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Getting tickets to a major will be gold dust this year – so why not consider the next best thing?

Getting tickets to a major will be gold dust this year – so why not consider the next best thing?

With the Masters notoriously difficult to attend and the 150th Open behind a ballot, why not treat yourself to a “regular” tour event? Dove Jones went to the Honda Classic to get the full fan experience

 

It was quite a week at the Honda Classic – on and off the golf course. 

Before a ball was struck there was the mandatory meeting regarding the Saudi Golf League and Alan Shipnuck’s startling Phil Mickelson revelation.

The area’s top resident golfers – 2012 champion Rory McIlroy, 2018 champion Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Cantlay – gave the PGA Tour’s longest-running title sponsor of 41 years, as well as the community, a slap by skipping it. (They managed to tee up in the “best field in golf” at the Seminole Member-Pro the following Monday.)

honda classic 2022

But there was still a strong contingent of stars from around the globe with the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood leading the pack. And while World No. 1 Rahm and co weren’t in the field, he and other golf heavyweights could be seen out and about dining in the area over the weekend.

The awards were out, too. Governor Ron DeSantis honoured Barbara Nicklaus with Florida’s Medal of Freedom – the State’s highest award – for her charitable contributions through the tournament, while the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation honoured her with a presentation. Elsewhere the Tim Rosaforte Distinguished Writers’ Award went to his long-time friend and decorated golf scribe, Larry Dorman. Rosaforte, a Jupiter resident, was a fixture on the Golf Channel as golf’s ‘Insider’ until his untimely death from Alzheimer’s complications in January.

The Goslings Bear Trap structure between the 16th green and the 17th tee was expanded to two stories and a capacity of 5,500. It may be smaller than the infamous structure at TPC of Scottsdale, but it’s just as much fun without the pelleting beer cans. While it requires paid admission, Honda is unique in how many key-viewing structures it supplies open to the public.

Before the PGA of America officially moves to its new HQ in April, they announced on Monday that Zach Johnson will be the 2023 USA Ryder Cup Captain.

And of course, the tournament itself, with a crazy unexpected Hollywood-style ending that was crushing for two pros and life-changing for the eventual winner. Local fan favorite, Daniel Berger, was six shots ahead going into the 18th on Saturday, when he bogeyed and dropped a shot.  He started the final round five shots clear but with a double bogey at the third and another dropped shot at the fifth he soon was chasing playing partner Lowry and trailed him by two shots coming through The Bear Trap.  Meanwhile up ahead, young pro, Sepp Straka, was birding three of his final five to go one ahead of Lowry after he finished.

In case you weren’t watching the weather had been perfect all week, hardly a cloud in the sky, low humidity, temperatures in the low 80s and high 70s – until the final group was on the 17th hole and the rain started. Straka’s group was lucky to get their tee shots off on 18 before the heavens completely opened up by the time Lowry and Berger took the 18th tee. Needless to say, with Straka making his birdie on 18 Lowry needed the same to force a play-off.  With no lightning in the air, the players had to play on and in a torrential downpour, Lowry’s tee shot landed where going for the green in two wasn’t a prudent option. He finished with a par, while Berger hit the water on his valiant approach and the PGA TOUR had their first Austrian winner. With a very southern mother from Valdosta, GA, Sepp is as American as he is Austrian, and extremely proud of his dual heritage as he is to be the 14th Georgia BullDAWG to hoist a trophy on TOUR.  One of the best visuals of the week was former teammate and past Honda champion (2019), Keith Mitchell, waiting for Straka to finish in the pouring rain.

I had the chance to meet Sepp and his lovely, dripping-wet wife, Paige, at the hastily moved awards ceremony inside out of the rain.  She had celebrated her father’s 60th birthday the night before flown up early Sunday morning and was planning on going back to Alabama right after the tournament in time for work on Monday. What a difference a day makes, the 1.44 million dollar check is wonderful to a young couple, but what winning also comes with – a spot in the Masters and the Tournament of Champions and guaranteed membership on Tour for two full years – is what’s life-changing.  She may have made work on Tuesday but as she sat next to me she was texting her boss to say she was sorry but definitely wouldn’t be there in the morning.

honda classic 2022

While attending The Masters is a once-in-a-lifetime goal for many golfers, attending a PGA TOUR event like the HONDA Classic won’t totally break the bank and is a FANtastic experience.

Ken Kennerly, the Tournament Executive Director, always had the vision to make this a true community and fan experience, with the ultimate recipient charity – especially children’s charities. To date, they have raised over $60 million for overall charities and over $ 5.1 million to children’s charities.

To that end, he and his Team have designed programs and experiences around and during the event for golfers and non-golfers alike, families and women and many benefiting charities. There are spectacular firework displays on Friday and Saturday, concerts after play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Women’s Leadership Forum on Tuesday (attended by over 300 women this year), Military Appreciation Day on Thursday, junior clinics, the Els for Autism Clinic, the Nicklaus Neighborhood for families, Kid’s Zone and an Autograph Zone to name a few.

There are amble grandstands and wonderful viewing opportunities throughout the course including the Bear Trap (holes 15-17), the ninth and 18th greens, and the first tee.

The resort has recently changed ownership and the new owners are committed to hosting the tournament, in its 51st year in 2023, but also to providing world-class golf staying and playing experience to visitors year-round.

honda classic 2022

A former host to the Ryder Cup, the Senior PGA Championship and the PGA Championship, besides the Champion Course there is The Palmer, The Fazio, The Estate, The Match (focusing on the ‘Match Play’ format) and The Staple, a fun 9-hole Par 3 course. If your game needs a tune-up there is the David Ledbetter Golf Academy, the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School and Full Process Golf. You can hit balls to your heart’s content on one of the three practice facilities with over 150 stations for long- and short-game tune-ups and a state-of-the-art TOUR-level club fitting facility.

Non-golfers will be equally spoiled in the 40,000 square foot spa, lounging by the family-friendly ‘zero-entry’ pool overlooking the lake or enjoying dining in the six new culinary experiences.

honda classic 2022

Off-site you are only about 5 miles from the beach and any water sports activity you desire. As home to many PGA TOUR and Champion Tour players there is world-class dining throughout the area and Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue storied shopping only is a half-hour drive away.

Best of all, it’s south Florida so chances are good you’ll find great weather to go along with your great golf so if you want to combine a great holiday with championship golf – both playing and watching ­– head to next year’s Honda Classic, February 20-26, 2023.

We visited the Honda Classic 2022! Let us know what you thought on X/Twitter!

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