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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    Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

    The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

    Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

    The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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    Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

    The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

    England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

    The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.

    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

    ''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

    Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

    That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

    ''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

    The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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    J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

    The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

    Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

    Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

    Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.

    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

    "I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

    "It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

    South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

    Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

    "It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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    Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

    LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

    Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

    He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

    ''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

    Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

    They were at 7-under 135.

    Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

    Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.

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    Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

    ''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

    He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

    McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

    ''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.