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Florida swing proving unusually tough

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At this rate, they’ll have to come up with some other name for the Florida swing.

Like Murderers’ Row.

Or the Highway to Hell.

Or, maybe, the Four Tournaments of the Apocalypse.

For PGA Tour pros, Florida isn’t so much about sun and fun anymore as it is pain and suffering. March is evolving into the toughest month on their schedule, thanks to the brutish gauntlet now offered at PGA National, Trump National Doral, Innisbrook and Bay Hill.

With pros struggling again at this week’s Valspar Championship at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, the possibility looms that for the first time nobody playing the first three legs of the Florida swing will reach double digits under par by a tournament's end. That’s going all the way back to 1962, back to the start of Doral’s PGA Tour stop and back before the Honda Classic, The Players Championship and Tampa Bay’s Tour stop even existed.

Two weeks ago, Russell Henley won the Honda Classic at PGA National at 8 under par. Last week, Patrick Reed won the WGC-Cadillac Championship at 4 under. Reed made as many birdies winning the Humana Challenge (30) as he and Henley combined to make winning the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship.

How unusual would it be for nobody to reach double digits under par in three 72-hole PGA Tour events that are not majors played over three consecutive weeks? It hasn’t happened in 31 years, not since 1983. That’s the year Hale Irwin won the Memorial at -7, Fred Couples won the Kemper Open at -1 and Seve Ballesteros won the Westchester Classic at -8.

“It is always by way of pain that one arrives at pleasure.”

No, Donald Trump didn’t say that last week at Doral. It’s a quote from the Marquis de Sade, the French aristocrat of the 1700s who might well have enjoyed the perverse pleasures of the Florida swing.

With the Blue Monster toughened up this year in Gil Hanse’s redesign, Florida’s run of events offers no cakewalks, no birdie fests and no relief from tough tests of shotmaking.

From the Bear Trap at PGA National to the Blue Monster’s diabolical 18th hole at Trump Doral, to the Snake Pit at Innisbrook and the Devil’s Bathtub at Bay Hill, the Florida swing is offering some of the wickedest challenges in the game.