|The Honda Classic - March 02, 2009
THE HONDA CLASSIC
PGA National Resort and Spa
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Par: 35-35—70Yards: 7,241
Winner's FedExCup Points Share: 500
Purse: $5,600,000Winner: $1,008,000
2008 Champion: Ernie Els (274, -6)
Els Defends at The Honda Classic
as TOUR Moves to Florida
Prior to his win at the 2008 Honda Classic, the last time Ernie Els won a PGA TOUR event came in 2004 when he was victorious at the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, an event held in Ireland. A year ago in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Els came from three strokes off the lead in the final round to win by a stroke over Luke Donald. Els’ last win in the U.S. before his Honda victory was in 2004 at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio.
Els is coming off a tie for fifth at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he won three matches. He eventaully fell to Stewart Cink in the quarterfinals.
The South African is 14th in the Official World Golf Ranking, with his tie for sixth at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship his other top-10 finish in 2009.
The Honda Classic Notes
Ernie Els returns in 2009 to defend his title at The Honda Classic. Els won last year’s Honda Classic title after nearly three-and-a-half years without a PGA TOUR win. He joins a strong list of past Honda Classic champions that include 2008 PGA TOUR Player of the Year Padraig Harrington, 2008 FedExCup winner Vijay Singh and 2009 U.S. Presidents Cup Captain Fred Couples.
Ernie Els began the 2008 Honda Classic final-round trailing Luke Donald, Matt Jones and Mark Calcavecchia by three strokes. His 4-under 67 Sunday, however, earned him a one-stroke win, the biggest comeback of his career. The win allowed him to jump from a tie for 182nd in FedExCup points to 11th. The victory was his 16th on the PGA TOUR.
Sergio Garcia is making his second consecutive appearance at the 2009 Honda Classic. He tied for 43rd in his first start at PGA National last year. Despite falling in the first round of last week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Garcia is still ranked second in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Ireland’s Rory Mcllory makes his second PGA TOUR start when he tees it up at The Honda Classic. He played at last week’s Accenture Match Play Championship, tying for fifth. At just 19 years old, this McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic in February, two months after falling in a playoff at the Hong Kong Open. This week’s tournament will be Mcllroy’s first stroke-play tournament on the PGA TOUR.
Thanks to his 20th PGA TOUR win at the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic in the year’s last event, Davis Love III earned a lifetime exemption onto the PGA TOUR. The two-time PLAYERS Championship winner posted a pair of runner-up finishes at The Honda Classic in 2003 and 2004. Love will be making his 15th start at The Honda Classic, dating to 1986.
Boo Weekley returns to The Honda Classic in hopes of erasing bad memories from 2007. Two years ago at PGA National, Weekley three-putted on the 72nd hole while hanging onto a one-stroke lead. He eventually tied for second after losing in a playoff to eventual winner Mark Wilson. Jose Coceres and Camilo Villegas were also in the playoff.
Of the 25 Nationwide Tour graduates in 2008, all 25 are playing this week. The stand-out among the graduating group so far in 2009 is Scott Piercy, who began his season with a tie for 12th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and followed that with another top-20 showing—a tie for 19th at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. A week later, he posted his best finish early in the season with a tie for sixth at the FBR Open at TPC Scottsdale.
E NOTES FROM THE PGA TOUR
- The teenagers are back this week on the PGA TOUR. Rory McIlroy and Tadd Fujikawa are both entered this week at The Honda Classic which has seen successful teens before. Ty Tryon, at age 16 years, 9 months and 7 days, made the cut at the 2001 Honda Classic becoming (at that time) the second youngest player to ever make a cut on TOUR behind Bob Panasik. Fujikawa topped Tyron, however, at the 2007 Sony Open making the cut at age 16 years and 4 days. In 1990, current TOUR player Chris Couch Monday qualified for The Honda Classic at age 16.
- Ernie Els will attempt to become just the second player in Honda Classic history to win back-to-back titles this week. Only Jack Nicklaus in 1977-78 has ever accomplished the feat.
- Mark Calcavecchia has quite a record at The Honda Classic winning twice and finishing second twice. He won in 1987 at the TPC Eagle Trace and in 1998 at the TPC Heron Bay. A win this week would not only give his three wins in three different decades, but at three different courses.
- You might want to look for an international player to shine this week. In the past 15 years, Honda Classic winners have hailed from Zimbabwe, Australia, Fiji, Sweden, England and South Africa in addition to the U.S.
- Rookie Scott Piercy is off to a great start. He’s finished in the Top 20 in four of his first five starts with a scoring average of 69.64. He’s 37th in the FedExCup points race after the West Coast Swiing.
- Eight different players competed in seven tournaments out west including four—Alex Cejka, Pat Perez, Brendon de Jonge and Dean Wilson—who played in all seven events for which they were eligible.
- With Pat Perez winning his first career title at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, it became the sixth consecutive season in which there was a first-time winner during the West Coast Swing.
- While The Honda Classic is being played on the PGA TOUR, the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour will be staging a Honda Classic former champions reunion with 10 former winners in the field.
- Five times over the past 14 years, the winner of the Toshiba Classic has gone on to receive Champions Tour Player of the Year honors following the season in which he won—Jim Colbert (1996), Hale Irwin (1998 and 2002), Jay Haas (2007) and Bernhard Langer (2008).
- Newport Beach CC, site of this week’s Toshiba Classic, is the shortest course on the Champions Tour in 2009, playing to a par-71 over 6,584 yards.
- Bernhard Langer won last year’s Toshiba Classic in a seven-hole playoff over Jay Haas. While it was the longest playoff on the Tour last year, it was only the third longest in Toshiba Classic history. Both the 1997 and 2001 events staged nine-hole playoffs before determining a winner.
- Mark Wilson’s victory last week at the Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun was the 241st victory on the PGA TOUR by a former Nationwide Tour player.
- The Class of 2008 is off to a good start on the PGA TOUR with 23 of the 25 graduates earning FedExCup points during the West Coast Swing. Scott Piercy leads the way in 37th place with Jeff Klauk right behind him in 42nd place.
- This week’s HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship will be the first two events this year in New Zealand. Aussie Peter O’Malley has won this event twice in its first eight years on the Nationwide Tour and with a victory this week would become the first player in Nationwide Tour history to win the same event three times.
- One more on O’Malley: He finished second last week at the Moonah Classic in Australia aided in part by making a birdie putt on the 16th green on Saturday estimated at between 100 and 120 feet with 15 feet of break.