Power Rankings: The Honda Classictext sizeFebruary 25, 2013
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 Rank Player Comment Charl SCHWARTZEL Prior to his forgettable first-round knockout at Dove Mountain, he hadn't finished worse than fifth in his previous seven starts worldwide, a streak that included a pair of runaway victories. Tied for fifth at last year's Honda. Graeme McDOWELL Coming off a strong effort at the WGC-Accenture where he lost in the quarterfinals. Tied for sixth at PGA National in 2011, racing home with a 64 in the final round. Shared ninth last year with a 64 in the second round. Tiger WOODS Closed with a 62 to share runner-up honors at last year's Honda in what was his debut at PGA National. Prior to losing in the first round of last week's WGC-Accenture, won the Farmers Insurance Open. Tops on TOUR in adjusted scoring. Fredrik JACOBSON Continues to pour it on. Went 2-1 at Dove Mountain for a T9, his third consecutive top 10. He's 4-for-4 at PGA National with a T5 (2009), T6 (2010) and T16 (2012). Ranks fourth in strokes gained-putting; T11 in bogey avoidance. Justin ROSE Hasn't finished worse than T24 in his last 10 starts worldwide. Top fives in his last two visits to PGA National, including a T5 in 2012. Led the PGA TOUR last year in greens in regulation and ranked fourth in bogey avoidance. Jason DAY Comes off a solo third at the WGC-Accenture, his third top 10 in four starts this year. He's 0-for-2 at PGA National but he's among the best annually in par-3 performance (currently 30th). Sits sixth in the all-around ranking. Chris KIRK Third appearance at PGA National. Two top fives in five stroke-play events this season. Currently 11th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting, third in adjusted scoring, 11th in the all-around and 16th in bogey avoidance. Keegan BRADLEY Tied for 12th at PGA National last year. Entered the final round with a share of fourth place, and then closed with a 73. Top 25s in his last two stroke-play starts. Ranks 44th in adjusted scoring and 58th in the all-around. Lee WESTWOOD One of West Palm Beach's newest residents. Renown ball-striking has led to a pair of top 10s in his last three trips to PGA National, including a solo fourth last year when he closed with a 63. Shared 21st place at Riviera two weeks ago. Louis OOSTHUIZEN One of the most consistently strong performers to conclude 2012 started this year with a victory. While an illness forced him to withdraw from each of the last two editions of The Honda Classic, he survived both cuts. Henrik STENSON One year ago this week, he ranked outside the top 220 in the world; today he's 55th. Riding a string of 10 consecutive top 30s in stroke-play starts, including a win in South Africa late in 2012. Posted a T21 at PGA National last year. Ernie ELS The 2008 champion hasn't missed a cut in his five trips to PGA National and he's added a pair of top 25s since the victory. Two top 20s in four stroke-play starts this year, including a T13 at the Northern Trust Open. Rory McILROY The defending champion and world's top-ranked golfer has sputtered early this year, but he's earned the benefit of the doubt in the short-term since he logged only one stroke-play start before just one round at Dove Mountain last week. Jeff OVERTON While his results grew progressively worse since a season-opening solo eighth at Waialae, he's rung up top 20s in three of his last four appearances at PGA National. Ranks 26th on the PGA TOUR in bogey avoidance. Russell HENLEY While rookies are 24-for-50 with no top 10s since 2010 at PGA National, the 2013 first-time member is already a winner at a track (Waialae) where rookies had also struggled in the recent past. Played well at Dove Mountain, too.