Par 5 Questions for the Honda


Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for the Honda Classic ...

Who’s going to pass Tiger Woods this week?

Tiger Woods is losing world-ranking points like a sputtering race car leaking oil.

Rory McIlroy
With a win at the Honda, Rory McIlroy can pass Tiger Woods for No. 5 in the world. (Getty Images)
Woods dropped two spots to No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking with his first-round elimination at the Accenture Match Play Championship last week. He would have been passed by Graeme McDowell even if no tournaments had been scheduled, based on points lost over the two-year rolling period of the point system. Woods is leaking points faster than anyone in the game, and it’s greasing his slide.

Rory McIlroy can pass Woods in next week’s rankings with a victory at the Honda Classic.

At No. 6, Phil Mickelson is breathing down Woods’ neck. With both players taking this week off, Woods is set to lose more points than Mickelson, but not enough to allow Mickelson to pass him in the world rankings. But it will be close, oh so close. In next week’s rankings, Mickelson (6.09) will sit just two hundredths of a point behind Woods (6.11) in average points.

Both players will have a lot to win and lose at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral next week. Mickelson will be losing points he won there two years ago, Woods points from tying for ninth two years ago. They’ll both need to replenish points to avoid more slippage.

It’s a big month for Woods. He has points from six victories over the last two years still counting in his world-ranking totals, but the first of those victories will disappear from his point totals in three weeks at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Are they awarding Race to Dubai points at PGA National this week?

With so many Europeans in the field at the Honda Classic, the start of the Florida Swing has a distinct European feel to it.

The four highest ranked players in the field are Europeans: No. 2 Lee Westwood (England), No. 3 Luke Donald (England), No. 4 Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) and No. 8 Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland).

Seven members of last year’s victorious European Ryder Cup team are in the field, almost doubling the number of American Ryder Cuppers (4).

Seven Europeans among the top 25 in the world rankings are here, just one American (Matt Kuchar).

While there won’t be any European Tour Race to Dubai points awarded this week, it feels like there ought to be.

Is the Honda Classic regaining its status as an elite PGA Tour event?

With five of the top-10 players in the world rankings at PGA National this week, the Honda Classic’s moving up in class.

No regular PGA Tour event’s been host to more top-10 players so far this season.

Twenty-one of the top 50 in the world are scheduled to play Honda, making the tournament the second deepest field among regular tour events played on the PGA Tour or European Tour so far this year. The Northern Trust Open is the only regular Tour event that’s featured more players (22) among the top 50 this season.

Back when this tournament began 40 years ago as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, it was as big and brazen as the entertainer who put his name on it. All of golf’s big stars turned out, and many of Hollywood’s, too. While the tournament hasn’t regained that cache, its profile is improving again with stronger fields, thanks mostly to the highly ranked Europeans who make their way over for the World Golf Championship events at Tucson and Miami.

Will Lee Westwood answer Martin Kaymer this week?

After 17 consecutive weeks at the top of the world rankings, Lee Westwood makes his first appearance as the former No. 1 player in the world.

Westwood can reclaim lost ground this week and seize back the top ranking from Martin Kaymer by finishing third or better with Kaymer off.

There’s reason to believe Westwood will make a strong response this week. In his first and only start at PGA National last year, he tied for ninth.

Will the Golden Bear dictate another outcome?

Jack Nicklaus handed out a lot of beatings in his day, and he’s still doing so as a golf course architect.

Nicklaus redesigned PGA National’s Champions Course in 1990, creating a treacherous trio of holes on the back nine named The Bear Trap. He freshened up the design again in ’07 but was so happy with The Bear Trap’s design he didn’t touch them.

If Florida’s March winds blow as expected, The Bear Trap holes (the 15th, 16th and 17th) could offer more thrills and spills this side of Augusta National’s Amen Corner.

Back at the 1994 PGA Seniors' Championship, Raymond Floyd took a one-shot lead on Lee Trevino to the 15th tee in the final round. One of the surest front-runners in Tour history, Floyd walked away from the 15th green a wreck. He dunked two shots in the water and made quadruple bogey-7. He dunked another ball in the water at the 17th and finished three behind the champion, Trevino.

Back in 2007, the first year the Honda Classic moved to PGA National, Robert Allenby had a chance to win before making bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes on Sunday and missing out on a playoff by a single shot.

The 15th hole is a 179-yard par 3 with a narrow green guarded right by water and to the left by a large pot bunker. The prevailing wind is dead into the player's face.

The 16th hole is a 434-yard par 4 that doglegs right over water to a two-tiered green.

The 17th is a 190-yard par 3 with water around more than half the green and the prevailing wind quartering left-to-right and into the player's face.

While there hasn’t been a Floyd-like disaster for any Honda Classic contender coming down the stretch on a Sunday, there’s a sense calamity’s due, maybe this year.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell