It’s a month out from the Honda Classic (Feb. 25-28) and there’s no reason to believe that Tiger Woods, who hasn’t played since August, is even a remote possibility.
You know what that means. Time for this tournament, the major event on Palm Beach County’s annual sports calendar, to go after a new giant.
Sooner or later the Honda needs Jordan Spieth, No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings, to show up at PGA National. It won’t be easy. The guy’s been pretty busy, playing in Shanghai, Hawaii and Abu Dhabi of late. He’s at the Singapore Open right now, as a matter of fact. Also, unlike a lot of the other young stars of the PGA Tour, Spieth is not based in Palm Beach County so playing the Honda would be just one more long week on the road.
Still, the Honda staff is always shooting for aggressive, new goals. Nobody ever thought they’d get Tiger, but they did. Phil Mickelson was another longshot. He’s played here a couple of years in a row.
One day it will be Spieth, too, joining Rory McIlroy (already committed) and Rickie Fowler (assuming he’ll make the commute down from Jupiter again, too) and all the other young superstars of the game. PGA National’s Champion course, the kind that brings a great paycheck for anyone who can get under par, and the PGA National resort is a spectacular draw for the players’ families.
Surely Spieth, a two-time major champion at 22, has heard about all of this from his peers, and I’m guessing he would like to see if it’s true. What gets in the way is a schedule that’s sort of custom-fitted to include other Florida stops on tour, and a schedule that you’d have to figure would include five competitive weeks in a row if he were to play the Honda.
First of all, Spieth is the defending champion at the Valspar Championship north of St. Petersburg. That tournament is where the Texan first secured regular playing status on the PGA Tour, finishing tied for seventh in 2013 while playing on a sponsor’s exemption. Innisbrook has been good to Spieth, in other words, and it would be tough for him ever to skip the event, which comes two weeks after the Honda.
Also, there’s the Cadillac Championship at Doral, which falls the week after the Honda. Since that’s a World Golf Championships event, all the top players are basically required to attend.
How about the tournaments that immediately precede the Honda? That would be Pebble Beach and the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, two glamorous West Coast stops to which Spieth already is committed.
If there’s anything working in the Honda’s favor here, it’s that the WGC-Match Play tournament, a marathon event that often leaves its survivors longing for a little rest, has been moved to late March in Austin, Tex.
Doesn’t mean that Spieth will substitute the Honda for Innisbrook on his schedule this year, but one day he might.
As for Jason Day, another of golf’s young stars, we’ll have to wait and see about the Honda.
He last played at PGA National in 2008 and missed the cut. Then, in 2010, he withdrew before the tournament began, saying he was exhausted after playing six rounds in the space of four days to finish third at the Match Play in Arizona. Day has played Doral and Bay Hill and sometimes Innisbrook in recent years, but the Honda will eventually pull him in, too.
It’s just too good of an event to ignore, and too good of a field to resist.