Tournament: Honda Classic, February 27-March 1, 2020
Course: PGA National Resort & Spa (Champion), 7,125 yards, par 70.
Purse: $7 million total; $1,260,000 winner
Defending Champ: Georgia’s own Keith Mitchell. Mitchell opened with 68-66 and was at or just below the top of the leaderboard the last 3 days. Starting the final round with 2 bogeys, he settled down and found his groove. With world-beater Brooks Koepka finishing in front of him, Mitchell nailed a 15 foot putt on the final hole to avoid a playoff and capture his first 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 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. (Editors Note: This is the fun fact I’ve used before. I like it. So I recycled it.)
Television: Thursday-Friday, 2 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel). Sunday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC)
‘Dawgs In The Field: Seven. Hudson Swafford, Sepp Straka, Chris Kirk, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Harris English, and Keith Mitchell.
The West Coast Swing is over and done, and the PGA Tour starts a Florida Swing, before a Texas Two-Step, leading up to the Masters in Augusta. Yes, those are horrible names, but the Tour has a staff of marketing people and they needed something to do.
So we’re in Palm Beach Gardens, home of PGA National and pretty close to the Nicklaus compound (and probably a dozen other top PGA Tour pros). The proceeds go to a local children’s hopsital, long a beneficiary of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus. Jack is the host, but this is a little lower on his priorities compared to the Memorial Tournament this summer: a tournament he founded and built a golf course specifically to host. And they toughened up this PGA National course to a pretty significant degree, often making it top 5 or so in scoring average on the PGA Tour.
Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler will again be in the field, as is Justin Rose. It isn’t a particularly star-studded field, but it is solid and above average. And hey, that just means more chances for our beloved Bulldogs, right?
Dan Hicks and Paul Azinger will be in the broadcast booth, NBC owns Golf Channel, so there is more continuity between the early and main coverage. Plus they do the “Playing Through” where they show the commercials on a split screen while keeping some of the action on the other half. Last week in Mexico, they even split the screen to show two players on different holes at the same time. There’s a lot of criticism in TV golf coverage now, and the networks are scrambling to innovate. It doesn’t matter to me, as I’ll watch anyway, but an improved product is obviously always desired.
So if Kirby doesn’t make some other crazy staff hire, or land a few Dabo Sweeny cast-offs, this might be something worth paying attention to. Enjoy, and as always...