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Len Ziehm On Golf

TRAVEL NOTEBOOK: PGA events make Florida the place to be for golfers

PGA National’s Jack Nicklaus-designed Champion course — home of the fearsome Bear Trap series of holes — was the scene of Keith Mitchell’s surprise victory in 2019. He out dueled established stars Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler then. This week Mitchell defends his title.


If you want to see the PGA Tour live there’s only one place to go – at least for a while. That’s Florida.

After spending the first two months of the year bouncing around between Hawaii, California, Arizona and Mexico the circuit will be in Florida for four consecutive weeks. The season heats up now on tougher courses than the circuit had been playing on.

Only four PGA Tour events had 36-hole cuts over par in 2019, three were in Florida and the toughest of them all was the opening event of the Florida Swing. The Honda Classic, which tees off on Thursday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, had the highest cut number in relation to par – 2-over.

The Honda field again be without Tiger Woods (who lives in the area) and Rory McIlroy. The field, however, will include winners of three of last year’s majors – Brooks Koepka (PGA), Gary Woodland (U.S. Open) and Shane Lowry (British Open) – as well as Rickie Fowler. Koepka and Fowler tied for second last year behind surprise winner Keith Mitchell.

Competition resumes up the following week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, in Orlando. Competition rounds there are March 5-8 with Francesco Molinari the defending champion.

Best field of the month will be at The Players Championship March12-15 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, when McIlroy tries for a repeat title, and the Valspar Championship ends the Florida swing from March 19-22 at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbour. Paul Casey will go for a three-peat in that one. The 2019 cut fell at 1-over at both Bay Hill and Innisbrook.

When the last putt drops at the Valspar the golf focus turns to the Masters. The year’s first major will be played three weeks later.

The Fox Club, a course designed by Roy Case and renovated by Darren Clark in Palm City, FL., is a public facility now. Its dogleg left par-5 finishing hole is one that’s hard to forget.


Playing around the Honda

PGA National has a variety of stay-and-play packages available during the Honda Classic.

“It has become one of the most anticipated PGA Tour stops for players, fans and resort guests each year, said Jeffrey Mayers, managing director of the resort. “We’re thrilled to provide our guests with premier access to watching the best players in the world compete as well as an outstanding array of golf and resort amenities. It’ll make for a fun-packed week to long remember.’’

There’s more golf not far away, with the PGA Golf Club – winter home of the PGA of America – less than an hour to the north. Palm City is located between the two PGA destinations, and it offers something different from past years at two of its facilities.

The Fox Club, a long-time private club in Palm City that was once known as Cobblestone, became a public venue last fall and the Evergreen Club underwent an ownership change and total makeover. It’s now called Crane’s Watch.

Resurfacing the putting green is one of the updates in progress at just re-opened Crane Watch, formerly the Evergreen Club. A new short game area is being built on the other side of the clubhouse.

Here and there

The North & South Bar has opened in Pinehurst, N.C. That completes a nearly year-long renovation of The Manor. It’s the youngest hotel in Pinehurst – at a mere 97 years old.

Two Mississippi courses that we’ve visited more than once — Old Waverly and Mossy Oak – will be offering stay-and-play opportunities beginning on March 17.

Tickets are now on sale for the 26th annual Hootie & The Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It’ll be played for the 18th consecutive year at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club on April 11.