It’s been a strange day, but not to worry, there’s plenty to report from Wednesday at the Honda Classic. I guess pro-am days are always kind of weird and things are rather hectic, and with so many players who live here, it seems like a lot of guys went to their private, super sick clubs to practice because the range was pretty dead today.
I have some fantastic tidbits on Jeff Knox, the Augusta National club champion who often plays as a marker during the tournament, but — this is mean for me to bring it up and then do this — I can’t share them because they’re for a story for a different publication. But I will say this: More than one player told me that Knox is by far the best putter in the world on Augusta’s greens.
Oh yeah, before we dive into all things PGA National, some injured guy who has won 14 major championships posted a video of himself swinging and hitting a shot on his simulator. It was basically a big middle finger to the social media reports that Woods’ condition had worsened and he couldn’t even sit up straight in the car. Woods tweeted the video with the caption, “Progressing nicely.”
<<insert emoji for F-off to journalist who tweeted the apparently wrong info>>
Whoops. I empathize because if you’ve done this job for any time at all, your trusted sources aren’t always going to come through and you’re going to get bad intel. It happens.
Rory McIlroy added his two cents with a RT and comment, poking fun at his pal.
A LOOK BACK
Last year Padraig Harrington, who was playing on a sponsor’s exemption, entered the final round of this tournament trailing Ian Poulter by three shots. Harrington, who was ranked no. 297 in the OWGR, shot an even-par 70 to finish at six-under on Monday to force a sudden-death playoff with Daniel Berger (since then, the two have formed a nice friendship). On the second playoff hole (the par-3 17th), Harrington made par, which was good enough to secure his second Honda Classic title, becoming the first player to win on the PGA Tour playing as a sponsor exemption since Lee Westwood captured the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Harrington’s win, his sixth on the Tour, came at the age of 43 years, 6 months, 2 days, making him the oldest winner of the event. Runner-up Daniel Berger would go on to compete in all four FedExCup Playoffs events en route to PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors.
- 24 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, led by Rory McIlroy (No. 3) and Rickie Fowler (No. 5).
- 10 of the 14 PGA TOUR winners in 2015-16 including five players under the age of 30: Emilano Grillo (Frys.com Open), Smylie Kaufman (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), Justin Thomas (CIMB Classic), Peter Malnati (Sanderson Farms Championship) and Hideki Matsuyama (Waste Management Phoenix Open).
I usually never really bring up the sponsor unless it’s absolutely pertinent, but I thought this was kinda cool: Title sponsor of The Honda Classic since 1982, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. is the longest-tenured title sponsor on the PGA Tour, now in its 35th year. I mean, this event is older than me! (Which makes me feel better since it sometimes seems like I could have technically given birth to some of these guys.) And it was announced today that Honda has signed a five-year extension with the Tour. Yay!
Longest-running title sponsors
The Honda Classic 1982
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am 1986
Shell Houston Open 1992
John Deere Classic 1999
Sony Open in Hawaii 1999
The Honda Classic presents the final opportunity to qualify for next week’s World Golf Championships event, the Cadillac Championship, which is just down the road (well, like an hour and a half) at Trump National Doral (which should be a total sh*tshow this year because of the obvious). Players not previously eligible can qualify by being inside the top 50 in the OWGR or the top 10 of the FedExCup standings following the Honda Classic.
Of the ten players that qualified via the top 50 in the OWGR as of February 22, Welshman Jamie Donaldson was the only player to qualify after beginning the Northern Trust Open outside the top 50 (No. 51). Chris Kirk, who was ranked No. 50 at the start of the week outside Los Angeles, missed the cut to surrender his spot inside the top 50. Consequently, Donaldson’s T54 finish was enough to jump Kirk and punch his ticket to Doral.
Among the others to qualify via the OWGR include: Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Martin Kaymer, Russell Knox, David Lingmerth, Justin Thomas and Billy Horschel.
There are a few guys on the bubble, who need a strong week at PGA National to get into next week’s prestigious field and into the top 50 in the OWGR and top 10 in FEC standings.
Chris Kirk needs to not miss the cut like he did last week at the Northern Trust Open. He’s at no. 51. Matt Jones stayed put at No. 52 in the OWGR, but is still in position to join the field at the Cadillac Championship.
Smylie Kaufman looks to be in strong standing to make his WGC debut at No. 5, while Fabian Gomez (No. 7), Graeme McDowell (No. 8) and Jason Dufner (No. 10) are looking to cement their place in the field with a strong showing this week.
THE BEAR TRAP
You will not stop hearing the announcers on TV about how “intimidating” and “scary” the Bear Trap — the three-hole stretch that runs from nos. 15-17 with a crap-load of water everywhere — is. I mean, it is tough, but it just gets overemphasized all week until maybe it really matters and I guess there are a lot of train wrecks that occur there. After all, since 2007, the Bear Trap has ranked among the toughest three-hole stretches on Tour. These three holes at PGA National rank as the fifth most difficult stretch on Tour of courses that have been played in each of the last nine years.
The Bear Trap accounts for 18% of all bogeys, 33% of all doubles, and 40% of all triples or worse at PGA National. The field is combined +2.571 over par on holes 15 through 17 since 2007. There have been 974 balls in the water on the Bear Trap. Since 2007, 325 of 430 players have hit at least one ball in the water on the Bear Trap. There. are currently 106 players that have played the Bear Trap at least once in competition without hitting a ball in the water. However, just 15 of those players have played six or more rounds at PGA National.
2013 Honda Classic champion Michael Thompson currently has the most rounds played at 14 without knocking a ball in the water on the Bear Trap. Whoa!
But, basically, this is Florida golf. They just stick water hazards in every possible place to make courses more “difficult” and/or “interesting.” Overrated.
In case anyone cares, I took this picture of the pro-am scores before they were wiped clear. These are obviously scores from a pro-am, but it’s the pro’s individual score and they’re supposed to play by the rules, etc.
Conditions were SUPER blustery.
Last time we saw Rickie Fowler, he was trying to swallow a tough, emotional loss in a playoff against Hideki Matsuyama. Fowler had a two-shot lead with two to play and managed to lose it, not to mention his entire family was there — and his dad and grandparents had never seen him win in person, so it would have been really special.
So, I know it’s been two weeks, but he had to have been expecting to be asked about it. Like right out of the gate. Which is what I did.
Q. You said that in Phoenix that was going to be a tough loss to swallow because of your family being there and not having won in front of your dad and grandfather, etc. How long did it take you to get over that?
RICKIE FOWLER: I mean, I’m fine. It’s obviously one that I wanted to get. Felt like I was in a great position to get it, but I’ve been playing well, all through last summer, through the fall.
Just really focusing on this week and see if we can get off to a good, solid start. This is a tougher course that we play. You have to be pretty precise from tee-to-green, and so biggest thing is focusing on this.
Like I said, I’ve been playing well, and yeah, Phoenix was unfortunate not to get the win there. Hideki played some amazing golf down the stretch. Came up just short. Someone had to win, someone had to lose, so yeah, just excited to be able to spend some time at home, hang out with some friends and see if we can make this one a good one.
Uhhhhhh. I love Rickie, but he doesn’t give the best pressers. I mean, when was the last time he said anything substantive? I don’t blame him in a way, but well, I guess not everyone can be super eccentric and insightful. He’s a really great guy and awesome with the fans, though.
OK, I’m the last person in the media center and it’s super depressing, so I’m going to relocate and finish this post elsewhere.