(Long Island, NY) A picturesque Florida golf course. Sunny skies overlooking the green grass. The competitors all looking to take home the hardware. On March 1st, the Honda Classic began at the Jack Niklaus-renovated Champion Course at PGA National. The tournament served as the opener of the PGA TOUR’s Florida swing.
The Golden Bear has modified the course to make it just short of a major, with tight fairways and a thick rough. Speculation was that with such a tough course, the winner may be close to even par. The course is a 7,048-yard, par-70 and its main challenge is off the tees.
The $990,000 winner’s check attracted some notables, such as Jim Furyk, who is ranked right behind Tiger Woods worldwide. Another top-10 name that competed was defending champion Luke Donald, who has missed cuts at Pebble Beach and the Nissan Open in February. It was the first time in four years that he has missed back-to-back weekends in PGA TOUR events.
The first round was played in expected windy conditions and ended with Charlie Wi leading the way with 5-under 65. Donald was tied for 118th after he shot 77. The most unique story on the day was John Daly suffering an rib injury attempting to stop his swing when he heard a spectator snapping a photograph of him.
Mark Wilson led for the first time in his PGA TOUR career with a 6-under on Saturday and Boo Weekley was one shot behind heading into the final round. Donald remained at 6 over at the end of the day.
Sunday was supposed to be the last day, but an extended round was halted due to darkness after one playoff hole. Wilson, Weekley, Jose Coceres and Camilo Villegas picked up where they left off the following morning.
The four-way shootout continued with Weekley and Villegas being eliminated with bogeys on the second hole, the par-4 10th. That left Wilson and Coceres. On the third playoff hole, Wilson birdied and Coceres’ 8-foot putt hit the lip and rolled away. Wilson earned his first PGA Tour victory in 111 starts with a 5-under 71, becoming the 10th first-time winner in Honda Classic history, and the fourth in the last seven years.
“I’m just thrilled,” Wilson said to reporters. “I’m just tickled to death.”
Furyk finished tied for 31st place and Donald tied for 46th.
Some notables include: this was the sixth time the Honda has gone to a playoff; the PGA Tour’s first four-man playoff since 2004; and the first unscheduled Monday finish since the 2005 PGA Championship.