PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Who hijacked the Champion Course?
Who snuck into PGA National earlier this week and changed the Champ out for the Plantation Course at Kapalua? Or Torrey Pines North?
Or, more importantly, who turned off the fans?
Everything has gone right to keep the scores low in the final year of the event known as the Honda Classic. The combination of clear skies and calm winds, the removal of several bunkers, and suddenly you have a scoreboard full of red numbers.
The final day will start with 57 golfers under par. A year ago, 15 finished under par.
What’s the opposite of the perfect storm? The perfect serenity? The perfect calmness?
Last year, the Champion Course was the seventh-toughest on the PGA Tour, playing to an average of 1.341 over par. This year, it’s been more than a stroke easier, which doesn’t sound like much but is a big deal.
Honda Classic: Photos | Sunday tee times
“Target practice,” is how leader Chris Kirk described the course after shooting a 62 Friday.
And once you hit that target … “The greens are a little more receptive this year, said Andrew Miller, a PGA Tour rules official and the Honda tournament referee who arrived about two weeks ago to help set up the course.
“They’re not as firm as what we started the week last year. It was pretty firm.”
Billy Horschel is playing his 11th Honda since it moved to PGA National. In his previous 10, he was a combined 28-over par, including missing the cut four times.
Horschel is 4 under entering the final day.
“The course is really receptive,” he said. “It’s not nearly as firm and as fast as it has been in the past. I think that’s sort of a conscious thing they have done.”
Certainly there is something to that. Before we get into the weather gods finally looking down favorably upon Honda, changes were made on the Champion Course to make this a bit more forgiving.
Changes to PGA National Champions Course helped scores
Bunkers were removed on Nos. 6, 10 and 16. The bunker to the left of the par-3 17th hole was cut in half.
The most significant change was to the 479-yard par-4 No. 6, the toughest hole on the course — and 15th-toughest out of 900 holes on the Tour in 2022 with an average of 0.378-over par.
This year, two of the bunkers on the right side of the fairway were removed. With water along the entire left, that’s a big deal.
And the best stat of week comes from No. 6.
Since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007, one eagle was…
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