Tournament: Honda Classic, February 22-25, 2018
Course: PGA National (Champion), 7,110 yards, par 70. (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler. After opening 66-66, his third round 65 gave him a cushion no one could catch and the Okie State Cowpoke cruised to his 4th PGA Tour win.
Fun Fact: Holes 15-17 are known as “The Bear Trap”, due to the difficulty of the holes in the face of normal Florida trade breezes and lots of water. There is actually a statue of a large angry, amorous, disease-ridden bear right at #15 to greet the players. The “bear” is because Jack Nicklaus (aka “Golden Bear”) redesigned the course several years ago.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC); 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Seven): Brian Harman, Harris English, Hudson Swafford, Kevin Kisner, Russell Henley, Keith Mitchell, Chris Kirk.
What a difference a week makes. This time last week I was lamenting that only 2 former Bulldogs were entered in that tournament. Then he done just went ahead and Bubba’d all over Los Angeles. Now, we have a pretty full slate of Alumni ‘Dawgs teeing it up (except Bubba, and current Web.com Tour player Lee McCoy). And Bubba jumped from #117 in the world rankings to #41 (thanks to a 2 year rolling and sometimes screwy ranking system).
And what a week it will be. The Tour leaves the poa annua, the kikuyu, and the Blue Pacific of the West Coast for some Florida goodness. Except the only Florida goodness I know of is that Jack Nicklaus lives nearby, these PGA tournaments generate a ton of money for local charities, and our boys tend to fare pretty well here.
Make no mistake, these next few weeks on Tour are meant for one thing. Make that two things. Either 1) work on your game to fine tune it for The Masters coming early April if you’re already qualified, or 2) win in the next 4 weeks so that you can qualify for said Masters (winners will receive an invitation to this years Masters tournament). So while competing for this trophy is nice, the eyes tend to be on a different prize.
Defending Masters Champion Sergio Garcia makes his 2018 US debut this week, alongside some other top Europeans. PGA Champion Justin Thomas will also be playing. Oh, and Tiger Woods will grace the fairways of this course much closer to his current abode. Tiger missed the cut last week, after a T23 in his previous outing, and the only thing you can say is that the guy can score. Because he’s not hitting any greens, and he’s hitting fewer fairways. But onto the guys you really want to root for:
Brian Harman is #21 in the world after a torrid start to his current season. He’s also a lefty.
Harris English is #226 in the world. He started the season with 5 missed cuts (thus no $$$), made his next 4 with some good finishes, but has missed his last two.
Hudson Swafford is #104 in the world rankings, and started out the season with 7 straight paydays. But he hasn’t played in 2 weeks when he missed the cut in Phoenix.
Kevin Kisner is #31, and he started the current campaign with 5 top 25 finishes and a T50. Kiz is quickly gaining recognition on Tour, and on Madison Avenue.
Russell Henley is #55 in the world, and a former winner of this Honda Classic. He won the title in 2014, his 2nd year on Tour, and one of his 3 career Tour wins.
Keith Mitchell is #364 in the world, but that is mainly because he is still fairly new to professional golf. Being his first year on the PGA Tour, he has made his last 6 cuts. And while he doesn’t have a high finish, he is cashing checks and earning valuable points towards retaining his status for next season.
Chris Kirk is #168 in the world rankings, but #46 in the current season FedEx Cup points list. That means he’s been playing better of late. He’s made 7 of 10 cuts with 2 top 10 finishes so far this season.
Players have already tee’d off this morning, so flip it on over and watch ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls.
And as always….