The Honda Classic is one of the toughest tests of the year on the PGA Tour… it is most famous for holes 15-17, known as the Bear Trap (Jack Nicklaus is the course designer). As you can probably see by looking at these photos, it does not look like there is much room to hit it. Practically all you can see is water…
But to add on to the challenge, the greens were rock-hard, fast, and the wind blew strong every day. However, this style of play fit my game really well, and I worked hard to leave the ball in the correct spots to secure a par just about every hole.
This week I had a consistent pattern of playing my first few holes extremely well. I was under par early every day in a tournament where single-digits under par has won most years. I shot even par in my first round, which held up to t23rd place… and when I shot one-under par in the second round, I vaulted up to 15th place. I hit the ball nearly flawlessly in my first round, and the putter going going in the second for a brief period of time.
The third round, I again played very solidly and kept myself in position, but just couldn’t read the greens very well. They were a very fast, dormant Bermuda grass, and the gusting wind was making green reading very challenging. It felt like disaster was a possibility on every shot, with water and hazards everywhere tee to green, and treacherously fast greens. But I managed to hold it together for a one-over-par 71, and moved up to 14th place.
The final round again started off hot, 2 under par through four holes. However I kept missing fairways with my 3wood (two weeks later I would find out that its face had finally “caved” in after 6 years…), but managed with exceptional short game and a few lucky breaks to have 9 putts on the final 9 holes (even with a missed 6 footer for birdie on 18) and shot 1 under par.
One of my best pars of the week came on the 15th hole, with water right and wind gusting into off the right. I tried to hit a draw into the back left portion of the green, but the ball started dead left and went straight into the grandstands. It rattled off a railing, bumped into a fan, and stayed near her seat. After getting free relief to drop in the rough below the grandstand, I signed a glove and slipped in a $20 bill to get herself and her friends drinks- I hear it can help numb the bruising!! I chipped it to 20 feet and drained the par putt to keep the round going.
This round moved me up to t11 for my second- best tournament as a professional!
And while the acres of water around the golf course are what stick out most in my mind as the toughest hazard, the local wildlife made it even more of a place to be avoided…
My caddy Travis and I hopped in the car after the round and drove to Orlando to prepare for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill… and needless to say, I slept well after what felt like a major-championship test!
Looking forward to week two of the “Florida Swing”…