Power Rankings: The Honda Classic
February 21, 2022
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
Aces from No. 17 at The Honda Classic
The PGA TOUR’s annual migration east to Florida lands familiarly at The Honda Classic, but the 144 in the field are advised not to hit the ground running as much as to build a stance. No, not that kind, you aficionados of the rules, the kind that wards against careening out of control like a beach chair in the wind.
The Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens hosts the 50th edition of the tournament. It was the most difficult par 70 among all non-majors in each of the last four completed season, and in six of the last seven, and it’s been groomed for a stiffer challenge yet this week. You’ll find that detail, where the course compromises and more beneath the ranking of projected contenders.
The Genesis Invitational co-runner-up Cameron Young, Matthew Wolff, Gary Woodland and Lee Westwood will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Draws and Fades.
As if PGA National isn’t tough enough, the rough has been allowed to grow as much as another inch from previous years. Now upwards of three inches, the overseeded bermuda framing the landing areas figures to have a direct impact on what already is poised to log as the most challenging test in relation to par of the first 23 courses of the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season.
Last year’s scoring average of 71.102 was typical. So was the invisible variable among the elements. This week’s forecast is favorable in that rain is not expected and daytime highs will touch 80 degrees throughout, but if you ever wanted to witness what wind does to decisions on tees and approach, this will check that box.
That said, given the early peek at what’s in store, it could be worse, but forever respecting how gusts wreak havoc, it will be at times. At least the constant of winds pushing in from east and southeast align with the prevailing direction. That should be valuable for returning competitors who already have hit shots in these conditions on this course.
Of course, The Bear Trap doesn’t care who navigates it, but it’s a shade more bark than bite. The attention to the par-3 15th, par-4 16th and par-3 17th holes is aided by the seven-foot, bronze statue of a bear standing on its hind legs and sporting a menacing mug, which is anything but average, but the none of the three holes is the hardest of its par on the course. It’s just that they’re in succession and at a time on a Sunday afternoon when it pays to be smarter than it.
As a trio last year, the aggregate par 10 averaged 0.546 strokes over par. En route to his five-stroke victory, Matt Jones played the stretch in 2-under for the week with three birdies, eight pars and a bogey.
Jones didn’t let The Bear Trap complicate his quest for the title because he, as the saying goes, golfed his ball. The Aussie led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He also paced it in par-4 scoring, which is common for winners on tracks with as many as a dozen par 4s.
The soft underbelly of the Champion Course is the pair of par 5s. Surrendering an average of 4.45, Nos. 3 and 18 tied for the fifth-easiest set among 51 courses used in the super season of 2020-21. That’s easily the easiest they’ve played since PGA National debuted as host in 2007, but it probably had more to do with the unusual timing of the tournament being contested in mid-March than its customary position in late February or very early March.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.