This Week in Golf — The Honda Classic

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, February 28th, 2015


The Honda Classic
Feb. 26 – March 1, 2015
PGA National Resort and Spa
Palm Beach, Florida
Defendng Champion – Russell Henley

McIlroy wants to be golf’s superstar

World No. 1 says he would be wasting
his time if he didn’t want to be ‘that guy’
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rory McIlroy arrives at this week’s Honda Classic for his 2014-15 PGA TOUR season debut at No. 1 in the world and ready to be the new face of golf.
Given the game’s current landscape it’s difficult to argue that he isn’t already.
Tiger Woods is still out, working on his game at home after withdrawing at Torrey Pines earlier this month. Even when he was playing, he wasn’t playing well.
Every decade or so there’s a new star for the game to hang its hat on — from Arnold Palmer to Jack Nicklaus, from Greg Norman to Woods, from Woods to McIlroy. It’s a position McIlroy says he is comfortable with.
“Yes,” he said. “Because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I would be wasting my time if I was out there practicing as much as I do and putting as much into it if I didn’t want to be in this position, and wasting the people’s time around me, as well, that helped me get to this point. “Of course I want to be that guy.”
McIlroy is already off to a good start.
After winning the final two majors of 2014 (and his first World Golf Championships title), McIlroy picked up in 2015 pretty much where he left off. He won last month in Dubai and finished second the week before in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m in a great position and I feel like I handle the position I’m in a lot better than I did a couple of years ago,” he said. “I’ve got more experience at it. I’ve spent well over a year of my career at world No. 1, so I’m pretty used to it by now.”
That wasn’t always the case. At 25 years old, it is something that McIlroy has had to grow into. The road hasn’t been without its bumps.
On the course, he struggled to adjust to new equipment after signing a blockbuster deal with Nike at the end of 2011. Off it, there were high-profile breakups with former fiancée Caroline Wozniacki and his management company, the latter of which left him embroiled in a lawsuit until earlier this year when the two sides agreed to settle out of court.
McIlroy’s history at The Honda Classic has been filled with plenty of drama, too.
In 2012, he was six holes from winning the tournament when he heard a roar that he knew was for Tiger Woods, who was playing ahead of him and got within one of his lead after a birdie-eagle to shoot 62.
McIlroy responded by making an 8-footer for birdie on 13 before getting up-and-down for par on the next three holes, including twice from the bunker, on his way to a 69 and a two-shot win to become No. 1 in the world for the first time.
A year later, on the heels of the equipment change, erratic play and a ballooning score, McIlroy quit midway through his second round at PGA National, walking off the course at the turn and later citing a toothache. A week later, he realized the error of his ways and publicly apologized.
Then there was last year’s Honda Classic.
Coming off the worst season of his career the year before and having blown a two-stroke lead on the final day and in need of a birdie on the par-5 18th to force a playoff, McIlroy smoked a 5-wood from 236 yards over water that fell from the sky and settled 12 feet from the hole. He missed the eagle putt and went on to lose in sudden death, but the ability to execute the difficult shot when he had to gave him a boost of confidence that would set the stage for a spectacular season.
McIlroy won three times on the PGA TOUR and once in Europe and was named Player of the Year on both tours. He had a dozen top-10 finishes in 17 starts on TOUR and never finished outside the top 25.
He ended 2014 third in the FedExCup, led the TOUR in money with more than $8.2 million in earnings and was the winner of the Byron Nelson Award for adjusted scoring average (68.83).
His motivation for this season is to keep the momentum going and be even more consistent. In his last 12 worldwide starts he has finished first or second eight times.
“I said it last year, golf is waiting for someone like that to step forward, put their hand up and win the big tournaments,” McIlroy said. “This is the position I want to be in and I want to be in it as long as I can.
“I really haven’t felt as settled since coming in here, 2011, 2012, I guess. I feel like everything that’s happened at the start of this year, it’s sort of like a clear road ahead.”
Mickelson hopes to improve
putting at Honda

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Phil Mickelson said his putting wasn’t a concern during the offseason. How quickly things can change.
Mickelson, who started the season with a 24th-place finish at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, arrives in Florida after missing his past two cuts, in large part because of poor putting.
“I putted great in the offseason, but started the season terrible,” said Mickelson, who missed the cut at last year’s The Honda Classic. “I don’t know when it’s all going to come together, but I feel like starting the year, I felt ready and was able to work on my game and practice uninhibited. I feel like I put in the time so hopefully the scores will start to reflect that. I don’t know when that will happen, but hopefully soon.”
Mickelson hasn’t played since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. He passed on two tournaments where he is a past champion, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Northern Trust Open, because of his kids’ spring break.
“I can putt as great as possible back home, but until you come out on Thursday … it won’t matter,” Mickelson said. “It’s the one area that I was not overly concerned with in the offseason. It was just the one area that let me down the first couple of weeks, but it’s a long season.”
The California native will try to find his form on the greens on the grainier Bermudagrass greens of Florida.
“The challenge for me on Bermuda greens is just seeing the right breaks, reading the greens properly, because you have another factor, … the grain,” Mickelson said. “Getting both of those combined together and reading the greens properly, that will be the challenge. But it’s a fun challenge.”
Mickelson is still seeking his first victory since he claimed his first Open Championship in 2013. He had just one top-10 finish in 21 starts last season, a runner-up at the PGA Championship and missed the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time in the FedExCup era.


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