The huff and puff of the world’s best golfers moving through South Florida is over as the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens and the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral Golf Club and Resort have concluded.
Each tournament drew large crowds under good weather, and each offered its followers drama of a varying, and sometimes unusual, nature.
The Honda gave fans the unusual scenario of Rory McIlroy walking off the course in the middle of the second round, claiming a toothache was the problem when the real problem was being 7-over-par through eight holes for the day and with his ball in the water on his ninth hole.
McIlroy’s walkout made who won the tournament (it was Michael Thompson, by the way) almost a trivia question.
A week later, on The Blue Monster course at Doral, the drama of Tiger Woods winning was what the crowd wanted — and got.
It also marked the final appearance of The Blue Monster course as we know it, as owner Donald Trump prepares to “blow it up” — his words — for a major makeover.
Woods and McIlroy both finished up at Doral smiling after the final putt was made.
Woods, after winning the Doral title in dominating fashion, was talking about being “even better” than the Tiger Woods of old.
Still a Woods target is five more majors, which would give him one more than Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
And Woods knows quite well that the generally accepted definition of all-time best golfer is based on majors won.
As for McIlroy, he did a fairly successful mea culpa about his Honda exit before Doral even started.
Then he shot a nice 7-under 65 in the final round at Doral and expressed hopes that his swing troubles might be over.
Bound for Georgia
So, what’s next for golf’s two most prestigious stars?
That would be the Masters. Augusta beckons.
Yes, the Masters is still several weeks (April 11-14) and several PGA tournaments away, but the year’s first major has golfers smelling magnolias in the air.
Doral and Honda want to be recognized, and rightfully so, as their own entities, but there’s no doubt there are whispers of the Masters and preparation for it while those two tournaments are going on.
“Anytime I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good,” said Woods, who has 14 majors to his name and needs five more to surpass Nicklaus.
“That’s how I know I can play,” he said of his effort on The Blue Monster. “To be able to bring it out a couple of times so far this year and then be able to close and get the Ws on top of that, that’s nice.”
McIlroy is hoping his final round at Doral will supply him with the much-needed confidence he’s desperately seeking leading up to the Masters, although he’s smart enough to know that one round does not a golfer make.
“I was pretty down about my game before Doral, but a few days like I played, it does my confidence a world of good,” McIlroy said.
He also admitted his emotions sometimes get the best of him.
“I probably wear my heart on my sleeve a bit with my golf,” he added.
“If I have a bad round, it’s sort of like the end of the world, but if I play a good one, I’m happy again. That’s just the way it goes.”
• Nova Southeastern wins again: The top-ranked Nova Southeastern women’s golf team won its third consecutive spring tournament at the Bison Invitational in Las Vegas, shooting a 296-290 — 586.
Nova Southeastern defeated second-place Old Dominion by 15 strokes.
Leading the way for the Sharks for the third consecutive week was No. 2 player Linnea Johansson (Sweden), who shot a 2-over 146 (74-72).
No. 3 Daniela Ortiz (Mexico) and No. 4 Abbey Gittings (England) finished only one stroke behind Johansson, finishing tied for third overall.
Ortiz shot a 3-over 147 (74-73), and Gittings improved five strokes on her first round to move eight spots on the leaderboard to third, also shooting a 3-over 147 (76-71).
The Sharks play next on April 8 at the Hoya Invitational in Beallsville, Md.
• Spring Break Classic nears: The 2013 Spring Break Classic, presented by The First Tee Miami, will be held next Monday and Tuesday at International Links Miami-Melreese.
The international field will be competing in a Junior Golf Scoreboard-ranked event.
Youngsters are competing in six flights, and winners will earn exemptions to The Optimist International Junior Golf Championships, the Doral Publix Junior Golf Classic and the Junior Orange Bowl International Championship.
The event is free and open to the public.