Honda Field to be Challenged by New Venue

By Associated PressFebruary 28, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 Honda ClassicPALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Upon hearing that some Honda Classic players believe the winning score this week could be around even par, Jack Nicklaus was thrilled.
'It'll be a challenge,' Nicklaus said.
That's exactly what he envisioned.
Luke Donald
Defending champion Luke Donald signs autographs Wednesday at The Honda Classic. (WireImage)
He redesigned the Honda's new home course -- PGA National -- in 1990, then tweaked it again to get the track ready for its first TOUR event since the 1987 PGA Championship. The result is a 7,048-yard, par-70 test, dotted by water and bunkers, tight fairways and rough that seems unusually thick for a non-major.
In some ways, it's even more demanding than the course's old home at Mirasol, the facility across the street from PGA National which featured giant sloping greens that were often criticized by players.
'At Mirasol, the challenge was around the greens. Here, the challenge is off the tee,' defending Honda champion Luke Donald said. 'You have to drive it very well. The fairways are more narrow than Mirasol, but the greens are much flatter and I'm sure they will get firmer as the week goes on.'
Jim Furyk, the world's No. 2 player behind Tiger Woods, headlines the field; he and Donald (No. 10) are the only top-10 players at PGA National, although other notables chasing the $990,000 winner's check in the first event on the four-stop Florida Swing include Padraig Harrington, Davis Love III, David Toms, Chrysler Classic winner Charley Hoffman and Chris DiMarco.
Only a handful of players in this week's field have any real familiarity with PGA National, other than perhaps seeing some of the course's greatest moments in highlight reels, like Seve Ballesteros getting a halve of his 1983 Ryder Cup match with Fuzzy Zoeller by hitting a 240-yard 3-wood from a bunker on the final hole and getting up-and-down to save par, or Lanny Wadkins' 60-yard pitching wedge to 1 foot on the same hole for another halve against Jose Maria Canizares that helped the United States prevail 14 1/2 -13 1/2 .
To think those shots came when the 18th hole was easier.
It's now a double-dogleg par-5 that measures 604 yards from the back tees, a finishing hole that provides little relief after the three-hole stretch known in a nod to Nicklaus as 'The Bear Trap' -- the par-3 15th to a diagonal green, the par-4 16th with an elevated green protected by water, and then the par-3 17th that's over water and has a relatively small putting surface.
'The course is tough,' said Furyk, who acknowledged he's had some trouble this week reaching the longer holes in regulation -- and not all of those were from the farthest tees, either. 'It's a good, solid layout. '
And then there's the wind.
It's a staple of South Florida weather, and when it changes direction, fortunes of players typically follow suit. Arnold Palmer shot 63 here in picture-perfect weather during the second round of the 1984 Senior PGA; with wind whipping the course the next day, Palmer only managed a 79, but went on to win anyway.
When Donald played the par-4 10th -- a mere 525 yards from the back tees, possibly the longest par-4 in PGA TOUR history -- earlier this week, he needed driver and 3-wood to reach the green because of wind speed and direction.
'This golf course is set up like a U.S. Open,' said 50-year-old Fred Funk, who won Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico last week to become the TOUR's oldest winner since 1975.
Funk last played here in the '87 PGA, and his return got off to an ominous start. He lost his tee ball in the rough on his first practice hole, and said he 'barely' found his tee shot on the second hole.
'The rough is really high,' said Funk, who briefly led the '87 PGA as a club professional. 'I didn't really expect it to be quite as narrow. I mean, it's really set up tough out there, I think. We'll see how it plays. Hopefully we won't get any rain because it's still playing a little firm, thank goodness.'
The Honda will stay at PGA National for at least five more years after this, and Nicklaus doesn't sound like he's done with changes.
Only two bunkers -- one on No. 1, another on No. 7 -- have been added in the last year, although Nicklaus said he wanted to add as many as 10 more, but simply ran out of time.
Bottom line: It's hard now, and will likely be harder in the future.
'We'll probably make some more changes next year,' Nicklaus said. 'This is supposedly the PGA's home headquarters and their crown-jewel golf course, so we probably should have it as good as we can.'
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  • Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

    Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.