Honda Classic has improved course for an elite field of golfers

The Honda Classic has moved from an ordinary event to one of the best on the PGA Tour’s schedule.

The Honda has managed to lure the world’s best golfers, such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, to play in the tournament in recent years. And now that the field has been properly spruced up, organizers are doing the same to the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens as they prepare for the 2015 event.

There has been a complete regrassing of the fairways and tees. Celebration Bermuda has been used in much of the renovations.

“The grass is so dense that you won’t get a bad lie,” said Lukus Harvey, PGA National’s Director of Agronomy.

In addition, the 14th hole will receive a makeover, courtesy of Jack Nicklaus.

Nicklaus, who lives in Palm Beach, was riding the course and made an abrupt stop on the 14th fairway. That’s when he reshaped the hole in his mind, and eventually it will be reshaped for real. When Jack Nicklaus suggests something, you listen.

The green was moved 17 yards to the right toward the water to bring the hazard into play. Bunkers were added directly in front of and behind the green. The tee box was moved back to make the par-4 hole 465 yards.

“I honestly believe it will be more exciting, but I don’t believe it will be that much more difficult,” Nicklaus said.

The 14th leads into the infamous Bear Trap (holes 15, 16, 17), considered one of the toughest stretches on the PGA Tour.

All the course changes will be completed before the 2015 tournament, which runs Feb.26 through March1.

The Honda event received some additional good news this past week when it was named the “Most Fan Friendly” on the PGA Tour during the Tour’s annual meeting in La Quinta, Calif.

Some of the reasons include an art show on the course, kids under 15 being admitted for free and the addition of “Kids Boxes” at the 17th and 18th greens.

The first 1,500 kids receive a free giant golf ball for autograph collecting. In addition, there is free childcare.

“The various options we provide each year are enormous,” tournament director Ed McEnroe said.

Honda’s defending champion is Russell Henley.

Svensson honored

Barry University’s Barry Svensson, the 2014 DivisionII Player of the Year in 2014 who led the Bucs to the national championship, was named the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s 2014 Men’s Player of the Year.

Representing the Pacific Northwest is tough to figure, since Svensson — who contemplated turning pro this past summer but opted to return to Barry instead — is playing many of his matches in sunny Florida. The reason he qualified for the award is that he is from Surrey, British Columbia, in Canada.

This past summer, Svensson competed in the RBC Canadian Open, a PGA Tour event, on an amateur exemption. In addition, Svensson recently tied for fourth in the Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic in El Paso, shooting 70-71 — 141. The event included many of the top DivisionI players in the country.

That’s a fact, Jack

A Florida high school senior, LSU-bound Luis Gagne, plays for Orlando Christian Prep, and he closed out his high school regular season recently by shooting an 8-under-par 28 for nine holes .

To put that accomplishment in perspective, the PGA record for an entire round is 59.

And the round could have been a 27, as Gagne rolled a 25-foot putt on the final hole so, so close, only to have it just lip out.

Gagne made two eagles, four birdies and three pars on the par-36, 3,286-yard front nine at the North Shore Golf Club in Orlando.

“My putting really started to click,” Gagne said.

Then he added, “I really thought that I could make that final putt. … because the hole felt like a big bucket.”