Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Justin Thomas enter the Honda Classic this week aiming to stretch the run of PGA Tour winners from the world’s top 10 to four consecutive weeks.
Following the victories of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama, none of whom enter here, the trio have the opportunity to continue the dominance of the game’s elite decad at PGA National Golf Club.
Scott and Garcia finished first and second here last time out with the former beating the latter by one stroke for victory and the pair will both be hoping for similar fortunes this week.
37-year-old Garcia won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour earlier this month and Thomas, just 23-years-old, already has three wins under his belt this season which has seen his climb from outside the world’s top 30 up to his current position, 8th. Scott, however, has no wins since the WGC-Cadillac Championship last year just one week after his title at this event.
With only three entrants from the top 10, the field is stronger than it initially appears with entrants Danny Willett, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton and Russell Knox all from inside the top 20. Belgian youngster Thomas Pieters heads to Florida on the back of a tied second finish behind Johnson at the Genesis Open last week where he showed signs of a return to the form that saw him so prolific at the Ryder Cup.
Padraig Harrington returns, despite potential upcoming surgery on his shoulder, as the joint most successful player of this event with two wins. The Irishman is joined by every previous winner, bar Rory McIlroy and Yang Yong-Eun, from 2005 onwards including Luke Donald and Ernie Els. This is a relatively young event by PGA Tour standards having begun in 1972 but the past winners list is lit up further by star names such as Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara.
PGA National, Florida, has hosted the Honda Classic since 2007 during which time 10-under-par has only been broken twice, by McIlroy and Camillo Villegas, showing the difficulty of this event in comparison to the winning scores of 17-under-par (Johnson and Matsuyama) and 19-under-par (Spieth) of recent weeks. The club has five championship courses but the prestigious Champion course, which has hosted the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, is what faces the field this week. Redesigned by Nicklaus, the course sits at a seemingly moderate 7048 yards but at par 70 with four par threes and only two par fives it’s far more of a stretch than the yardage first suggests. The Bear Trap of holes 15 through 17 is infamous for its ability to change the course of a round on the final stretch.
A $6.4million purse is fairly standard for a PGA Tour event but for entrants sitting just outside to world’s top 50 the worth of this event is pronounced by the opportunity to break up a few places to earn qualification for the first WGC event of the year, the Mexico Championship, next week.