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PGA Tour Preview: Florida Swing tees off with Honda Classic

hondaclassicPreview – PGA Tour — The Honda Classic – PGA National – Palm Beach Gardens, Florida –

After wrapping up the West Coast swing last week, the PGA Tour heads to the Sunshine State for the Florida Swing beginning with The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.

Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and a host of Top 25 players headline this week. Several international players are in the field this week as players gear up for the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship in March and the Masters in April.

The famed “Bear Trap” takes center stage at PGA National this week – site of the Honda Classic since 2007. Jack’s Bear Trap – holes 15, 16 and 17 – are expected to decide the champion. The Champions Course (Par 70, 7,110 yards) ranks among the most difficulty on tour each year with plenty of water hazards.

PGA National has crowned a solid list of international-born champions including McIlroy, Ernie Els, Rory Sabbatini, Camilo Villegas and Y.E. Yang. Americans Michael Thompson and Russell Henley won in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Several European Tour stars are competing this week including Branden Grace – now a Top 10 player in the Official World Golf Ranking – and Bernd Wiesberger.

Phil Mickelson, who leads the PGA Tour in Scoring Average and in Strokes Gained Total, returns to action after a near victory at Pebble Beach. He is riding three Top 11s in his last four starts.

2015 Results:

  • Padraig Harrington (6-under) snapped a seven-year winless draught to capture the title in a playoff over Daniel Berger (who shot 64 in the final round) in a
    Rory McIlroy current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption *** Rory McIlroy

    Rory McIlroy current official PGA TOUR headshot
    (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR) *** Local Caption *** Rory McIlroy

    weather-delayed week. Ian Poulter, the 54-hole leader, Paul Casey and Patrick Reed all had chances to win over the last round (Sunday and Monday). Casey, Poulter and Russell Knox logged T-3 finishes.

Golf Channel has Thursday and Friday coverage along with early weekend television before giving way to NBC Sports for network broadcast Saturday and Sunday.

FANTASY: Consider this a difficult week as big names often miss the cut here – last year Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel and Victor Dubuisson all missed the weekend. Consider Knox, who has back-to-back Top 3s here losing in a playoff to Rory in 2014 and missing the playoff by a shot last year. The course seems to fit his eye and game and he’s third on tour’s Money List. Take Mickelson with this form and Adam Scott, fresh off his run at Riviera. Scott has three runner-ups in his last six worldwide starts.

BETTORS: McIlroy (5 1/2-to-1) is the betting favorite at www.golfodds.com. He PGA TOURwon here in 2012 and was a runner-up in 2014. He is trending after a solid week in California at Riviera. This is a grinder layout, so consider Reed (20-1), who is 2nd in Scrambling and has four Top 10s this season. Take Knox (40-1), who ranks 1st in
Greens in Regulation on tour this year and 5th in Scrambling.

Other Golf News:

  • The LPGA Tour hosts the Honda LPGA Thailand this week. Amy Yang is the defending champion.
  • Louis Oosthuizen and Dubuisson headline the field at the European Tour’s eurotourlogoPerth International in Australia this week. Oosty is the betting favorite at 10-1. The field also includes Marcus Fraser coming off his victory last week at the Maybank Championship.
  • Bubba Watson jumped to No. 4 in the latest Official World Golf Rankings after his victory at the Northern Trust Open. It marked his 9th career PGA Tour title.
  • International-born players have captured six of the last eight editions of the Honda Classic.