The PGA Tour travels to Florida this week for the Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens. Rory Sabbatini defends and Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are in the field.
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 Sabbatini of South Africa took the title with superb second and third rounds of 64 and 66 the key to his success.
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.
After losing out in the final of last week’s Accenture Match Play, Rory McIlroy will be hoping to go one better this time out. With Luke Donald sitting this tournament out, the Northern Irishman can move to Number 1 in the world this week.
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 a supremely accurate shot to a very narrow landing area.

PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Date: March 1-4
Course stats: par 70, 7,158 yards
Purse: $5,700,000 Winner: $1,026,000
Defending Champion: Rory Sabbatini (-9)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 1 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Friday 2 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm
Saturday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm
Sunday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Rory McIlroy – He’s probably playing the best golf of anybody on earth right now but he needs more wins to solidify his position at the top of the game. Victory here would get him to Number 1 and could provide a springboard for him to go on and dominate to a greater extent.

Mark Wilson – He’s won here before (in 2007) and his steady, error-free game is well suited to the PGA National course. He finished third in the Accenture, beating Lee Westwood in the consolation match.

Robert Allenby – The Australian had three straight top-5 finishes in this event from 2007 to 2009. He played superbly last week at the Mayakoba Classic and should have won, had it not been for a closing double-bogey. He’ll look to bounce back from that disappointment this week.

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. It was the hardest par 3 on the 2011 PGA Tour – players averaged 3.526 strokes for the hole.

Skills required: Minimising mistakes. This is not a course that witnesses a huge number of birdies. In fact, last year there was an average of just 2.41 birdies per round through the tournament. The winner will play the percentages and grind out a score. Look for something between six and ten under par to win this one.

Where Next?
Seniors –
Sam Torrance wins lifetime achievement award