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