Florida Swing kicks off with The Honda Classic

Adam Scott is defending champion at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens

Adam Scott defends The Honda Classic
Adam Scott defends The Honda Classic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour’s Florida Swing gets underway this week with The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. Adam Scott is the defending champion.

Adam Scott defends his title at The Honda Classic this week as the PGA Tour's Florida Swing gets underway. The Australian outlasted Spain’s Sergio Garcia last season to win by a single shot. It was Scott’s first victory since moving to the short putter and he went on to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship the following week.

Both Scott and Garcia are in the field again this week. Although, if history is anything to go by, the Australian may have his work cut out to defend. Nobody has retained the trophy since Jack Nicklaus managed the feat in 1978.

A number of European players will start in Palm Beach Gardens. Masters champion Danny Willett plays, as do his fellow Englishmen Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrell Hatton plus Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.

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.

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.

The weather forecast is relatively poor. Wind and rain could be a factor but it could also be quite warm with temperatures in the mid 80s.

Venue: PGA National (Champion), Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Date: Feb 23-26 Course stats: par 70, 7,140 yards Purse: $6,400,000 Winner: $1,152,000 Defending Champion: Adam Scott (-9)

TV Coverage: Thursday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Friday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Saturday 25 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Sunday 26 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm

Player watch: Look out for some European success this week -

Sergio Garcia – He was runner-up to Adam Scott last season and he won three weeks ago in Dubai.

Thomas Pieters – Great finish last week in the Genesis Open, the Belgian will be looking to secure his PGA Tour card with another strong showing this week.

Russell Knox – The Scot has a great record in this event. He was second in his first appearance in 2014 and was tied third the following year. He’s enjoyed a number of top-10 results so far this season.

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 between six and ten 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?