The PGA Tour heads to Florida this week for the Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion course. Rory McIlroy defends the title and an extremely strong field has assembled.
This event began life as the Jackie Gleason Inverary Classic back in 1972 but it’s been sponsored by Honda since 1982 and has been contested at the PGA National Champion Course since 2007. Over the years, the event has been won by many of golf’s biggest names including – Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Kite, Nick Price and Vijay Singh.
Last year Rory McIlroy outlasted Tom Gillis and a charging Tiger Woods to take the title by two shots. McIlroy will be back this week to defend his title and to try and bounce back from a poor start to 2013. The Northern Irishman followed a missed cut in Abu Dhabi with a first round exit at the Accenture Match Play.
The Champion Course at PGA National is one of the toughest on the PGA Tour circuit. A feature of the course is the stretch from the 15th to the 17th. These holes have been dubbed “The Bear Trap” after course re-designer Jack Nicklaus. A par 3, then a par 4 and another par 3, each tee shot demands a supremely accurate shot to a very narrow landing area.
It looks like being a breezy and potentially rainy weekend so look out for difficult playing conditions and maybe a delay or two.
Venue: PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Date: Feb 28 – Mar 3
Course stats: par 70, 7,158 yards
Purse: $6,000,000 Winner: $1,026,000
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-12)
Thursday 28 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 1 – Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 2 – Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 3 – Sky Sports 3 from 6.30pm
Jason Day – Third in the Accenture Match Play and showing signs of returning to the form that saw him pick up consecutive runner-up finishes in Majors back in 2011.
Nicolas Colsaerts – Looked supremely confident and relaxed at the Match Play. It’s about time he made an impact in a PGA Tour strokeplay event.
Brendon de Jonge – Tied sixth in Phoenix and he’s made all but one cut so far this season. He finished 2012 strongly too. He’s an outside chance but worth an each way bet.
Key hole: 17th. This is an extremely challenging par-3, the last hole of the “bear trap.” Water lurks right and the prevailing wind pushes balls in this direction. A bunker lurks long and to the left so this is a must-find green.
Skills required: Minimising mistakes. This is not a course that witnesses a huge number of birdies. The winner will play the percentages and grind out a score. Look for something between six and ten under par to win this one.