Only One Final Piece
If Woods is going to build a new life, the folks who have invested their hearts and souls in returning the Honda Classic to its former status as one of the PGA Tour’s elite events would love hearing that he plans to do so with South Florida as his new home.
Woods created yet another buzz in the game this week with news that he’s returned from rehab to the Isleworth community he calls home and that he’s back on the range hitting balls.
What’s happening in Tiger’s home, where he’ll ultimately call home, may be personal matters but they are also relevant developments to the Honda Classic’s future.
The tournament is being rebuilt so formidably Woods looks like he could be the last piece in the event’s renaissance.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at the field,” said England’s Paul Casey, runner up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago. “It’s stacked with the world’s best.”
Four of the top 10 in the world rankings are here. There’s No. 4 Lee Westwood, No. 6 Casey, No. 9 Rory McIlroy and No. 10 Padraig Harrington. There are plenty of other big names. There’s Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, J.B. Holmes, Trevor Immelman and Rickie Fowler.
Corporate sponsors may be distancing themselves from Woods, polls may be showing that his popularity is plummeting, but the Palm Beach residents rebuilding the Honda Classic can’t wait to welcome him to South Florida.
That’s if he still plans to move here after his fall from grace.
The uncertainty of that impacts this event’s future.
Just 26 miles north of PGA National Resort & Spa, Woods is building a palatial estate, a 9,000-square foot mansion on 12 acres of property he purchased for $44.5 million more than four years ago. The construction is reported to be the dream-home aspiration of Elin Woods, Tiger’s wife. The strife in the marriage, uncertainty whether the couple is still even living in the same house, casts doubt on the future of the property.
Still, construction’s continuing, according to local real estate agents who work Jupiter Island. In fact, the Palm Beach Post reported last month that even as Woods was enduring the onslaught of reports of his infidelity, one of his attorneys was signing documents notifying Martin County officials of Woods’ intent to complete construction.
Honda Classic officials have worked hard to rebuild the event with hopes that Woods has noticed what’s happening. Woods is a familiar presence in the area. He’s spent a lot of time in Jupiter with his yacht, Privacy, docked there. The hope among tournament officials was that Woods would be moved into his Jupiter Island compound before next year’s tournament.
Though Woods played the Honda Classic on a sponsor’s exemption when he was 17, he’s never played the event as a pro.
“We’ve heard that he will support the Honda Classic as a hometown event,” Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly said. “Should he choose to relocate here, we hope he does play. Whether he moves here or not, I hope he considers playing because it’s a championship caliber venue and championship caliber tournament and our field’s getting better and better every year. I think he would do well here.”
The Honda Classic was an instant hit in its inception as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic outside Fort Lauderdale in 1972. Gleason brought all his Hollywood buddies to the tournament and all the PGA Tour’s biggest stars showed up. Jack Nicklaus won the event twice in its formative years. It was conceived as a way to sell homes around Inverrary’s new golf courses.
Through the ‘90s, with the West Coast Swing growing stronger and players dissatisfied with the Honda Classic’s move to new courses, the event’s fields weakened.
Kennerly and tournament director Ed McEnroe have engineered a re-making of the Honda Classic since moving into their roles before the 2007 event. They billed it as the new Honda Classic. They were part of the move to PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course, a course redesigned by Nicklaus that features the trio of challenging holes (Nos. 15-17) called the Bear Trap. Nicklaus wasn’t just recruited to spruce up the design before the inaugural event, he was brought in as a partner of sorts. The Nicklaus Foundation and its charities are among beneficiaries of the event.
The Champion Course’s popularity has been a large factor in wooing players back.
“The PGA Tour is viewed as events with Tiger Woods and those without Tiger Woods,” said Rick Horrow, a CNN sports business analyst. “Clearly, Ken Kennerly and Ed McEnroe have done a stupendous job of taking the Honda Classic to the next level. If this morphs into a Tiger Woods event, the sky’s the limit.”
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18