The Honda Classic - Round Two
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At a tournament ripe for a breakthrough moment, Justin Suh is seizing the opportunity. The reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year leads at the 2023 Honda Classic at 10 under, one stroke ahead of veteran Chris Kirk and two clear of Ben Taylor and Ryan Gerard as second-round play was suspended Friday evening due to darkness.

Suh is no stranger to entering the winner's circle at the professional level; he claimed the title at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship this past September. While the pressure of securing one's card on the PGA Tour is tantamount to actually winning on the PGA Tour, it will still be interesting to see how the rookie handles the heat around PGA National over the weekend.

In his rearview mirror are a number of PGA Tour winners including major champions Zach Johnson and Shane Lowry. Meanwhile, Dylan Frittelli, Byeong Hun An, Chesson Hadley and Adam Svensson took advantage of the calm conditions to play themselves back into this tournament after slow opening rounds. 

Then there is 21-year-old Akshay Bhatia. The former prodigy turned professional sits only six strokes off the pace of Suh and arrives having won on the Korn Ferry Tour just over a year ago.

The leader

1. Justin Suh (-10)

The Class of 2019 was one of the better ones to reach the PGA Tour in recent memory. Featuring Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff, a "big four" of sorts was expected with the inclusion of Suh. The USC product saw his peers win almost immediately on the PGA Tour, contend and win major championships and rise inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Meanwhile, Suh battled injuries and dips in form but appears well on his way to rejoining his counterparts near the top of the ranks.

"It's kind of reassuring every time because for me, I think it's -- I never really let it get to me," said Suh. "Obviously they [Morikawa, Hovland, Wolff] had immediate success, and it was cool watching them play so great. But for me, I knew I needed to improve. I think for me, I just kept my head down and worked on my game. Everyone is on a different path, and I think -- I think all I'm focused on is just improving on a daily basis. That's kind of all I'm focused on."

Other contenders

2. Chris Kirk (-9)

T3. Ben Taylor, Ryan Gerard (-8)

T5. Brice Garnett, Ben Martin, Eric Cole (-7)

T8. Tyler Duncan, Tano Goya (-6)

T10. Byeong Hun An, Zach Johnson, Matt Wallace, Carson Young, Adam Schenk, Chesson Hadley (-5)

This is about as eclectic a bunch you could ask for. Major champions, PGA Tour winners, journeymen, Monday qualifiers -- this lot has something for everyone. Kirk is the player to flash the most serious form in the beginning stages of 2023 as he nearly came through at the Sony Open and contended once again a week later at The American Express. His 8-under 62 in Round 2 is currently good for the round of the tournament. He possesses the most experience -- outside Johnson -- but knows the group of young talent in the mix is not to be trifled with.

"I try to do my best to introduce myself to as many of the rookies as I get a chance to when they get out here, but anybody that makes it to the PGA Tour is an unbelievable player," said Kirk. "There's no doubt about that. Anybody that gets on to the Korn Ferry Tour is an unbelievable player. Yeah, I definitely am not doubting any of the young talent coming out here. It's a lot of really good young guys that hit it a lot further than me and are playing with a lot of confidence. I think you'll continue to see that week after week."

Monday qualifier to PGA Tour winner?

Casual golf fans may want to get used to the name Ryan Gerard. Just nine months removed from competing in the NCAA Championship, the UNC product has shot out the gates of his professional career. Winning on PGA Tour Canada and capturing a pair of top-five finishes, the 23-year-old was granted a spot in the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School where he went onto earn eight guaranteed starts. 

Now, after a T3 finish at the Astara Golf Championship and having Monday qualified into the Honda Classic, he looks to continue this torrid stretch. Gerard may not have full-time status on the PGA Tour yet, but it is surely coming soon -- perhaps even this weekend should he win.

"I wouldn't want to be doing anything else," said Gerard. "This is my dream ever since I was a little kid, just playing PGA Tour events. I'm still on the road there, not officially made it yet, but I just really enjoy playing golf. I love everything about it. I love the competition. I love challenging myself. I love playing against the best players and seeing how I stack up. I think that in and of itself is fun for me, but I had some friends get to come out here today just because I live right down the road, and it's been really cool to see kind of everyone embrace it and see that I can compete at this level and that my game is good enough to translate. I'm excited, pretty confident in how I've been playing, and would like to keep it going, but I just love being out here. I wouldn't want to do anything else."

2023 Honda Classic updated odds and picks

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Justin Suh: 16/5
  • Chris Kirk: 33/10
  • Ben Taylor: 10-1
  • Ben Martin: 16-1
  • Shane Lowry: 20-1
  • Ryan Gerard: 25-1
  • Byeong Hun An: 28-1
  • Brice Garnett: 28-1
  • Tyler Duncan: 30-1
  • Adam Svensson: 30-1

The play seems to be Kirk, but given his inability to close in recent years and the trouble lurking at PGA National, it may be wise to gather a few longshots. Defending champion Sepp Straka strikes some interest. The Austrian is listed at 100-1 and sits at 3 under while ranking 10th in strokes gained tee to green. He has yet to get the putter going, but has proven to be capable from a weekend chasing position before.