The Honda Classic Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Rickie Fowler Honda Classic
Rickie Fowler tees off on the 4th hole during the third round of The Honda Classic at PGA National on Feb 25, 2017 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The fourth and final stop of the Florida Swing gets underway this week at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens for the 49th edition of The Honda Classic.

This year’s edition of The Honda brings a handful of top stars to the Champions Course at PGA National, including defending champion, and world No. 18, Sungjae Im. The Korean will be joined by another pair of top-20 ranked players in Daniel Berger, and Lee Westwood – the runner-up in the two most recent Florida tournaments.

Some of the other marquee names include Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Shane Lowry, Adam Scott, and Joaquin Niemann, among others.


The 2021 Honda Classic Preview


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THE SKINNY

Tournament: The Honda Classic
Dates: Mar 18 – Mar 21, 2021
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: $7,000,000
Winning Share: $1,260,000
Points: 500 (FedExCup), 36 (OWGR)
Hashtag: #HondaClassic
Defending Champion: Sungjae Im
Other Marquee Names: Daniel Berger, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry, and Adam Scott.


TV & ONLINE

TELEVISION
Thu-Fri, 2:00 p.m.-6 p.m. (GOLF)
Sat-Sun, 1:00 p.m.-3 p.m. (GOLF)
Sat-Sun, 3:00 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC)

PGA TOUR LIVE
Thu-Fri, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (Groups)
Sat-Sun, 7:15 a.m.-3 p.m. (Groups)
Sat-Sun, 3:00 p.m.–6 p.m. (Holes)
Watch on Prime Video

PGA TOUR RADIO
Thu-Fri, 12:00 p.m.-6 p.m.
Sat-Sun, 1:00 p.m.-6 p.m.
(PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio)

Links: Web | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Wikipedia


HISTORY

honda-classic-primer-jackie-gleason-president-ford
President Gerald Ford laughs with entertainer Jackie Gleason ahead of the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic Celebrities Golf Tournament on Feb 26, 1975, at the Inverrary CC in Hollywood, FL. Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Although not officially part of its tournament history, The Honda Classic can trace its bloodlines back to the National Airlines Open Invitational. The event ran for three season, 1969 to 1971, with each edition anchoring the five-stop Florida Swing, leading into the Greater Greensboro Open.

The tournament was annually contested in late March as Florida’s fifth stop, and played at the Country Club of Miami.

Jackie Gleason already was a longtime fixture at the Tour’s Doral stop – one of TV’s biggest stars with a variety show based in Miami Beach – when he jumped at the chance to put his name on the new tournament.

Beginning in 1972, the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, the tournament that is now officially known as the Honda Classic, replaced the National Airlines Open on the tour schedule but did not assume its history.

The new event, colloquially known as “The Gleason,” attracted Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and plenty of other big names – on and off the course. Gleason’s partner in the inaugural pro-am was Bob Hope – a reprise of their usual West Coast pairing – and dozens of showbiz friends came at its apex.

Jackie Gleason Arnold Palmer
Jackie Gleason talks with Arnold Palmer ahead of the 1972 Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic at Inverrary Country Club (East course) in Lauderhill, FL (Martin Mills/Getty Images)

The inaugural tournament debuted at the Inverrary Country Club (East course) in Lauderhill, and acted as the leadoff event to the 1972 Florida Swing. Offering a purse of $260,000 and a $52,000 winner’s share, the Gleason debuted as the second richest event on tour, trailing only the Greater New Orleans Open, which offered a $58,000 winner’s check.

Tom Weiskopf, who edged Jack Nicklaus by a stroke, was the champion of the inaugural tournament.

In 1976, “The Gleason” was shelved for a year to make room for the then two-year old Tournament Players Championship (now known as The PLAYERS) at Inverrary Country Club.

From the start, Commissioner Deane Beman’s plan was to make the TPC (or The PLAYERS) golf’s fifth major. And so similar to the PGA or U.S. Open, Beman wanted it to be played at a new venue each year. He assumed golf courses and country clubs would be lined up to host golf’s new “major.” Except, it didn’t happen – at least soon enough, and so the TPC (PLAYERS) simply took over the course of an already established PGA Tour event, and shelved the regular title for a season.

So for instance, the inaugural TPC (now called The PLAYERS) was contested in 1974, and it was played at Atlanta Country Club, the host venue of the Atlanta Classic. In 1974, there was no Atlanta Classic that season, but there was a PLAYERS. The next year it was contested at famed Colonial, and the long-running Colonial Invitational had to take a seat for the 1975 season. Finally in 1976, Beman chose Inverrary Country Club, and told Gleason that his event was on the bench for a year.

At first, Gleason was excited. “The Gleason” would just be called the TPC for a year, but he’d still get all the perks and promotions. Well, let’s just say Gleason wasn’t too happy when he was cut out of the promotions (and cash).

