The Honda Classic got exactly what it wanted on Tuesday.
Actually, they got what any golf tournament would want, the No. 1 player in the world and the No. 2 player in the world going against each other.
Tiger Woods, the No. 2 world-ranked player, committed to playing in the Honda on Tuesday, and somewhere on the course with him will be Rory McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked player.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
“This is huge,” said Ken Kennerly, the executive director of the tournament.
McIlroy and Woods set up this encore meeting, in grand style, a year ago. Woods, playing five holes ahead of McIlroy on the final day, eagled the 18th at Honda and pulled to one stroke behind. If it was chess, Woods would have been saying check. However, it was McIlroy who ended up saying checkmate.
Shortly after the whooping and hollering for Woods’ eagle drifted all the way from the 18th green to the 13th hole, McIlroy knew Woods had eagled and pulled to one stroke of the lead. McIlroy provided his own answer: With the cheers for Woods having subsided, he rolled in an eight-foot putt and took a two stroke advantage.
Then McIlroy, going through the infamous Bear Trap, parred the last five holes to win the tournament.
In an added bonus, the victory by McIlroy moved him to No. 1 in the world.
So, the Honda, which will be played Feb. 28 through March 3, is hoping that sort of drama continues this year.
And for that to happen, the key was getting Woods to sign up, since McIlroy had already committed to defend his title.
Woods was more than happy to put his signature on the commitment paper. A year ago, he played in The Honda for the first time since he was an amateur, and now he’s making it two in a row at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
“I like the golf course, and I came pretty close last year,” said Woods, who had a season-opening victory this year at Torrey Pines. “It’s part of a busy stretch for me, and I want to continue playing well.”
Woods said he is feeling good about his game.
“It’s nice to be healthy and to be able to train and practice and do all of the things that I know I can do,” Woods said.
“It’s definitely a very different feeling.”
It won’t be the same-old, same-old at PGA National this year. The 17th hole, part of that Bear Trap that has many a golfer walking away muttering, is being redone and turned into much more of a stadium setting.
Will it be like the 16th at Phoenix, where rowdy fans (with the help of a few drinks) cheer and boo the players, and the players respond with smiles, laughs and toss gifts to the fans?
“Not quite that,” tournament director Ed McEnroe said. “The players won’t be punting footballs into the stands like in Phoenix, but we will have some fun.”
Hope for Haiti
The fourth annual Hope for Haiti tournament will be held Friday, March 8, at the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club.
Money raised by the tournament goes to support Haiti and, particularly, its youth. The need for the tournament became even greater in 2010 when the country was devastated by an earthquake from which it is still struggling to recover.
Mike Simmons, of Golf for Hope, Haiti, and Gerald Little, of Love, Hope, Prosper, have joined together to stage the tournament.
A brochure and entry form can be picked up at the Miccosukee pro shop (6401 Kendale Lakes Drive), or more information can be obtained by calling 786-247-8215.
Entry fee is $150 with the field limited to 144.