What We Learned: Honda Classic

By Mercer BaggsMarch 5, 2012, 12:00 am

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events. This week, the team reflects on the Honda Classic from PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Rory McIlroy learns fast. The 22-year-old – yeah, 22 – picked up the pieces after Augusta last year. He learned from the setback a week ago against Hunter Mahan. He has some scars, but they have healed stronger.

McIlroy won the Honda Classic in his new adopted home state. He did it over the guy he idolized growing up, Tiger Woods. He did it with the kind of efficiency Jack Nicklaus showed in winning so prolifically.

 In a Ryder Cup year, it seemed fitting for the new world No. 1 to end the American victory streak to begin 2012. – Ryan Ballengee

I learned that for all the talk about how hard the Bear Trap is (and in fairness, it was), PGA National needs to toughen up the rest of the course.  Tiger Woods shoots a final-round 62? OK, he’s Tiger Woods. But a rookie, Brian Harman, shoots 61 to break the course record by three shots? And he could have shot a 59, and he should have shot a 60? That ain’t right. This isn’t  Bermuda Dunes. This is the Champion Course. But it didn’t always act like one this week. – Al Tays

I learned that we should all brush up on our math skills, because for the second straight year, the drama surrounding the No. 1 world ranking will be an intriguing subplot throughout the season. New top man Rory McIlroy could be on the verge of an extended stay atop the list, while erstwhile No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald aren't going anywhere. And then there's Tiger Woods, as rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. What does it all mean? On a weekly basis, any one of 'em could be in the hunt to become the next top-ranked player. Of course, it all comes down to a formula, so keep those calculators handy. – Jason Sobel

The game may be racing to exhilarating new heights again.

We learned Sunday at the Honda Classic that Rory McIlroy is ready to begin a reign over a new era. We also learned that Tiger Woods is ready to contest that. Rory vs. Tiger isn't wishful thinking anymore. It looks like it's real, like the best rivalry since Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer is about to be fully engaged. – Randall Mell

I learned that there is the possibility of a Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods rivalry. It's difficult to downplay what happened Sunday. Tiger didn't just have a good final round; it was a 62, free of bogeys in trying conditions. Rory didn't just win; he held firm in the face of a charging Woods, with the added weight of the No. 1 world ranking on his back. Golf doesn't just need a rivalry. It needs the game's most popular player to be part of that rivalry and it needs the game's best player as well. Woods-McIlroy satisfies both criteria and Sunday made it seem very possible. – Mercer Baggs

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Watch: Thomas nearly makes ace ... off rock wall

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 7:50 pm

You don’t become a major champ and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year without catching a few lucky breaks along the way, but this shot from Justin Thomas on Sunday at the Honda Classic was just silly.

Playing the 182-yard, par-3 fifth hole with the tournament lead, Thomas’ tee shot found the rock wall guarding the green, and proceeded to bounce forward about 20 feet in the air before nearly go in the hole for an ace:

Thomas couldn’t take full advantage of fortuitous bounce, missing the 13-footer for birdie. But if he holds on to his lead down the stretch, JT will remember this nonchalant par for a very long time.

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Watch: Tiger's drive startles strolling duck

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 7:21 pm

Tiger Woods split the eighth fairway with a 287-yard, 3-wood on Sunday and startled a duck (goose?) who was merely out and about for a stroll at PGA National.

The duck (goose?) walked away under its own power, and Woods followed up with a wedge to inside 9 feet and his third birdie of the front nine.

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Watch: Tiger's Sunday birdies at the Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2018, 6:40 pm

One day after he left a barrage of birdie opportunities out on the golf course, Tiger Woods worked his way into red figures early on Sunday.

Seven off the pace to start the day, Woods found the first fairway, hit the first green and rolled in a 20-footer for his first birdie of the day.

After narrowly missing a 10-footer for what would have been another circle at the par-5 third, Woods came right back at the fourth, flying an approach from 148 yards to 9 feet and finishing the job.

At the par-4 eighth, Woods went with 3-wood off the tee and startled a duck that was walking down the middle of the fairway.

The duck walked away, and Tiger stuffed his approach inside nine feet, setting up his third birdie of the day.

Woods dropped his first shot of the day at the par-4 ninth after hooking his tee and then short siding himself right of the green. He made the turn in 2-under 33.

Following four straight pars to start his second nine, Tiger took down the 465-yard, par-4 14th with a 2-iron, a 9-iron, and a putt to move back to 3 under.

Unfortunately, the Bear Trap would bite Tiger for the fourth day in a row. Woods rinsed his ball at 15 for a double bogey and three-putted at 16 to drop another shot and fall all the way back to even.

Closing pars at 17 and 18 left him even par for the round and the championship. The real story of his week: Woods played the Bear Trap 8 over and the rest of the golf course 8 under.

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New-look Korda wins after serious jaw surgery

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 6:31 pm

If the pictures of Jessica Korda from the Honda LPGA Thailand cause you to do a double-take, you're not alone.

Korda's world-class talent was on full display this week in Asia, where she won by four shots, but so too was her new-look face. The 24-year-old underwent serious jaw surgery in December, a final attempt to address a significant overbite that led to ailments ranging from facial cramping to headaches to sleep apnea.

The procedure was intense. Doctors first broke her nose, then broke her jaw in five different places - three on the top, and two on the bottom. She now has 27 screws in her face, and the physical result still requires some adjustment for a woman who now has five career LPGA wins.

"I look at pictures of myself and I don't feel like I look like that person," Korda told Golfweek. "I don't know who that is. And then I look at pictures of my old self and that doesn't look like me either."

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

The Dec. 7 surgery left Korda unable to eat, with her mother reportedly feeding her through a syringe for "weeks." Korda's facial structure before the surgery was such that she was only using 20 percent of her teeth when chewing food.

But despite returning to practice only six weeks ago and still dealing with lingering numbness in her face, Korda promptly dusted a world-class field in her first start back. She shot 25 under for the week, highlighted by a second-round 62, leaving the likes of Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn in her wake.

After a difficult winter, Korda's look may have changed but her game clearly remains unaffected.

"Coming in after surgery, I didn't know what to expect," Korda told reporters. "Obviously when I look at myself, I still don't feel like I look like myself yet. That will come. I'm just very, very happy. All the hard work I was putting in in the off-season when I could has paid off rather quickly."