The Honda Classic took on the persona of a major championship on Sunday afternoon, and provided fans with some great golf in the first week of March. Huge crowds lining the narrow fairways, tough pin placements and a four man playoff. The first stop on the Florida Swing couldn’t have been much better. The PGA National Country Club & Spa asked no quarter on Sunday afternoon, and it gave none.
Russell Henley won the second tournament of his young career when he made the only birdie on the first extra hole of a four-man playoff that included a former World’s number one player, and the 2012 Honda Classic champ, Rory McIlroy. McIlroy had led this tournament since firing an opening round 63 on Thursday, and held a share, or sole possession of the lead until the 16th hole on Sunday.
“This is not exactly what I was expecting at the start of the week,” said Henley, who picked up 500 FedExCup points with the win to move to 16th in the standings. “(But I) played really well (in the second round) at Riviera and almost made the cut. I went from almost last to having a putt on the last hole to make the cut. For some reason that gave me a lot of confidence going into this week. That’s really all it takes I think.”
Trailing by one shot coming to the par five 18th hole, Rory McIlroy hit one of the best shots I’ve ever seen. The 24 year-old McIlroy pounded a perfect 3 wood from the middle of the fairway that had just the perfect cut, and came up within 8 feet for eagle. The putt just skirted the hole, but would not drop.
The final round scores and the difficulty of the golf course at The Honda Classic looked a whole lot like those of a US Open. Ryan Palmer was the only one making the playoff who was under par for the final round. Palmer shot a -1 under 69 with Russell Knox shooting 71, Rory McIlroy 74, and Russell Henley at 72. Three of the four were over par on the par 70 layout.
The Bear Trap was a serious factor in determining the results on Sunday, but the hole that was the catalyst was 18. The pin placement on the 18th hole was brutal.
What a great finish! If the Honda Classic is any indication of what we are going to see in the next couple of weeks, I can’t wait. The WGC-Cadillac Championship gets underway on Thursday at the newly redesigned Doral. The world-class field that is expected, will see a completely new course where the greens, bunkers, and water hazards all will have a new look. It’s only going to get better.
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