Defending champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the world’s Nos. 1 and 2 ranked golfers respectively, will look to reestablish their dominance on the PGA Tour this week at the Honda Classic held at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
McIlroy’s two-stroke victory at the 2012 Honda Classic came against a charging Woods, who shot a final round 62 to finish tied for second. His victory in the duel against Woods propelled McIlroy to the top of golf’s world rankings for the first time in his career — second youngest player to Woods to reach the top spot — but McIlroy’s 2013 season is off to a slow start. Like Woods, he was booted in the first round of last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, and missed the cut when he teed it up together at their season opener — the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
The field at the 2013 Honda Classic will boast 13 of the world’s top 25 ranked golfers, all looking to tame the difficult Championship Course at PGA National. The 7,110-yard, par -0 has held the 1983 Ryder Cup, the 1987 PGA Championship and 18 Senior PGA Championships.
Jack Nicklaus redesigned the course in 1990, giving claws to the three-hole gantlet of Nos. 15, 16 and 17 nicknamed “the bear trap” after the Golden Bear himself. Last year at the event, 24 percent of all bogeys, 52 percent of all double bogeys and 74 percent of all triple bogeys were credited to the stretch of holes according to PGATour.com
McIlroy, who is looking to join Nicklaus as the second player to successfully defend his Honda Classic title, managed to play the three-hole stretch in 3-under for the week on his way to victory last year.
The Europeans will look to end the eight-tournament streak of American-born winners on the Tour this year, and recent history is on their side. The only American winner of the Honda Classic in the last eight years was Mark Wilson who won in a playoff in 2007, the first year PGA National hosted the event.
McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen (No. 5), Justin Rose (No 6), Lee Westwood (No. 9) and 2012 British Open Winner Ernie Els (No. 24), although born internationally, will be playing on home turf — they all have houses nearby the Palm Beach Gardens Area.
Woods, Keegan Bradley (No.18) and Dustin Johnson (No. 19) who also live nearby in Jupiter, Fla., will represent the American side at PGA National. Johnson was a late add-in to the tournament after an early first round exit at the WGC Match-Play Championship.
Woods and Johnson will be searching for their second Tour victories this year.