It is perhaps no coincidence that the winning score in relation to par at The Honda Classic in 2012 was three strokes lower than the previous year. That's approximately the difference in how much easier The Bear Trap played.
Holes 15, 16 and 17 at the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa -- a par 4 sandwiched by a pair of devilish par 3s -- averaged 10.391 last year. In 2011, the same holes registered an aggregate average of 11.178. Over four rounds, that equates to a difference of 3.148 strokes.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy played the set in bogey-free 3-under and posted 12-under 268. It's the second-lowest winning number since PGA National began its run as host in 2007. Co-runners-up Tiger Woods and Tom Gillis scored 1-under and 1-over, respectively, on The Bear Trap.
At 71.186 strokes per round, PGA National ranked second-most challenging of the 13 par 70s utilized in non-majors in 2012. Its par-3 scoring average of 3.16 ranked T4. While the 15th (3.173; 40th of 198 par 3s on TOUR) and 17th (3.182; 37th) holes get most of the attention, the par-3 fifth wasn't much easier at 3.159, good for 48th-most difficult. The par-3 seventh averaged 3.120 (T72).
McIlroy navigated the quartet of one-shotters in 4-under with one bogey. He also played the pair of par 5s in bogey-free 5-under with five birdies. The multi-faceted approach of surviving The Bear Trap, bogey avoidance and pouncing on the par 5s is a terrific template for success on a tricky track that measures 7,110 yards.
Customarily breezy conditions are expected this week. Rain cannot be ruled out on any day and the weekend presents a greater threat of precipitation. The opening round will be contested on what is likely going to be the warmest day, with a high temperature in the upper 70s. As the risk for inclement weather increases on the weekend, cooler air will move in.
|Power Rankings: The Honda Classic|