The Honda Classic Preview, TV Times

Justin Thomas is defending champion at PGA National in Florida

Justin Thomas defends Honda Classic
Justin Thomas defends Honda Classic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Justin Thomas is defending champion in The Honda Classic at PGA National and will be up against a field including Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia.

The Honda Classic Preview, TV Times

12 of the top-30 on the FedEx Cup rankings are scheduled to tee it up in The Honda Classic this week at PGA National. Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler and defending champion Justin Thomas are among those on the start sheet.

With The Players Championship looming, a number of European players are entered this week in preparation. Sergio Garcia starts, so too Alex Noren, Martin Kaymer, Lucas Bjerregaard and Padraig Harrington, who is returning from injury.

This event began life as the Jackie Gleason Inverary Classic back in 1972 but it’s been sponsored by Honda since 1982 and has been contested at the PGA National Champion Course since 2007. Over the years, the event has been won by many of golf’s biggest names including – Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Kite, Nick Price and Vijay Singh. Last year, Justin Thomas knocked a wedge to within tap-in distance to force a playoff against Luke List and JT won it on the first extra hole.

Thomas will be looking to become only the second player ever to record back-to-back wins in this event. Jack Nicklaus is the only man to have achieved that feat, doing so in 1977-78.

1983: With Jack Nicklaus as captain, Watson played in every match and contributed 4 points to the US team's narrow winning total of 14.5.

The Champion Course at PGA National is one of the toughest on the PGA Tour circuit. Originally created by George and Tom Fazio, it was the venue for the 1983 Ryder Cup and the 1987 PGA Championship.

A feature of the course is the stretch from the 15th to the 17th. These holes have been dubbed “The Bear Trap” after course re-designer Jack Nicklaus. A par 3, then a par 4 and another par 3, each tee shot demands a supremely accurate shot to a very narrow landing area.

17th at PGA National

17th at PGA National

It looks like the weather should be reasonable through the tournament although storms in the build-up could lead to soft conditions.

Venue: PGA National (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Date: Feb 28 – Mar 3 Course stats: par 70, 7,125 yards Purse: $6,800,000 Defending champion: Justin Thomas (-8)

How to watch The Honda Classic

TV Coverage: Thursday 28 – Sky Sports Golf from 7pm (Featured Groups – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm) Friday 1 – Sky Sports Golf from 7pm (Featured Groups – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm) Saturday 2 – Sky Sports Golf from 6pm Sunday 3 – Sky Sports Golf from 6pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm

Not a Sky Sports customer and want to watch The Honda Classic?

BUY NOW: Now TV Sky Sports Pass – £8.99 for a day, £14.99 for a week or £33.99 for a month

Players to watch:

Rickie Fowler was the winner in 2017

Rickie Fowler was the winner in 2017

Rickie Fowler – The champion in 2017, Fowler won recently in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Gary Woodland – He hasn’t won this event, but he’s finished in the top-10 six times. He’s currently third on the FedEx Cup standings.

Daniel Berger – Making his comeback from injury, Berger finished runner-up in the Puerto Rico Open last week. He lost in a playoff with Padraig Harrington for this event in 2015.

Key hole: 17th. This is an extremely challenging par-3, the last hole of the “bear trap.” Water lurks right and the prevailing wind pushes balls in this direction. A bunker lurks long and to the left so this is a must-find green.

Skills required: Minimising mistakes. This is not a course that witnesses a huge number of birdies. The winner will play the percentages and grind out a score. Look for something around the 10-under par to win this one.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?