The PGA Tour is in Palm Beach, Florida for the Honda Classic. World No. 1, Rory McIlroy is in the field and is the defending champion. Tiger Woods will also compete this week and shot the lowest round of his professional career last year with a stellar 62 on Sunday to finish just behind the winner.
Many top players reside in southern Florida. Old Palm, Medalist, and Palm Beach Gardens, to name just a few courses, offer the best facilities, as well as, warm weather to practice during the offseason and throughout the year.
Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are just some of the players that have residences in the Palm Beach area.
The west coast swing is over and the players will have to adjust to Bermuda grass on the fairways and greens in Florida. It is much different from the Kikuyu and Poa annua that the players have been playing on out west.
In Florida there is usually wind to contend with and since there is no real elevation changes course designers use water hazards to protect the golf courses from low scoring. Players whose swings are off just slightly will condemn their ball to a watery grave.
Nos. 15, 16 and 17 at PGA National the site of this week’s Honda Classic are collectively called the “Bear Trap”. They provide the hardest three-hole stretch the tour will face all year. In 2012 McIlroy became the only winner of the Honda Classic to play these three holes under par for the week.
From the Honda Classic the tour moves to Miami for the WGC-Cadillac at Doral. Justin Rose will defend and every one of the Top 50 golfers in the world has confirmed their invitations.
The tour then slides over to the Gulf Coast for the Tampa Bay Championship at Innisbrook where Luke Donald won last year.
Rounding out the “Florida Swing” is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. It is one of the most demanding golf courses that the players face all year and hosted by the King Arnold Palmer, it always draws a quality field.
Tiger Woods got his first win in over two years at the 2012 Palmer and then went on to win two more events last year.
The Tour heads out to Texas the last week in March for the Shell Houston Open and then to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open before heading back to Georgia.
The “Florida Swing” is also the prelude to the first major tournament of the year, the Masters. Tour players have Georgia on their minds and are looking to sharpen their games heading to Augusta National the second week of April.
For many golf fans covered in snow and cold in the northern sections of the United States, the “Florida Swing” signals the official start of the golf season.