bill is Cameron Percy and he's worth chancing at 100/1.

Aussies obviously know how to handle windy conditions and Percy has been making some good starts. He fired 67 in round one at both Pebble Beach and the Puerto Rico Open to sit T11 and T9 respectively, finishing those events in T21 and T7.

He opened with a 64 at the Safeway Open and another 67 by the coast in the Corales Puntacana.

This is his third start at the Honda Classic and there are a couple of positives from both appearances. He fired a 66 on day two on debut and last year he was T11 after round one thanks to a 69.

The veteran is a strong iron player (he sits an impressive 4th for Greens In Regulation this season), putts pretty well and his experience in windy conditions will hopefully count for plenty.

Percy pegs it up at 07:47.

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