Primer: The Honda Classic

Rickie Fowler Honda Classic

With the West Coast Swing in the books, the PGA Tour makes its way across the country to the Sunshine State to kick off its three-event Florida stretch. The first stop will be in Palm Beach Gardens for The Honda Classic.

This year’s edition of The Honda brings an impressive collection of elite talent to PGA National, headlined by three of the world’s top-10 ranked players in Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, the tournament’s defending champion.

European stars Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Noren are some of the other headliners this week.


THE SKINNY

Tournament: The Honda Classic
Dates: Feb. 22-25, 2018
Where: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Course: PGA National (Champions)
Distance: Par 70/7140 yards
Architect: George and Tom Fazio (1980)
Redesign: Jack Nicklaus (1990, 2002)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Purse: $6,600,000
Winning Share: $1,188,000
Points: 500 (FedExCup), 54 (OWGR)
Hashtag: #HondaClassic
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler
Marquee Players: Fowler, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed, and Justin Thomas.


TV & ONLINE

Round 1: Thu 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6 pm (NBC)
Round 4: Sun 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6 pm (NBC)
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HISTORY

Beginning in 1972 as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, the tournament that is now known as the Honda Classic, has been held exclusively in Florida, but has found difficulty in finding a permanent host course.

Changing courses every 6.4 years on average, the Champion Course at PGA National Golf Course in Palm Beach Gardens has been the tournament’s location since 2007, with no imminent plans of another switch.

On Florida’s southeast coastline, roughly 80 miles north of Miami, it’s another exceptionally beautiful location with wonderful weather, perfect for February golf.

The inaugural tournament was won by Tom Weiskopf in 1972, who fought off Jack Nicklaus by a single stroke.

The tournament boasts big-name past winners like Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite, Vijay Singh, and Rory McIlroy. Nicklaus, in addition to Johnny Miller, Mark Calcavecchia, and Padraig Harrington are the only players with multiples victories at The Honda Classic, with two wins apiece.


TOURNAMENT SPONSORS/NAMES

2002-18 The Honda Classic
1984-01 Honda Classic
1982-83 Honda Inverrary Classic
1981-81 American Motors Inverrary Classic
1974-80 Jackie Gleason-Inverrary Classic
1973-73 Jackie Gleason Inverrary-National Airlines Classic
1972-72 Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic


RECENT CHAMPIONS

2017: Rickie Fowler
2016: Adam Scott
2015: Pádraig Harrington
2014: Russell Henley
2013: Michael Thompson
2012: Rory McIlroy
2011: Rory Sabbatini


RECORDS

Wins:
2- Jack Nicklaus (1977, 1978)
2- Johnny Miller (1980, 1983)
2 – Mark Calcavecchia (1987, 1998)
2 – Pádraig Harrington (2005, 2015)

72-Hole Score: 264 (-24) – Justin Leonard (2003)


DEFENDING CHAMPION

The defending champion of The Honda Classic is Rickie Fowler, who fired a final-round 71 to record a four-stroke victory over Morgan Hoffman and Gary Woodland.

Leading by four going into the final round, Fowler rode out some front-nine struggles, and then put his foot down on the accelerator going home, with birdies on 12, 13, and 16, to shoot a final round 1-over 71, good enough for a convincing victory and career win No. 4.

The win moved Fowler back into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, where he’s remained for 51 of the past 52 weeks (he dropped to No. 11 for one week).

FINAL TOP 10

1 Rickie Fowler -12
T2 Gary Woodland -8
T2 Morgan Hoffman -8
T4 Tyrell Hatton -7
T4 Martin Kaymer -7
T4 Wes Bryan -7
T4 Chad Collins -7
T4 Billy Horschel -7
T4 Jhonattan Vegas -7
10 Graham DeLaet -6


THE FIELD

The field this week at PGA National is headlined by Tiger Woods and defending champion Rickie Fowler, the 7th-ranked player in the world.

Other top-ranked players include Justin Thomas (No. 4), Rory McIlroy (No. 10), Sergio Garcia (No. 11), Tommy Fleetwood (No. 12), Tyrrell Hatton (No. 15), Alex Noren (No. 16), Rafael Cabrera Bello (No. 20), Brian Harman (No. 21), Patrick Reed (No. 25), Gary Woodland (No. 26), and Louis Ossthuizen (No.39).

In addition to Fowler, the field in Palm Beach Gardens also includes former winners in Adam Scott (2016), Pádraig Harrington (2015, 2005), Russell Henley (2014), and McIlroy (2012).

Some of the game’s rising stars will also be on hand, including Daniel Berger, Dylan Frittelli, Thomas Pieters, Wesley Bryan, Emiliano Grillo, and Ollie Schniederjans.
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Jason Dufner, Ryan Moore, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Jimmy Walker, Ian Poulter, Patton Kizzire, and Brandt Snedeker are some of the other familiar names.


STORYLINES

1. RICKIE DEFENDS

Last year’s Honda Classic yielded the fourth victory of the career of Rickie Fowler, his first victory in a tournament where he held the 54-hole lead. Despite playing his final round over par (+1), Fowler did not lose a single shot to the field, leaving with the same 4-stroke advantage he had to begin the day.

2. TIGER COMEBACK TOUR, STOP NO. 3

The most closely-followed golf story of 2018 has been the long-anticipated return of Tour legend Tiger Woods to competitive golf after an agonizing year-long injury sabbatical.

Last week was not all bad for Tiger, however. He had five round one birdies, and was more accurate off the tees than he had been at Torrey Pines.

Not only did Tiger feel well physically, he committed to the following week’s tournament: the Honda Classic, his first time playing back-to-back events since August of 2015.

3. J.T. AND RORY

With Phil Mickelson taking a much-deserved week off after a hectic recent schedule, the a significant portion of the crowd not tracking Tiger will probably be following Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, who, in addition to Fowler, are the only three players in the Honda field current ranked inside the top 10 of the OWGR.

4.DEBUTS OF EURO STARS

Each tournament over the past month has brought the 2018 debuts of a handful of top-end international players who primarily compete on the significant time on the European Tour.

Last week, it was Haotong Li, Thomas Pieters, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, and reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood.

The quintet all made the cut at Riviera, but none finished especially well, with the low man being Fleetwood at T37. Li and Kaymer both finished T53, with Pieters and Schwartzel T68.

This week, six more international stars are playing in the U.S. for the first time this year, with hopes to fare better than last week’s group.

5. RECENT STRUGGLES OF PAST HONDA WINNERS

PGA National has been the host course of the Honda Classic since 2007, and while it has had some high-profile winners in that time, most notably Rory McIlroy in 2012 and Rickie Fowler in 2017, it’s also had several who’ve seen their games tail off considerably.

Several of them are in the field this week.

Read the storylines in full.


Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images



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