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February 22 2013

5:25 PM

First Look: The Honda Classic

Rory McIlroy will defend his title at The Honda Classic at PGA National next week. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.com Correspondent

COMPLETE FIELD: The Honda Classic

• COURSE: PGA National (Champion), 7,110 yards, par 70. Designed by George and Tom Fazio in 1981 specifically to host major events, the layout was the venue for the 1983 Ryder Cup when Lanny Wadkins’ birdie at No. 18 thwarted what would have been Europe’s first triumph on U.S. soil. The Champ also staged the 1987 PGA Championship and 18 Senior PGA Championships before the Honda arrived in 2007. Jack Nicklaus gave it a redesign in 1990, introducing the testy “Bear Trap” of Nos. 15, 16 and 17.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: Children’s Healthcare Charity, which supports advances in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood diseases and disorders. The Nicklaus Children’s Heath Care Foundation is primary beneficiary, with smaller donations given to other pediatric health services.

• FIELD WATCH: World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Tiger Woods, the Honda’s champion and chief pursuer a year ago, headline a superb field that includes 11 others among this week’s top 25 in the world rankings. The list also includes No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen, No. 6 Justin Rose and No. 8 Lee Westwood. … Dustin Johnson, ranked No. 18 and a resident of nearby Jupiter, was a late addition after his first-round exit from the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Johnson won the season opener at Kapalua, but came to the Match Play off back-to-back missed cuts. … Woods and Johnson help give the Honda five of the season’s first seven winners, along with Brian Gay, Russell Henley and John Merrick.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 264, Justin Leonard (2003 at Mirasol). PGA National record: 267, Camilo Villegas (2010).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Brian Harman (2nd round, 2012).

• LAST YEAR: McIlroy’s two-stroke victory over Woods completed his ascent to the top of the world rankings, putting only a slight damper on the roars from Woods’ hard-charging Sunday 62. Making his debut at his new “home” event since moving to nearby Jupiter, Woods began the final round nine shots off McIlroy’s lead but used a front-nine 31 to shoot up the leaderboard. A birdie-eagle finish drew Woods within one, but McIlroy answered with a birdie at No. 13 and parred his last five holes to cap a 69. Tom Gillis (69) shared second with Woods.

• STORYLINES: After first-day exits from the Accenture Match Play, both McIlroy and Woods turn to the Florida Swing in hopes of regaining momentum. McIlroy has played just 54 holes thus far in 2013, missing the cut in Abu Dhabi before a 1-up loss to Shane Lowry in his Match Play opener. … Westwood, who has two top-10 finishes in the past three editions, returns this year as a new South Florida resident. The English pro left his homeland during the offseason for Palm Beach Gardens. … Since the event moved to PGA National in 2007, the “Bear Trap” has accounted for 24 percent of all bogeys at the Honda, 56 percent of all double bogeys and 74 percent of all triple bogeys.

• SHORT CHIPS: With the Honda’s increasing international flavor, just one American has captured the title in the past eight years. Mark Wilson emerged from a four-man Monday playoff in 2007. … Though he’s made the cut in his first two visits to PGA National, Oosthuizen has yet to complete 72 holes. He withdrew with illness before the final round in 2011, then again midway through Sunday last year. … Of the 13 Honda entrants ranked among the top 25, eight have homes within 30 minutes of PGA National – McIlroy, Woods, Oosthuizen, Westwood, Schwartzel, Johnson, Keegan Bradley and British Open titleholder Ernie Els.

• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. EST (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (NBC), with concurrent “Bear Trap” spotlight coverage (GC).

• SIRIUS/XM PGA TOUR RADIO: Thursday- Sunday, noon-6 p.m. EST.

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