Alas, the good times lasted only four more years. Gleason never got over the PLAYERS situation, and when American Motors came aboard as sponsor, a dispute over naming rights sent Gleason packing after the 1980 edition. Johnny Miller claimed a two-stroke win over Charles Coody and Bruce Lietzke in the 1980 finale of the Gleason.

A good thing did come out of the public feud with Gleason, however. The Tour, and Beman, got the hint that the idea of the PLAYERS essentially being The Gleason or the Colonial Invitational with a different name was kind of silly, and so they (Beman) created a permanent venue for THE PLAYERS.

Golf writing legend Dan Jenkins described it like this in a 1977 Sports Illustrated article on Tour’s move to Sawgrass.

And by then everyone realized that if the TPC (The PLAYERS) kept traveling around it was never going to be anything more than the Atlanta Classic, the Colonial or the Jackie Gleason by another name.

And what would happen if, on top of this, Nicklaus (who won 2 of the first 3) stopped winning it?

The Tour moved its 1977 event to the northern coast of Florida in a remote place called Ponte Vedra Beach, and contested the next five editions at Sawgrass Country Club. In 1981 they moved across the street to their permanent home at the brand new TPC Sawgrass. The rest as they say is history. And you can partly thank Jackie Gleason!

Back to the Honda – from 1983 through 2006, some 23 years, the tournament bounced around to seven different courses in South Florida, averaging a new course every 3 or so years. This reputation of instability led to poor fields.

Since 2007, though, The Honda Classic has seen a vastly improved player field, largely due to the decision to make PGA National the tournament’s permanent home.

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

The tournament boasts big-name past winners like Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite, Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, and Justin Thomas.

Nicklaus, in addition to Johnny Miller, Mark Calcavecchia, and Padraig Harrington, are the only players with multiples victories at The Honda Classic – each with two apiece.

HISTORY: SPONSORS/NAMES

2002-19: 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

HISTORY: RECENT CHAMPIONS

2020: Im Sung-jae (-6)
2019: Keith Mitchell (-9)
2018: Justin Thomas (-8)
2017: Rickie Fowler (-12)
2016: Adam Scott (-9)
2015: Pádraig Harrington (-6)
2014: Russell Henley (-8)
2013: Michael Thompson (-9)
2012: Rory McIlroy (-12)

HISTORY: 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)


KEY HOLE

PGA National's Champion Course  Honda Classic
Hole No. 15 at PGA National’s Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

No.15, PGA National (Champion)
Par 3, 179 yards
2020 average: 3.29 (4th easiest)

The entrance to the vaunted three-hole “Bear Trap” produced not a single hole-in-one during the Honda Classic’s first 10 years at PGA National. Then in 2016, there suddenly were two.

Scott Stallings broke the jinx in the opening round with a 6-iron that landed just short of the pin and rolled in. Three days later, Jhonattan Vegas did likewise with a 6-iron into a 15 mph breeze.

No.15 isn’t a long par-3, but the prevailing wind makes it dicey as players negotiate a narrow, diagonal green running left-to-right. The front part of the green slopes left, with a big bunker creating a tough up-and-down.

“It was sort of a nothing little hole,” said Jack Nicklaus, who did the redesign in 1990. “When we brought the water in play, all of a sudden it became a monster. And it’s only a monster because of the awkward wind there that sort of comes into you right-to-left. You have to sort of cut into it.”

2020 Honda Classic: 49 birdies, 259 pars, 69 bogeys, 46 double bogeys, 3 triple+


THE FIELD: OVERVIEW

Adam Scott Honda Classic
Adam Scott during the third round of The Honda Classic at the PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

The field this week at PGA National features Sungjae Im, the defending champion, along with fellow Honda winners Keith Mitchell (2019), Rickie Fowler (2017) and Adam Scott (2016).

Other top names include Daniel Berger, Lee Westwood, Shane Lowry, and Joaquin Niemmann.

In addition to Im, Fowler, and Scott, the field in Palm Beach Gardens, also includes former champs in Padraig Harrington (2015, 2005) and Russell Henley (2014).

Chris Kirk, Talor Gooch, Bendan Steele, Chez Reavier, Alex Noren, and Ian Poulter are some of the other familiar names.


THE FIELD: ODDS TO WIN

Daniel Berger Wins Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Daniel Berger celebrates his eagle putt to win on the 18th green during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 14, 2021 in Pebble Beach, CA. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The field last week at TPC Sawgrass included 48 of the world’s top-50 ranked players. This week, it’s not nearly as stout – not even close – as just three of the top-20 will tee it up at PGA National’s Champions course, and none of the top-10.

