Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington are both set to tee it up at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach, Florida this week.
It was here last year that an inopportune deluge of rain fell as Lowry stood on the 18th tee with a share of the lead, removing any real opportunity of reaching the closing par 5 in two, something that Sepp Straka in the group ahead had been able to do, and the Austrian would make birdie to Lowry’s par and capture his first PGA Tour victory.
“Yeah, that’s the game unfortunately,” Lowry told the waiting press afterwards. “I played the golf, good enough golf I felt to win the tournament. That bad weather came in just as we were hitting our tee shot on 18, which was as bad a break as I’ve got in a while.
“Yeah, it’s a tough one to take. There is obviously a lot of positives to take from the whole event. You know, probably played some of best golf my whole career this week I feel around a very tough golf course.”
Playing alongside Daniel Berger in the final group, Lowry trailed the American by five strokes going into the final day, but courtesy of a strong start and Berger slipping, the 2019 Open Champion had drawn level through six holes and played really consistently throughout, only for Straka to play the closing five holes in three-under.
“I talk to my coach a lot about this, when we’re in these situations,” Lowry said. “You know, I was ready for it. I was ready for him to get off to a bad start if that was the case, or if I got off to a good start, there was no way I was changing my game plan.
“So, yeah, I just kept at it, kept at it, and before I knew was leading the tournament. It was great fun out there. It’s a great event. I had an absolute blast obviously until the last couple holes. Very disappointing.
“So hard to win out here. You get that chance and you don’t take it, it’s hard to take.”
It was also here that Harrington turned back the clock to win the 2015 staging what remains his last PGA Tour victory and was his first since winning the 2008 PGA Championship. The three-time major winner also captured his first PGA Tour win at the event in 2005, then held at the nearby Mirasol Country Club.
It was also here that Rory McIlroy held off a final-round charge by Tiger Woods in 2012 to take the title, and with it, ascend to world number one for the first time in his career.
The Champion course at PGA National is a beast, typically one of the hardest courses on the regular PGA circuit, and features the iconic ‘Bear Trap’ – the difficult three-hole stretch encompassing the par-3 15th, par-4 16th, and par-3 17th holes – in honour of ‘The Golden Bear’ himself Jack Nicklaus who redesigned the course in 2014.
In his 2015 victory, Harrington found the water on the 17th, leading to a double-bogey five, but would birdie the last to make it into a playoff with Berger, then a PGA Tour rookie. When playing the 17th again in the playoff, Harrington banished any lingering ghosts by sticking his approach to three feet to seal his sixth career PGA Tour win.
Coming hot on the heels of two ‘Designated’ PGA Tour events, the field at the Honda Classic suffered – as it has in recent years – and title sponsor Honda announced late last year that this would be the last time that the tournament would carry the ‘Honda Classic’ tag.
In addition to Lowry, Harrington and defending champion Straka, Sungjae Im and Billy Horschel, world numbers 18 and 19 respectively, are in the field, as are major champions Webb Simpson, Danny Willett, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner and Jimmy Walker, along with former world number one Luke Donald.
Lowry will play alongside Simpson and Ryan Palmer in the opening two rounds, scheduled for a 7:34 AM (12:34 PM Irish time) on Thursday, while Harrington will play in a Ryder Cup captain’s grouping that features 2021 European Captain Harrington, and current European and United States captains Donald and Johnson. They are due to tee off at 12:18 PM (17:18 PM Irish time) on Thursday.
Lowry’s group will be the marquee group on PGA Tour Live’s Featured Group coverage for Thursday’s opening round while Harrington’s group will be featured in the main television broadcast on Thursday evening, and on Friday, the Harrington group will be among the additional groups covered on PGA Tour Live, while Lowry will again be in the marquee group for the main broadcast.