Not a ton of enthusiasm from the NLU camp about this week’s Honda Classic. Maybe we’re all hungover from the West Coast Swing and deep into some special #projects this week, but it’s a low-T situation.
The arc of this tournament is an interesting study, with the profile ebbing and flowing with the quality of the host venue. To sum it up…
The “Honda” kicked off in 1972 as “Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic.” Weiskopf prevailed that year over Nicklaus (the first of Jack’s three runner-up finishes here, along with two victories). Honda came along ten years later as title sponsor and has stuck with the tournament through thick and thin for 35 years now. Shoutout to them for that.
There has been a lot of thin, mostly due to shitty host venues. Inverrary Country Club played host from ’72 to ’83 before the tournament decamped to TPC Eagle Trace up in Coral Springs in 1984. After eight years at Eagle Trace it shifted over to Weston Hills for a four-year stint, then back to Eagle Trace for a year. In 1997 the powers that be locked the tournament into TPC Heron Heroin Bay for six years, which was widely panned. Things didn’t go well. The Country Club at Mirasol (a Faz/Hills 36-hole project) hosted from ’03-’06. This whole saga reads like a bad foster care story.
Then, in 2007, the tournament moved across the street to PGA National and seemingly found a forever home, with loving parents in a solid neighborhood.
I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help but think this event peaked over the past few years and is now backsliding. Between the ascendance of the Valspar on the Florida Swing, Riviera re-asserting itself as one of the premier stops (the week prior) and some scheduling rigamarole created by the WGC’s, the Honda’s begun to show some signs of slowing down. Each year the field is highly touted but doesn’t seem to feature the depth of say Riv or Memorial. Big Cat (this will be his fifth appearance), Rickie and Rory mask some flaws. Couple the scheduling challenges with the course low-key stinking (extra-penal Faz + Nicklaus re-do… no-thanks), especially in contrast to last week’s strategic orgy at Riviera, and the ceiling just isn’t very high.
The Bear Trap
The stretch of 15-16-17 was glossed “The Bear Trap” (not to be confused with “The Snake Pit” at Valspar or the “The Trap House” at East Lake) and is really freaking hard. Here’s the write-up of the actual holes.
The tournament is seemingly trying to turn the 17th hole into a knock-off of 16 at Phoenix and trying to amp up the fun, but subbing the laid back west coast-ish vibe of Phoenix for the aggro-bros of South Florida. Here’s Randall Mell rolling in and flaming the copycat nature of this situation. Sick!
DJ: I’ve got a few good Honda memories around friend-of-the-program Luke Guthrie. He finished third in 2013 for his best finish on Tour, but also played with the Big Cat during his hullaballoo of a WD the next year. (sidenote: Between Luke banishing Cat from the Bear Trap and Zac Blair intimidating him into shooting 85 at Memorial, it’s possible the NLU Mafia is the one adversary/rival Tiger has craved his entire career. More to come on this.)
Neil: No real memories. Honda Classic has always been very ‘faux’ for me. Faux excitement: Oh the start of the Florida swing! (That’s not exciting; I’m sad the West Coast swing ended). Faux nickname (Stop trying to make The Bear Trap happen). Faux signature hole and energy (3 overly difficult holes to finish the course? Cool, Jack). Faux energy (This isn’t and never will be 16 at Waste Management).
That said, I think Honda is a fitting sponsor for a mid-tier event on a course that seems to run together for me with The Blue Monster (and most other courses in southern Florida). Really green, really long, and lots of water. I’ll probably get drunk in Brooklyn this weekend and not watch, meaning I’ll have the same take next year with few lasting memories.
Soly: Rory’s complicated history with this event. On the one hand there’s his win in ’12 to become No. 1 and the overtly sexual five-wood he hit on the 72nd hole in ’14 to get into a playoff. On the other hand you have the “toothgate” saga of 2013, when he withdrew after 27 holes (despite the advice of playing partner Ernie Els), citing a wisdom tooth issue, and everyone was subsequently out on Rory for a few weeks.
Randy: Dude, I have no Honda takes. I’m always spent after the West Coast Swing. Didn’t Mark Wilson win here one year?
Tron: Brian Harman shooting 61 in 2012 fresh off a year on the eGolf Tour sticks out. But Rory Sabbatini’s duel with Y.E. Yang in 2011 stills rings in my loins. Sabbo entered Sunday with a five -shot lead but ended up gutting it out, parrying blow after blow from Yang’s arsenal of hybrids and woods.
Odds and Ends
– The Monday Qualifiers for Honda and Phoenix should get world ranking points. Here’s Smartin with this week’s writeup.
– Solid sponsor exemptions this week – Aphibarnrat (!!!!), Sam Burns, Dylan Frittelli, Denny McCarthy, Cam Triangle, and Bernd Weisberger.
– Fleetwood in the field again, which is exhilarating. But the field feels a little top-heavy. Just not as much depth as you’d like to see.
– Here’s a *scathing* review of Jack Nicklaus’ Ice Cream from a mom blogger. You’ll undoubtedly hear about the ice cream on the broadcast during one of Jack’s half dozen or so hours spent in the booth. Huge. Needed it.
Admittedly this tournament raises a ton of money for the local children’s hospital, so good on Jack for that.
– Featured groups for PGA Tour Live: Thursday: JT, Sergio, Berger; Cat, Snedeker, Kizzire; Friday: Fowler, Reed, Kisner; Rory, Scott, Harrington. Sign me up.
– No Champions or Web this week. Euro Tour is in Qatar. Job’s getting #ejected at work this week so we will have a short weekend viewing guide up sometime Thursday.
– CBS on the coverage this week due to NBC Olympics. We’ll be firing up a pre-game show at some point and then a post-game show on Sunday. Curious to see how CBS fares doing an event with which they have limited experience.