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New course and challenge for Honda Classic

At last week's Ford Championship at Doral, Bob Tway was asked if course knowledge was an advantage. This was a question posed to a man who in 19 starts at Doral Resort and Spa's Blue Monster has made 18 cuts and finished inside the top 10 three of the last seven years.

So, clearly, the answer was yes. Indeed, there is some validity to Tway's answer, which was that course knowledge may help the veterans even more in these days when the young and the restless are poised to dominate the PGA Tour. And course knowledge may help explain why of the year's first 10 events, Tiger Woods is the only winner younger than 32 years old.

All that being said, the PGA Tour's Honda Classic heads to the Country Club at Mirasol Gardens' Arthur Hills-designed Sunset Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a new venue that may level the playing field -- at least on paper. The 7,192-yard course plays to par 72 and a closer inspection of the course will reveal that accuracy will be at a premium.

So that is the starting point for this week, since previous winners can essentially be tossed aside. Unless you want to consider Mark Calcavecchia, a two-time winner of this event who has logged quite a few casual rounds at Mirasol.

By the numbers, though, there is nothing to suggest Calcavecchia, who has battled some health issues in recent weeks, will have a breakout week. He ranks 70th in driving accuracy (64.4 percent) and 54th in greens in regulation (69 percent). He is, however, 30th in putts per round (28.12) and 26th in scoring average (69.53).

Should Calcavecchia win, it would mark the third different course on which he had won the Honda, having previously won in 1987 at the TPC of Eagle Trace and in 1998 at the TPC at Heron Bay.

There also is something about Florida boys winning Florida tourneys. Twelve of the previous 14 Ford Championship winners had Florida ties, and this week eight of the last nine have similar bonds.

Keeping on that similar plain of logic, John Huston has to be considered a threat to win. He is second only to Tiger Woods in victories in Florida. Woods has six, Huston has five. Huston ranks 32nd in driving accuracy and 24th in greens in regulation, but also fourth in scoring average (68.35).

The field features nine of the top 25 players in the world (Vijay Singh withdrew earlier in the week), the leader of the pack being Davis Love III, who has won already this year and may be poised to become the fourth two-time winner of this young season. Love is fourth in the Tour's all-around ranking, which encompasses everything from driving accuracy to sand save percentage.

The Sunset Course features small greens, which should help the players who reach greens in regulation. Bob Estes is second only to Singh on Tour in the GIR stat, hitting 77.3 percent. Jim Furyk is also in the field, and he ranks sixth on Tour in this stat, which might bode well given that Mirasol has small greens and Furyk ranks 130th in putts per round.

 

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