Feb 19, 2014; Marana, AZ, USA; Rory McIlroy reacts after hitting his shot from the desert during the Accenture Match Play Championship. McIlroy returns to the Honda Classic Thursday after withdrawing last year. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

PGA TOUR: Storylines for the Honda Classic

After a thrilling Match Play event which saw Jason Day win in extra holes over French sensation Victor Dubuisson, the TOUR moves on to start the Florida swing at the Honda Classic. Last year’s event saw Michael Thompson pick up his first professional victory, but the real story was the first glimpse into just how bad things had become for Rory McIlroy. The Honda Classic is often the first real full field event of the year as many of the Florida based professionals return from offseason layoffs and get their games in shape for the Masters.

Rory Returns

Let’s be honest with ourselves here; one year ago, Rory McIlroy threw a tantrum on this golf course. It was nothing more than a frustrated child reacting with emotion when he didn’t get his way. I don’t blame Rory, or think less of him, but it was a despicable meltdown from an otherwise admirable young star. He blamed an aching tooth, but really it was an aching ego…and we all saw it and felt it. Every adult has dealt with some sort of adversity, and most of us can recall throwing our hands up like Rory did. The real story is how he’s bounced back since.  Rory has a win couple of Top 10’s on his resume already in this wrap around season. He took down Adam Scott on home soil at the Australian Open, and because of the maturity and perseverance he’s demonstrated, he’s my pick to win this week on a course that he dominated en route to a victory.

The Bear Trap puts the clamps on Dove Mountain

The Honda Classic usually marks the return of the worlds top players to the TOUR, but the real star this week is The Bear Trap. The 3 hole stretch (15, 16 and 17), which, in terms of difficulty is matched only by Amen Corner and the final 3 holes at Sawgrass is one of the great bits of theater in golf.  In contrast to last weeks host Dove Mountain, the Bear Trap doesn’t have to manufacture drama. It’s 3 fantastic examples of tough but fair golf holes that require mental and physical stamina in order to claim victory.

Tiger gives it a go

Tiger Woods has appeared in one TOUR event this year, mustering up a lazy 80th place MDF at Torrey Pines. It seems like ages since Tiger Woods broke out of his post scandal funk by winning 5 times (it’s actually been 13 months). But such is the life of the world’s most dominant athlete. Tiger doesn’t have much of a history at this Tournament, usually opting to skip this between his annual appearances at the Match Play and Arnie’s event at Bay Hill. But in his two recent appearances, he’s been Jekyll and Hyde. In 2012 he came in shaky after a couple of top mediocre top 25’s and proceeded to play second fiddle as Rory was coronated at the new world #1 after his win.  In 2013 Tiger came out swinging with a win in his first event at the Farmers, but managed a “meh” T-37 at the Honda Classic. It’s unclear which Tiger we’re going to get this week, but no PGA TOUR stop is complete without a healthy dose of Tiger speculation.

The Honda Classic tees of Thursday morning and can be seen live on Golf Channel Thursday/Friday 2pm-6pm EST and on NBC Saturday/Sunday 3pm-6pm EST.

Tags: Honda Classic Pga Tour Rory McIlroy Tiger Woods

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