The Honda Classic: Not the Sick Man of the Florida Swing Any Longer

Rob FergusonContributor IMarch 2, 2009

It used to be the case that the Honda Classic was the week that all the stars skipped. For years, despite a reasonable purse, it was given a pass by many of the top players who wanted a break between the Accenture Match Play, and the CA Championship.

However, in 2007 the tournament moved to the Champion course at PGA National in an attempt to improve the attractiveness of the tournament to the game's top names. It appears to have worked.

The PGA Tour has attempted to improve the attractiveness of these weeks with the FedEx Cup tournament, however it has not been overly successful. The field this week at the Honda though, looks very strong.

The field includes Justin Rose, J.B. Holmes, fan-favorite Boo Weekley, defending-champion Ernie Els, Robert Allenby, last week's semifinalist Stewart Cink, and many more.

Also present will be 19-year-old Rory McIlroy, who earned many fans in a gutsy performance at the Accenture Match Play Championship last week. It will be interesting to see how the 19-year-old follows up his strong week.

Taking a middle-tier tournament to the strongest course possible is a lesson that the RCGA has learned for the Canadian Open. They feel that the best way to attract the strongest field, despite a lousy spot on the schedule, is with an excellent golf course.

This year's competition is at the controversial Glen Abbey again, but expect a very strong field next year when it moves to the venerable St. George's in downtown Toronto.

The Honda Classic is a wide-open tournament and will be back to normal for the PGA Tour after the craziness of the match-play event last week, coupled with the return of Tiger.

PGA National is one of the strongest courses in Florida, and can be very challenging, even for these top players. Do not expect the winning score to be any lower than minus-10.

Ernie looked good last week, but his game is still a work in progress. Therefore, I would not pick him to defend. My pick for the week is Cink, but what do I know?