Golf

Despite winter rains, PGA National course should be ready for Honda Classic

Rory McIlroy hits from the 16th tee during the second round of the Honda Classic on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Rory McIlroy hits from the 16th tee during the second round of the Honda Classic on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. AP

They used to be called, in simple terms, golf course superintendents or even head greenskeepers.

These days, in much fanicier terms, the title has been upgraded.

Brad Nelson is the director of Agronomy at PGA National Resort & Spa, making him the man in charge of having the Champions Course in pristine condition for the upcoming Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. And with the tournament running Feb. 25-28, that means he has eight days to make every blade of grass look like it has been cut in a barber shop.

A daunting task considering the course has been drenched with unexpected winter rain, including a front that pounded the area Monday night and into Tuesday morning, leaving it somewhat soggy.

Those drippy circumstances have turned Nelson, in his first year at PGA National after working at Trump National Doral in Miami, into a meteorologist, as well as an agronomist.

“This winter we have had 22 inches of rain in the past 10 weeks,” Nelson said a bit despondently. “It’s a little difficult to firm the course up and create those consistent PGA Tour conditions with that happening.”

However, all that wet weather was followed by good conditions until the Monday-Tuesday downpour caused by a front moving through South Florida.

“We had a nice eight-day stretch of dry weather that helped,” Nelson said.

And what will Mother Nature offer between now and the tournament and during the event? Nelson has been studiously looking at the forecasts. “Right now, it appears the weather will be good,” he said.

Ken Kennerly, the executive director and the man in charge of the tournament, is counting on that.

In the past decade, he has turned The Honda Classic from a routine PGA Tour stop to a highlight event for professional golf.

How was that done? By somehow getting golf’s biggest names to join the field — and this year is no exception.

Four of the top 10 players in the world will be competing — No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who won the 2012 Honda; No. 4 Rickie Fowler; No. 9 Patrick Reed and No. 10 Branden Grace. Also competing will be No. 12 Hideki Matsuyama, No. 15 Zach Johnson, No. 16 Brooks Koepka, No. 17 Kevin Kisner, No. 18 Sergio Garcia, No. 19 Adam Scott and No. 20 Phil Mickelson.

Padraig Harrington, the defending champion, and Daniel Berger, a local who grew up in Palm Beach and was last year’s runner-up as he lost to Harrington in a playoff, will assuredly have friends and family following his every shot.

With a field like that, Kennerly can say without exaggeration, “The best players in the world come here.”

This year’s event will be the 10th year the tournament has been held at PGA National.

“We continue to expand our footprint,” Kennerly said. “Every year it gets bigger and better, and we’ll continue to grow. It’s about putting on a championship-caliber golf event.”

For tickets to The Honda Classic, go to thehondaclassic.com, or call 844-846-6328.

Tickets to The Honda Classic can be obtained by going to thehondaclassic.com or by calling 844-846-6328.

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