Rory and Rickie headline the Honda Classic and a strong field including defending champ Padraig Harrington has assembled at Palm Beach Gardens.
Rory McIlroy won the Honda Classic of 2012 and he lost in a playoff for the title in 2014. He’ll be looking to bounce back after a disappointing final round in last week’s Northern Trust Open. Both Rory and Rickie Fowler are Palm Beach residents and should draw large galleries this week. Fowler comes into the tournament on great form. He lost out in a playoff for the Waste Management Phoenix Open and won in Abu Dhabi two weeks before that.
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.
In last year’s tournament Padraig Harrington claimed his first PGA Tour victory since the USPGA of 2008. He made five birdies on the back nine of his final round to force a playoff with youngster Daniel Berger. The Irishman took the title at the second extra hole.
The Champion Course at PGA National is one of the toughest on the PGA Tour circuit. Originally created by George and Tom Fazio, it was the venue for the 1983 Ryder Cup and the 1987 PGA Championship.
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.
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Venue: PGA National (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Date: Feb 25-28
Course stats: par 70, 7,158 yards
Purse: $6,100,000 Winner: $1,098,000
Defending Champion: Padraig Harrington (-6)
Thursday 25– Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Friday 26 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm
Saturday 27 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 28 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Rory and Rickie headline the Honda and will start favourites. Who else is likely to feature?
Patrick Reed – He currently leads the PGA Tour in “bogey avoidance” and minimising mistakes is crucial around this course. He’s been on a decent run and was tied sixth on his last start at Pebble Beach. He was tied seventh in this event last year.
Branden Grace – He may lack experience in this event but he’s been on great form of late. He’s been no worse than tied for eighth in his last six starts. Already a winner in 2016 – Qatar Masters.
Branden Grace putting challenge:
Hideki Matsuyama – Already a winner in 2016 (the Waste Management Phoenix Open,) Matsuyama is one of the most consistent ball-strikers on the PGA Tour and that should give him a great advantage at this difficult track.
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.