It is that time of year again, the Florida Swing on the PGA Tour. A full field of players will attempt to conquer the “Bear Trap” at PGA National (Champion) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. This year’s edition boasts one of the strongest fields to date during the 2015 season with 16 of the World’s Top-25 teeing it up in Florida and World Number 1, Rory McIlroy making his 2015 US debut. It is a home course to many as a large number of players live within 90 minutes of the famed track.
Dates: February 26 – March 1 2015
Course: PGA National (Champion)
Stats: Par 70, 7,158 yards
Television Coverage (Times):
Thursday: Golf Channel 2:00 – 6:00 PM EST
Friday: Golf Channel 2:00 – 6:00 PM EST
Saturday: Golf Channel 3:00 – 5:00 PM EST, NBC 3:00 -6:00 PM EST
Sunday: Golf Channel 3:00 – 5:00 PM EST, NBC 3:00 – 6:00 PM EST
Purse: $6.1 million total purse, $1.098 million winner share
Over 160,000 spectators are expected to come watch the world’s best attempt to tame PGA National (Champion) this week including the ominous 15th, 16th and 17th holes known as the “Bear Trap.” This stretch of holes is where a player’s tournament hopes will live or die. This week’s edition of Swing Holes will focus on the “Bear Trap.” Since 2007, the “Bear Trap” has accounted for 18 percent of bogeys, 33 percent of the double-bogeys and 39 percent of the triple-bogeys. That is why I am focusing the Swing Holes here this week,
The Par-3, 179 yard 15th hole is where the “Bear Trap” begins and that is for good reason. Here players will find a hole that plays into the wind and is protected by bunkers to the left and water to the right. A fade is a must here if players hope to tame the 15th. The major challenge comes on Sunday when the pin will most likely be cut in the back-right making par a good score.
Welcome to the 16th and the hardest hole at PGA National. The middle of the “Bear Trap” plays as a dogleg right 434 yard, Par-4. Tee shots will all slope to the right and any miscue can meet with water. If a player is lucky and slides it right off the tee there is a bunker that can catch a ball before it meets the watery grave. For players that successfully navigate the tee shot they are left with a 200+ yard approach over the water and into the wind. Switching clubs will occur in the fairway as players hope to hit a challenging green. Four pars this week will make up at least two shots on the field.
The final hole of the “Bear Trap” is a Par-3 measuring 190 yards. The 17th is a challenge to say the least and is yet another hole designed to play into the wind (see a trend here). If players are fortunate enough to avoid wind in their faces they will face a cross wind that could make this hole even harder. The thought that should be in every professionals head on this tee should be just hit the green. Avoid the water to the right and the bunkers long and left, just make par and move on.
Honda Classic Top Picks
The strongest field of the year is in town and that makes things even more challenging when attempting to predict a 2015 Honda Classic winner. Predicting a winner in a full field golf tournament is like the proverbial needle in a haystack but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Let’s get to the predictions and picks for the 2015 Honda Classic.
|Rory McIlroy||The World No.1 is making his 2015 US debut this week and looks to avenge last year's result. He had the tournament until a double at 16 and bogey at 17 forced a playoff he lost. He did win here in 2012 and seven of his last nine rounds here have been in the 60s. He won his last start at the Dubai Desert Classic and has four runner-ups in his last six starts. It is his to lose.|
|Dustin Johnson||It looks like the self-imposed leave of absence was the right thing after all. Since returning, he knocked off the rust and then finished fourth at Pebble Beach and lost a playoff this last week. He does not have many starts here at the Honda Classic but he has the game to play well here. He is on form and keeps moving forward. Look for a big week out of Dustin,|
|Graeme McDowell||While he has not won this event, McDowell has showed a level of success at the Honda Classic with a tie for ninth in 2012 and 2013, and a tie for sixth in 2011. Clearly he has an affinity for PGA National and has proven, as a previous major champion, that there is no stage to big. The Honda Classic is right up his alley. Nine of his previous 16 rounds at PGA National has been at par or better including a final round 64 in 2011. He already has a third place finish on tour this year as well.|