Golf

Even with WGC event gone from Doral, South Florida has two pro tournaments on tap

Adam Scott, of Australia holds the trophy after winning the Honda Classic golf tournament with a 9-under-par, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach Gardens.
Adam Scott, of Australia holds the trophy after winning the Honda Classic golf tournament with a 9-under-par, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach Gardens. AP

All is not lost because the World Golf Championship event at Trump National Doral was relocated by the PGA Tour to Mexico City.

There is still plenty of good spectator golf coming to South Florida in the coming weeks. With Doral gone, Miami-Dade residents will have to drive a little farther to see golf’s biggest names. But if you live in Broward County or Palm Beach counties, you are just a short jaunt away.

In the next few weeks, the Allianz Championship will be held in Boca Raton, followed by the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens.

Those two upcoming tournaments probably have their best fields in their lengthy histories.

▪ Allianz Championship, Feb. 10-12, Old Course at Broken Sound: The Allianz highlights the PGA Tour Champions over-50 crowd, and there are some extremely recognizable names in the event that have not competed there before, the most prominent being Fred Couples.

How successful has Couples been at golf? Well, as they say, money talks. His net worth these days is estimated at $105 million, give or take a dollar or two. Despite a smooth, picture-perfect swing, Couples has battled a bad back for much of his career.

Nevertheless, the 57-year-old Couples has won15 PGA Tour titles, including the 1992 Masters, and 11 events on the PGA Tour Champions.

“With Couples joining this field, we are anticipating an increase in ticket sales,” tournament director Ryan Dillon said.

Another interesting new name to play in the Allianz is John Daly, the ever-controversial, long-driving, hard-living winner of two majors — the 1991 PGA and the 1995 British Open.

Other notables include Jose Maria Olazabal, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, David Toms and defending champion Esteban Toledo.

▪ Honda Classic, Feb. 23-26, Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens: The Honda, once a so-so PGA Tour event that wandered from one South Florida course to another, has become in the past decade one of the top stops on the tour.

Nearly all the big names will be there.

Highlighting the field will be the world’s 321st-ranked golfer. That doesn’t sound too exciting, but the golfer’s name adds a little pizazz to the event. That name would be Tiger Woods, and fans would come out to watch him if he was ranked 5,000th in the world.

Woods, who has 79 PGA Tour victories and has won 14 majors, returned to competitive golf in December after a 15-month absence following back surgery.

“It’s great to see Tiger Woods back swinging a club and competing again,” Honda executive director Ken Kennerly said. “He has been a big part of the growth we have experienced.”

There’s no doubt Woods’ participation will enhance the crowd at Honda. When he first competed in the Honda in 2012, attendance jumped 45 percent to 161,700, and since then has climbed to a record 202,128 last year.

This year, Woods, 41, made his return to golf in the Hero World Challenge, finishing 15th in an 18-man event in early December.

“It felt great to compete again,” Woods said after that outing. “I missed playing. I made a lot of birdies, but I also made a lot of mistakes. Quite frankly, it felt weird not to play in a cart. Conditioning was not quite there, but it is coming.”

This past week, Woods competed in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego and missed the cut.

Also committed to play in the Honda is defending champion Adam Scott and this year’s hottest player, Justin Thomas.

Thomas, 23, already has two victories in 2017, the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, both staged in Hawaii.

At the Sony, Thomas became the youngest player in PGA Tour history to shoot a sub-60 round when he recorded a 59 on the first day. That also made him only the seventh player in PGA Tour history to shoot 59. He followed the 59 with rounds of 64, 65 and 65 for a 253 total. He set PGA Tour records for the lowest scores after 36 holes and 72 holes.

“I’m obviously playing great,” Thomas said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m playing OK. I mean, I’m playing really well now.”

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