Hot Seat: South Florida sizzle


You might want to turn down your air conditioner. It can get steamy in this part of our website with our weekly look at who is taking a place on golf’s Hot Seat.

Here is our special heat index with the PGA Tour moving to the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens:

South Florida spicy salsa – Luke Donald

Let’s see, Donald has now gone two PGA Tour events in a row without winning, so it must be time to panic over a sluggish start to 2012, right?

Of course not, even with that final-round 78 at the Northern Trust Open and that first-round rout at the hands of Ernie Els at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but that doesn’t mean Donald won’t find himself squirming on his seat at home come Sunday if he’s watching the Honda Classic.

Donald isn’t playing this week, but his run at No. 1, which has reached 40 weeks, could end with Rory McIlroy in the field at PGA National. According to the newest Official World Golf Ranking projection. McIlroy ascends to No. 1 with a victory at Honda, but only a victory. Lee Westwood is also in the field but he can't get to No. 1 this week.

Palm Beach blacktop at high noon – Rory McIlroy

If McIlroy is going to reach No. 1 for the first time, it serves him to do so with a victory. If he ultimately goes on to displace Donald with a second at Doral after a second at Accenture, there will be some grumbling over whether he has yet developed enough killer instinct to prevail for any length of time at No. 1. If McIlroy takes the top ranking merely with a run of good finishes, there will be questions about whether McIlroy has won enough to be considered the game’s top player. McIlroy has four worldwide titles, two on the European Tour, two on the PGA Tour. At 22, that’s impressive, especially considering the way he won his two PGA Tour titles, in an eight-shot runaway at the U.S. Open and closing with a 62 to win the Quail Hollow Championship. He’s showing a gift for the spectacular when he peaks. A Honda Classic victory will put him second behind Tiger Woods for most PGA Tour titles before age 23. Woods won seven times before his 23rd birthday. Sergio Garcia won three PGA Tour titles before he was 23.

Desert sunburn – Lee Westwood

Westwood took so much confidence into his semifinal match at Accenture, but he blew a 3-up lead losing to McIlroy. A victory at PGA National can help wash away the sour taste of that defeat. A victory there creates terrific Masters’ momentum in Westwood’s bid to win his first major.

South Florida high humidity – Tiger Woods

Woods pretty much lives on the hot seat, it’s just a matter of how hot the seat gets. After missing that 5 1/2-foot birdie putt at the final hole to lose to Nick Watney in the second round at Accenture, Woods has more doubts to slay, more demons to extinguish. There is always excitement when Woods tees it up in an event, but it feels heightened, if that’s possible, seeing him at a new venue in his first Honda Classic as a professional. He played it once back in his amateur days.

Molten magma pit – Anyone teeing it up in the Bear Trap

If the March winds howl the way they usually do in South Florida, the Bear Trap could offer more thrills and spills than any trio of holes this side of Augusta National’s Amen Corner. The 15th, 16th and 17th holes at PGA National are notoriously punishing in the wind with so much water guarding those three holes. A potential disaster lurks there for the leaders come Sunday night.