Spotlight on | Golf

With names like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, the Honda Classic is now a prestigious event

 
 
Tiger Woods tees off on the fourth tee during the final round of the Honda Classic golf tournament on March 3, 2013, in Palm Beach Gardens.
Tiger Woods tees off on the fourth tee during the final round of the Honda Classic golf tournament on March 3, 2013, in Palm Beach Gardens.
Wilfredo Lee / AP

Special to the Miami Herald

Some eight years ago the Honda Classic was not one of the spotlight tournaments on the PGA Tour.

Actually, to be blunt, it was a pretty run-of-the-mill event.

Now, it is anything but ordinary.

Next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens (Feb. 27-March 2) has a who’s who list of players. The tournament has managed to attract the eight top players in the world, and beyond that some other names (such as Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley, Lee Westwood, etc.) that golf fans love to see.

Credit tournament executive director Ken Kennerly and his close working partner, tournament director Ed McEnroe. They started the turnaround when they arrived on the scene eight years ago.

However, Kennerly and McEnroe would rather work behind the scenes.

If the names playing in the tournament impress and attract people and are the talk of the event, that is just fine with them. That’s all they want.

Of course, Tiger Woods signing up to play the Honda two tournaments ago, was more than helpful in moving the event up more than a notch. When Woods joined the Honda fray, other golfers followed.

This year’s biggest addition is Phil Mickelson.

Kennerly and McEnroe won’t say it, because they aren’t supposed to play favorites or root for the players, but a Woods-Mickelson showdown would be just fine with them. Throw Rory McIlroy into the mix, and they might be jumping up and down in joy — of course, where nobody could see them.

No cheering among the executives, guys.

The course is ready — more than ready.

The layout designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear, features one of the toughest three-hole stretches in golf in the Bear Trap that encompasses Nos. 15, 16, 17.

Of the course, Kennerly said, “Without a great ballpark, we’re not going to get the players,” he said. “We’ve got a great ballpark.”

Those three Bear Trap holes have been the demise of some championship hopes over the years. Sometimes, maybe even often, those holes aren’t fun for the players, but they are always fun for the fans.

The Honda had some more commitments Tuesday, including Fowler, who is a fan favorite (particularly to teenage girls). Among others signing up were Stephen Ames, Jeff Maggert and Andres Romero.

Tickets to the Honda can be purchased at thehondaclassic.com or by calling 866-846-6328.

Locals team up

For the second year in a row, Meghan Stasi of Oakland Park and Tara Connelly of Palm Beach Gardens teamed up Tuesday to win one of Florida’s top amateur tournaments, the Women’s International Four-Ball Championship at the Wanderer’s Club in Wellington. Stasi and Connelly combined for a 67-62-129 to defeat Marie Arnoux and Ellen Port (71-69-140) by 11 strokes.

The victory was Stasi’s fourth in the event.

That’s a fact, Jack

Golfers spend an estimated $600 million on golf balls each year. A wild guess — $500 million of that money ends up in the bottom of a lake.

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