In 10 rounds in 2011, Ernie Els has hit an amazing 83.33 percent of greens in regulation (120 of 144). Els will be making his eighth start at The Honda Classic this week, winning in 2009 and posting additional top-25 finishes in 2009 (T22) and 1997 (T23).
Both winners from last week’s events, Luke Donald (World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship) and Johnson Wagner (Mayakoba Golf Classic), are scheduled to compete at The Honda Classic. Donald never trailed in any of his six matches en route to the victory and none of his six matches reached No. 18, joining Tiger Woods (2003) as the only players to win the event without any of their matches reaching No. 18. Wagner won his second career PGA TOUR event in a playoff over Spencer Levin.
International players have dominated the Honda Classic since 2005, with wins by Padraig Harrington (2005), Luke Donald (2006), Ernie Els (2008), Y.E. Yang (2009) and Camilo Villegas (2010).
Twelve past champions of the Honda Classic are scheduled to play the 2011 Honda Classic: Camilo Villegas (2010), Y.E. Yang (2009), Ernie Els (2008), Luke Donald (2006), Justin Leonard (2003), Matt Kuchar(2002), Jesper Parnevik (2001), Vijay Singh (1999), Mark Calcavecchia (1998, 1987, Stuart Appleby (1997), Tim Herron (1996), Nick Price (1994).
This week’s Honda Classic will be the first event to implement the PGA TOUR’s new mobile device policy, allowing spectators to carry mobile devices on the course with the volume setting on silent. Some brief guidelines:
- Phone calls can be made or received in designated areas throughout the course.
- Spectators allowed to receive and send messages and check data on the course away from play.
- No video recording is permitted at any time during the week, and no photography is permitted during official rounds.
In 2010, the par-70 layout at PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champions Course, home of The Honda Classic, ranked as the toughest layout among non-major courses (71.640, +1.640) and the second-toughest course overall on TOUR. This year marks the fifth consecutive year The Honda Classic will be conducted at PGA National Resort & Spa.
This week, the PGA TOUR’s Nationwide Tour/Qualifying School category went through its first of five season re-orders that determine priority rankings for tournament qualification. The top five players in order:
Gary Woodland $675,526
Keegan Bradley $304,925
Zack Miller $300,160
Tommy Gainey $254,484
Chris Kirk $224,416
Five of the six Champions Tour professionals at the PGA TOUR’s Mayakoba Classic, made the cut. Four of those six finished in the top 30. John Cook (3rd), Tom Lehman (T13), Tom Pernice, Jr. (T19), Steve Lowery (T29) and Michael Allen (T56) made the cut, while Fred Funk, the 2007 Mayakoba Classic champion, missed the cut.
Champions Tour professional David Frost was among the contestants at the United States Professional Hickory Golf Championship at Temple Terrace G&CC in Tampa last week. Frost shot 81 to finish second, two strokes behind Leroux Ferreira. All contestants used clubs from 1910 or earlier. Lee Chill, who ironically played his first and only Champions Tour event in Hickory (2010 Ensure Classic at Rock Barn), scored 86.
The Honda Classic will get a visit from World Golf Hall of Fame member Nick Price, making a rare cross-over from the Champions Tour. Other Champions Tour professionals set to compete include Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Funk, Kenny Perry and Lee Rinker.
Ian Baker-Finch is scheduled to make his Champions Tour debut at next week’s Toshiba Classic. The 1991 British Open champion turned 50 last October.
Mathew Goggin’s win at the Panama Claro Championship was the 45th Nationwide Tour title by an Australian. Twenty-five different Aussies have contributed to the total. Canada is next in wins among countries outside of U.S. with 18.
Erik Comptonhas been a man on the go of late. The former U. of Georgia All-American, who has limited status, Monday-qualified and finished T25 in the Northern Trust Open on the PGA TOUR, then caught a red-eye flight home to Miami only to find out a spot had opened up for him in last week's Nationwide Tour season opener in Panama. Compton made the most of the opportunity leading or sharing the lead after the first three rounds and into the back nine of the final 18. A few bad holes on the home stretch dropped him into a tie for fourth, but he earned another start this week in Bogota as a result of his T-25 finish. Despite no birdies on Sunday, Compton led the Panama field with 17, including five in a row to start the first round.
Last year's Nationwide Tour player of the yearJamie Lovemark makes his return to the PGA TOUR this week after having to withdraw from the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 10th due to disk concerns in his back.
For the eighth consecutive week this year, a Nationwide Tour alumnus has won on the PGA TOUR. On Sunday, Johnson Wagner chalked up alumni win No. 296 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun. Alumni have now won official TOUR events each of the last nine tournament weeks, dating back to Robert Garrigus' win in the season-ending tournament at Disney in October.
A pair of Panama Claro Championship sponsor exemptions, Sam Saunders and Diego Velasquez, played their way into this week's Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open by way of their top-25 finishes (T10 and T16, respectively). Saunders is the grandson of Arnold Palmer. Velasquez is a native of Bogota who earned first-team All-American honors at Oregon State U. last year. Joining them in the field via a sponsor's exemption will be Velasquez' fellow Colombian Andres Echavarria, a senior at the U. of Florida, who is bypassing this week's John Hayt Collegiate Invitational at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. to return home