The PGA Tour heads to Florida this week for the Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion course. Michael Thompson defends the title and an extremely strong field has assembled, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
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 Michael Thompson held off the challenge of Australia’s Geoff Ogilvie to win by two shots.
Many of the world’s best players will tee it up in this event – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson are all on the start sheet.
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.
For this year’s tournament all 63 bunkers on the course have been re-modelled and new traps have been added. Rain looks possible on Friday and it’s expected to be breezy over the weekend.
Venue: PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Date: Feb 27 – Mar 2
Course stats: par 70, 7,158 yards
Purse: $6,000,000 Winner: $1,080,000
Defending Champion: Michael Thompson (-9)
Thursday 27 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Friday 28 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Saturday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sergio Garcia – He won in Qatar and might have progressed all the way at the Match Play had he not conceded Rickie Fowler a 17 foot putt. He has six top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts.
Billy Horschel – Tied 46th here this year, but that included a disastrous third round of 81. He pushed eventual winner Jason Day to the 22nd hole in their second round match at the Accenture Match Play.
Brian Harman – A seemingly outside chance, but he was tied third at Riviera and was tied 12th in this event last year. He also holds the course record of 61 at PGA National, so clearly enjoys the course.
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.
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