This week’s Honda Classic at PGA National is the turf of Rickie Fowler in more ways than one.
Not only does the 29-year-old live within a stone’s throw of the resort, but he defends his title this week following a four-shot victory last year on the back of a tied sixth the year prior.
Since his victory a year ago Fowler has amassed 11 top 10s and only one more win, at the limited field Hero World Challenge, and will be hoping to become just the second man, alongside Jack Nicklaus, to defend this title and get back onto the winning circle.Embed from Getty Images
Alongside Fowler is another nine of the world’s top 25 that includes European contingent Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, and Alex Noren.
The collective did not put on such a convincing show at the Genesis Open last month with only Noren (tied 16th) and McIlroy (tied 20th) scraping into the top 20.Embed from Getty Images
The US entrants are in force, too, with PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas and FedExCup leader Patton Kizzire making starts.
Heavy focus will yet again be put onto Tiger Woods who is making his third start of the year and hoping to better a missed cut at the Genesis Open last week.
On the back of recent wins, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (ISPS Handa World Super 6), Ted Potter Jr (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open) all make starts in Florida alongside all past Honda Classic winners dating back to 2010 in Adam Scott (2016), Padraig Harrington (2005 & 2015), Russell Henley (2014), Michael Thompson (2013), McIlroy (2012), Rory Sabbatini (2011) and Camillo Villegas (2010).
PGA National continues hosting this event as it has from 2007. Since then 10-under-par has only been broken three times and the largest winning score has been 13-under, by Villegas in 2010. It is the Championship Course that will test the players this week, a par 70 measuring 7110 yards. Nicklaus redesigned the course in 1990 and created ‘The Bear Trap’ of holes 15 through 17. Last year the three-hole stretch caused 18% of bogeys, 33% of doubles and 38% of triples and worse.Embed from Getty Images
The winner’s purse is up at $6.6million and 500 FedExCup points are on offer but this event offers a lot more for anyone hoping to break the FedExCup top 10 and world top 50 in time for the WGC-Mexico Championship.