by Jeff Skinner
You’ll have to excuse the golf geeks of the world if they seem a bit giddy this week. Even though we’ve been watching golf all winter things really start to heat up this week. The PGA Tour brings the strongest field of the year to a tough track as PGA National hosts the 43rd Honda Classic.
It wasn’t always The Honda Classic. Back in 1972 Jackie Gleason, a hard partying golf geek himself headlined the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic. He got the best players and many of his hard partying crowd to get together and play some golf in between the parties.
But that was then and this is now. Long gone is Gleason but his tournament has evolved into a significant PGA Tour event. The folks behind the Honda Classic have worked long and hard to grow this tournament. First the move to PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens gave them an opportunity to tap one of the most vital of Florida resources: Jack Nicklaus.
Jack and Barbara Nicklaus have signed on and play an important role in involving the community in The Honda. Any time Jack is in the mix there is always an extra buzz that week.
The move to PGA National has proved advantageous as more and more top ranked pros sign up to test themselves on Jack’s design. Holes fifteen through seventeen, nicknamed “The Bear Trap” has combined to give us plenty of excitement recently.
Timing has much to do with the growth of The Honda. It marks the start of the East Coast Swing and a countdown to The Masters. Hawaii is great, Pebble Beach is awesome and Riviera is classic but for many the season, the major chase season starts this week. 43 days to Augusta and don’t think the boys of the PGA Tour haven’t calculated that into their schedule.
Finally, the most attractive aspect of this week is the field. We all know what a buzz a great field can give and this week is a perfect example. Tiger Woods’ relocation to this part of Florida has made it a natural starting point to his march to Augusta. Phil Mickelson has reworked his schedule and has signed on to test The Bear Trap. Normally Phil will start his east coast swing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but this year the Honda has earned a place in Phil’s new schedule.
Great theater needs a great cast and this week has just that. Seven of the top players in the world are teeing it up here. Justin Rose would have made eight but withdrew due to his ailing shoulder. For the first time this year numbers 1, 2, 3 are in the field as Woods, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson lead the field. Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia round out the remaining top ten players. Only Jason Day and Dustin Johnson are passing on The Honda.
With all these top players there is bound to be plenty of excitement as the tour really starts to get busy. 43 days and six tournaments left to The Masters.