The strength of field is only 193, according to the Official World Golf Rankings. And it will only reward 38 first-place points to the winner. For comparison, last week’s runner-up of the PLAYERS, Lee Westwood, received 48 points – 10 more than the winner of the Honda will take home.

Daniel Berger, a winner this year at Pebble Beach, is the highest ranked player in the field at No. 13. and is the favorite at 10-1, with 2020 Honda winner Sungjae Im next at 12-1.

Joaquin Niemann (12-1), the aforementioned Westwood (20-1), along with Adam Scott (25-1), and Shane Lowry round out the top-5 favorites.

Top-5 Betting Favorites

1. Daniel Berger (10-1)
2. Sungjae Im (12-1)
3. Joaquin Niemann (16-1)
4. Lee Westwood (20-1)
5. Adam Scott (25-1)
5. Shane Lowry (25-1)

The Honda Classic Picks

The Golf Betting Show has this week’s picks for The Honda Classic…


FULL FIELD

Here’s how the field qualified for The Honda Classic.

Winner – PGA/U.S. Open Championship
Jimmy Walker
Gary Woodland

Winner – THE PLAYERS Championship
Rickie Fowler

Winner – The Masters
Danny Willett

Winner – The Open Championship
Zach Johnson
Shane Lowry
Henrik Stenson

Winner – World Golf Championship Event
Phil Mickelson

Winners of the Arnold Palmer, Memorial, Genesis (Last 3 Years)
Jason Dufner
Adam Scott

Tournament Winner in Past Two Seasons
Ryan Armour
Daniel Berger
Keegan Bradley
Stewart Cink
Austin Cook
Tyler Duncan
Dylan Frittelli
Brice Garnett
Brian Gay
Jim Herman
J.B. Holmes
Sungjae Im
Sung Kang
Michael Kim
Patton Kizzire
Russell Knox
Satoshi Kodaira
Andrew Landry
Nate Lashley
Adam Long
Graeme McDowell
Troy Merritt
Keith Mitchell
Joaquin Niemann
Cheng Tsung Pan
Pat Perez
Scott Piercy
J.T. Poston
Ted Potter, Jr.
Ian Poulter
Chez Reavie
Brendan Steele
Robert Streb
Hudson Swafford
Nick Taylor
Michael Thompson
Martin Trainer
Richy Werenski
Aaron Wise

Career Money Exemption
K.J. Choi
Luke Donald
Jim Furyk
Hunter Mahan
Steve Stricker
Bo Van Pelt

Sponsor Exemptions: 2018-19 FEC / 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Category
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Matt Wallace

Sponsors Exemptions – Members not otherwise exempt
Padraig Harrington
Martin Kaymer

Sponsors Exemptions – Unrestricted
Lucas Herbert
Ryo Ishikawa
Kamaiu Johnson
Chase Koepka

PGA Section Champion\Player of the Year
Alan Morin
Life Member.
Vijay Singh

Top 125 on Prior Season’s FedExCup Points List
Mackenzie Hughes
Kevin Streelman
Byeong Hun An
Brian Harman
Mark Hubbard
Tom Hoge
Alex Noren
Adam Hadwin
Harry Higgs
Russell Henley
Talor Gooch
Robby Shelton
Maverick McNealy
Doc Redman
Denny McCarthy
Henrik Norlander
Xinjun Zhang
Sepp Straka
Harold Varner III
Cameron Tringale
Cameron Davis
Vaughn Taylor
Patrick Rodgers
Brian Stuard
Matt Jones
Kyoung-Hoon Lee
Scott Harrington
Matthew NeSmith
Ryan Moore
Sam Ryder
Adam Schenk
Wyndham Clark
Sam Burns
Scott Brown
Beau Hossler
Lucas Glover
Luke List
Scott Stallings
Rory Sabbatini
Tom Lewis
Bo Hoag

Top 125 (Prior Season Nonmember)
William Gordon
Frederick van Rooyen

Major Medical Extension
Chris Kirk
James Hahn
Charl Schwartzel
Kevin Chappell
William McGirt
Sean O’Hair
Jamie Lovemark
Camilo Villegas
Wesley Bryan
John Huh
Seung-Yul Noh
Kelly Kraft

Top 10 and Ties from the Previous Event
Jhonattan Vegas
Grayson Murray
Rafael Campos
Rob Oppenheim
Brandon Wu
Cameron Percy
Lee Westwood

2018-19 Top 125 FEC/2019 Top Finishers Korn Ferry Tour (reordered)
Peter Malnati
Tyler McCumber
Doug Ghim
Kyle Stanley
Kramer Hickok
Anirban Lahiri
Kristoffer Ventura
Michael Gligic
David Hearn
Chesson Hadley
Hank Lebioda
Chase Seiffert
Roger Sloan


Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images



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