Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
Compared with all the weather vagaries that beleaguered the West Coast Swing this year, a warm winter in Florida has made for prime growing conditions – and fewer headaches on those in charge.
“I’d rather have it too warm than too cold, especially in South Florida,” said Lukus Harvey, director of agronomy at PGA National Resort, site of this week’s Honda Classic.
“It just makes the grass grow a little more. We’ve just got to use some growth regulators and mow a little more, that’s all.”
Since becoming the Honda’s new home in 2007, the Champion course has rivaled Bay Hill as the toughest on the Florida Swing. It ranked No. 11 on the PGA TOUR’s list a year ago, and this week’s setup figures to be no less demanding.
The warm climate, in fact, has created a surface in which the summer bermudagrass has kept growing while the overseed has taken hold. Growth regulators also have helped create a tighter surface.
With 2 ½ inches of rain falling in the past two weeks, Harvey has turned off the sprinklers to let the course get as fast and firm as possible before Rory McIlroy defends his title.
“The bermuda gives us a bit of a firmer surface in the fairway,” he said. “And it allows us to really cut the water back for competitive rounds. We’ll go to only hand-watering with the hoses.”
Several bunkers have new sand this year, following a record wet summer that dropped nearly 40 ½ inches of rain on Palm Beach County. Harvey estimated a dozen bunkers got an infusion, particularly around the closing stretch that includes the famed “Bear Trap.”
The bunker behind the par-3 15th green got specific attention, as did the bunker behind No. 17 and the half-dozen bunkers that frame the approach at No. 18.
“We’re going to hand-water all the bunker faces all week long,” Harvey said, “just to firm them up and try to prevent the fried-egg lie.”
After all those high temperatures this winter – including near-record marks last weekend – the thermometer is slated to dip to some of the season’s lowest once the tournament begins. Saturday’s high is forecast to reach just 62 degrees, with Sunday topping out at 65.