The Honda Classic: Calm after the storm or is it?
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 The Honda Classic | Preview | 08 Mar 2005
Two weekends ago Australian golf was the winner with Webb, Ogilvy, O’Malley and Strange winning respective events around the world. Last weekend golf generally was a winner with the games greatest names dominating their respective events. Woods won in Florida, Els in Dubai and Sorenstam in Mexico. This week we do not get the luxury of so many of the games greats playing, but when the USPGA Tour hits Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic there is still plenty to keep golf fans interested.
The three-year-old venue was first used for the Honda Classic in 2003 after moving from the Mark McCumber designed layout at Heron Bay at Coral Springs, which had been it’s home for the previous six years. The Sunrise course designed by Tom Fazio, one of two courses at this golfing residential complex, is being used for the second year, the Arthur Hills designed Sunset Course being used when the tournament first moved here. Interestingly enough however, the final hole of the Sunset course, will be used for the event as it is better suited to tournament requirements.
Measuring around 7500 yards and carrying a par of 72, the course has TifEagle Bermuda grass greens a grass type gaining increased acceptance in warmer regions. The grass first introduced in 1998 has fine erect leaves, accepts overseeding well and maintains colour over a longer period.
The event has not been blessed with well received courses over recent years with both the Eagle Trace (1996) and Heron Bay (97-2002) courses copping their share of criticism from the tournament fields. It appears, however, that this may well be a venue that will help to overcome some of that negativity. Certainly last year’s scores reflect a much stronger test of golf than has been the case in recent years with 12 under winning in a week where winds reached up to 20 mph on Sunday.
With little to go on in terms of form at this specific course over the years we need to look at last year’s efforts and current form as our best guide and with this in mind let’s have a look at some of the likely contenders. Unlike last week where the Blue Monster tended to favour the long hitters, this week’s venue appears more like a golf course which will favour the best hitter rather than the longest hitter.
Vijay Singh, dethroned last week of his World number one title is here looking to bounce back. Not that his effort last week was a bad one. He finished in a share of third with Zach Johnson and although he has yet to play this course in tournament play, he has won this event previously and will, in most people’s eyes, be the favourite.
Jim Furyk looks to be getting close to winning form as his 8th place last week in Miami would suggest. He plays well on Bermuda greens and given that it is not a power hitters’ course necessarily, then it might just be the chance for him to win for the first time in eighteen months.
David Toms was 25th here last year after a slow start to the week when he just made the cut. He is in such good form right now it is hard to see him not being there or thereabouts on Sunday.
Kevin Na’s fourth place here last year was somewhat of a surprise, but a similar effort this year would not be unlikely. He has after all been runner up twice already this season and was 16th last week and the 21-year-old looks ready to win his first event. A victory would mean he would become one of the youngest players in the modern era to do so.
South African Tim Clark is in fine form. His win in South Africa earlier this year gave the impetus for a fine start to his USPGA Tour season and he has had just that. Bermuda greens will not bother him as his upbringing and 16th place last week would suggest. He is likely to continue his good run of form here.
Amongst the Australians Geoff Ogilvy has had a good run at this event finishing runner up at Herron Bay one year and was 13th here last year. Now that he has finally won his first professional event with victory in Tucson then it may just be that the floodgates will open for this talented Victorian.
Robert Allenby has played well in recent weeks and was fourth on this course last year. That alone indicates that his fifth USPGA Tour win would not be a great surprise.
Aaron Baddeley’s progress here will be watched with interest. His last two outings have seen top tens and it may just be that the maturity that we have been waiting for and expecting has finally arrived in the Baddeley game. A bad last round here last year cost him dearly but it appears his game is now in better shape. Time will tell.
Craig Parry played well last week and is playing well at present. He was 36th here last year but that was the week after his amazing win at the Ford so it may be that he has more focus this week.
Other Australasians are Steve Allan, Gavin Coles, Paul Gow, Mark Hensby, Scott Hend, Brendan Jones, Stephen Leaney, Rod Pampling, Craig Perks, John Senden and Andre Stolz.
The tournament is worth US$5.5 million with the winner to receive $US990,000.