x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Honda Classic’s rise owes much to its location

Tournament conveniently located in back yard of several big-name players

Rory Mcllroy playing out of a bunker during the final round of Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on February 2, 2014. Pawan Singh / The National
Rory Mcllroy playing out of a bunker during the final round of Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on February 2, 2014. Pawan Singh / The National

One of golf’s oldest truisms is often uttered whenever a player earns dividends he might not have deserved.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. In reality, it is far better to be both.

The Honda Classic defines the latter. After decades as the weakest link of the month-long Florida swing on the PGA Tour, the tournament has morphed into one of the cannot-miss events of the season.

Played at a series of forgettable venues across South Florida over the years, the tournament has found a home at PGA National, a serviceable resort track that was redesigned by long-time Palm Beach resident Jack Nicklaus, who also serves as the de facto host this week.

Ah, star power and geography. Sure, having a loyal sponsor and an agreeable venue help, but it is the easy proximity of several top stars that has boosted the field’s marquee value.

This week, seven of the top nine players in the world ranking are entered in the field, led by new area residents Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

Both relocated to the Palm Beach area in the past three years, where the likes of Lee Westwood and major winners Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Keegan Bradley and Louis Oosthuizen have also set up shop. Others, such as former world No 1 Luke Donald, have lived there for years.

In other words, as far as player presence goes, Honda is almost as hot as the area’s high-end real-estate market.

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