The PGA Tour is in Florida this week for the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens. Camilo Villegas defends the title but he’ll have to get past a strong field including last week’s winner Luke Donald as well as other Europeans – Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell 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. 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.
The tournament marks the start of the PGA Tour’s “Florida Swing” with four tournaments contested in the State through March.
Many of the world’s top players will tee it up this week as they complete preparations for the second WGC event of the year – The Cadillac Championship to be held next week at Doral.
The Champion Course at PGA National is one of the toughest on the PGA Tour circuit. Last year it ranked as the second hardest on Tour. 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 supreme accuracy to a very narrow landing area.
Last year Camilo Villegas put on a masterful performance to win the tournament by five shots from Anthony Kim. The Colombian’s winning total of 13-under-par was the lowest since the tournament moved to the PGA National course in 2007.
Venue: PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Date: March 3-6
Course stats: par 70, 7,158 yards
Purse: $5,600,000, Winner: $1,008,000
Defending Champion: Camilo Villegas (-13)
Thursday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Sunday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Luke Donald – He won this tournament in 2006. That was on a different course, but he also holds the course record at PGA National and was runner-up around the layout in 2008. He’ll be brimming with confidence on the back of his fabulous Match Play victory last week.
Graeme McDowell – The Northern Irishman has played well in this event before and, although he exited the Match Play in the third round, he showed good form. He’ll be looking to consolidate his move up the World Rankings with a good result here.
Rickie Fowler – The young American looked awesome in his demolition of Phil Mickelson at the Match Play. It’s about time Fowler moved his game up a level by securing a big win and this could be the week he does it.
Key hole: 15th. A par 3 of 179 yards that marks the start of “The Bear Trap.” It requires a pinpoint iron shot with bunkers waiting left and water lurking right.
Skills required: Grinding. This is a long and testing par-70 course with a run of tough holes towards the end. The focus must be on minimising errors and taking opportunities as and when they arise.
Betting Guide: Honda Classic