PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Not many players in this week’s Honda Classic field are sleeping down the hall from a three-time major champion.
Brendon de Jonge has that privilege, though, as he’s spending the week at the home of fellow Zimbabwean Nick Price, who lives minutes away from PGA National. It’s a setup that de Jonge has utilized every year at this event since 2009.
“I’ve stayed in worse,” joked de Jonge. “He’s the perfect guy if you’re struggling with anything or need a little help to bounce things off.”
The 33-year old considers Price a mentor, and the two communicate via phone or text nearly every week. They spent much of Tuesday afternoon together on the putting green at PGA National, working to get de Jonge’s eyes more properly aligned over the ball.
Those tips paid immediate dividends Thursday, as the veteran carded seven birdies en route to a 4-under 66 on the Champion Course, placing him near the top of the leaderboard early in Round 1.
“Obviously very pleased,” said de Jonge, who took 27 putts Thursday. “It is a tough golf course, and even with just a little bit of breeze, there’s trouble all over the place. Very pleased to get it in.”
De Jonge’s bond with Price was bolstered when the Hall of Famer added him as a captain’s pick to the International Team at last year’s Presidents Cup. While the selection offered a confidence boost and raised his overall profile, de Jonge believes a larger lift will come when he lifts a PGA Tour trophy for the first time.
“I felt like I belonged before; I still feel like I belong. I think a win would change my confidence more than anything else,” added de Jonge, who has one runner-up finish in 186 career starts on Tour. “I’ve felt comfortable out here for the last 5-6 years, so my confidence hasn’t changed that much.”