Hondas Legacy - Malfunction at the Junction
You may have heard of the Honda then again, you may not. It has perennially been sandwiched uncomfortably between the more glamorous Doral on one side and Arnold Palmers Bay Hill on the other. It has fitfully struggled to find its rightful place on the PGA Tour schedule, and no tournament in history has had more comical results. Now, with the WGC-Accenture Match Play in California causing most of the stars to bypass Doral ' along with the considerable presence of Dubai ' Honda is finally is getting its due after 32 years of hijinks.
The Jackie Gleason was highly successful in the 70s. Its first winner was Tom Weiskopf, followed by Lee Trevino. Jack Nicklaus won twice and finished second three times, Johnny Miller won twice, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite won once. But in 1984 the tournament moved to a beautiful little track on the north side of Fort Lauderdale, the TPC at Eagle Trace, and the hilarity started. Honda was in control now, and almost every year, another side-splitting antic ruled the news.
You see, Eagle Trace was a perfectly good course for most of the year. But it was terrible during March, which was when Honda was played. Set on the edge of the Everglades, the winds howled back and forth across the layout and the greens were cut too close to the water hazards to allow for the frequent gales. The result: the players were continually embarrassed, and the golf course was continually the target of very tough criticism.
Here are a few of the strange follies which are part and parcel of the Hondas legacy:
1986 ' Kenny Knox wins the 86 tournament despite shooting an 80 in the third round. The culprit, of course, was a Saturday windstorm which sent all the scores soaring and hats flying.
1986 ' Winner Mark Calcavecchia provokes a PGA Tour lawsuit against Ping when Calc rips a Ping 8-iron out of the rough and it has enough spin to back up a considerable distance. The box groove suit is settled in the early 90s with the tour enduring a costly settlement.
1990 ' Winner John Huston wears a shoe ' endorsed by him - manufactured by a Tampa-area company, built up more on the side that the other. The shoe is ruled non-conforming and Huston must change footwear. Before Hustons win, however, the Storm of the Century rips through the course on Saturday night, blowing down tents and scoreboards before spreading its havoc throughout the Northeast.
1991 ' In a fit of anger and frustration, Greg Norman lashes out in a verbal tirade against the course, calling it carnival golf. Incidentally, he made a quadruple bogey on the sixth hole, hitting into the water twice on the hole and shooting a 77 Saturday.
Steve Pate was the winner, but only after almost losing his ball on the final hole. Funny, but it was adjacent to the green, Thousands of people were around ' yet no one saw it.
Runner-up Paul Azinger was also incensed by the course. Its not often you finish second and say youre definitely not coming back, he said in vowing not to return to Eagle Trace.
Pates reaction to this course from hell? Maybe I hate myself, but I like playing here.
1992 ' The tournament course goes up the road 10 miles to Weston Hills, but still the funny stuff persists. Brit Sandy Lyle attempts to drive from Doral to Weston, a distance of maybe 30 miles, but inadvertently neglects to take the Sawgrass Expressway turnoff. He winds up clear across Alligator Alley 100 miles away in Naples ' on the western side of the state. Cursing and yelling, he has to backtrack all the way to Honda.
Corey Pavin holes out from the fairway with an 8-iron on the 72nd hole to tie Fred Couples with an eagle, then birdies the 18th in the playoff to win.
1995 ' Three weeks earlier, Mark OMeara had shown up at the Nissan in Los Angeles but had forgotten to enter. Reject! So he hastily penciled in Honda as a substitute. And what do you know ' he won! The wind was ' once again ' a major factor. Wednesdays hurricane-force gales destroyed the commissioners skybox. OMeara, playing Sunday in the face of biting gales, held off Nick Faldo for his first win in three years.
1996 ' The Honda played Can You Find theTournament? It was supposed to move to a new home on a Mark McCumber-designed course, but 60 inches of rain during the previous summer meant that the new course still wasnt finished in time for the tournament. Tournament organizers checked in with Weston Hills about staying one more year, but a couple of BAR MITZVAHS, for goodness sakes, were scheduled at Weston and the fathers refused to change the dates. So reluctantly Honda returned for one year to good old Eagle Trace. Norman did indeed return, and he and Nick Price pulled up for their opening rounds on a firetruck, of all things.
In addition to the yuks it has provoked down through the years about the fierce winds, Honda became known for the youngsters who have competed in recent years. Sixteen-year-old Chris Couch played in the 90s, and later 16-year-old Ty Tryon caused a ruckus in 2001 when he opened with a 67 and closed with a 68.
The tournament moved to Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens last year, and now its time to start a new reputation. But - uh-oh - it was so difficult that players had a diffiult time completing their rounds Wednesday. The hilarity continues at this event, known as the wackiest on the PGA Tour schedule.
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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.