PGA Tour Season Off to Sizzling Start
They say that golf season doesn't really start until the Masters. This year, they're wrong, whoever they are.
A stunning flurry of early-season PGA Tour action reached a crescendo at the Honda Classic, where new world No. 1 Rory McIlroy fended off an epic charge from Tiger Woods to win a tournament that boasts the cachet of the greatest player of them all, Jack Nicklaus. Throw in Phil Mickelson's stellar play out west, and Kyle Stanley's meltdown-slash-turnaround, and 2012 is shaping up to be the greatest golf season in recent history.
This weekend, at the Nicklaus-toughened PGA National Champion Course, McIlroy didn't simply back into the top spot in the world rankings. He went out and grabbed it by the throat, shooting four rounds in the 60s and showcasing a newly burnished short game that, coupled with his peerless ballstriking, could carry him to a legendary career.
Mickelson shook off a sluggish start to the season to post great back-to-back performances at the AT&T Pebble Beach and Northern Trust that stamped him an early favorite at Augusta.
Then there's Tiger. All he did was shoot the lowest final round of his career, an electric 62 that featured a spine-tingling birdie-eagle finish punctuated with a vintage double-fist-pump on the 72nd green that could portend that the comeback is complete.
The Masters can't get here fast enough.
Some eye-opening numbers for you to digest this morning:
The current leader on the PGA Tour in Total Driving? Tiger Woods, and it's not even close. He's 14th in distance and fifth — fifth! — in driving accuracy. Basically, he's driving the ball better than he ever has. Of his eight rounds of stroke play in 2012, he's shot in the 60s in six of them. He's third on Tour in adjusted scoring average, at 67.93, behind only Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.
All this from a guy who we've been told has lost his mojo.
Reality check for the Tiger haters: The guy's close. Very close.
Welcome to the Party
Thanks to the participation of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, the Honda Classic has taken its place with the greatest non-major events of the golf season. Despite the relentless pimping by the golf commentariat of the Bear Trap — the stretch from 15-17 that actually offered little resistance this weekend — the Honda has something priceless: an identity. Throw in the presence of Tiger Woods, who'll almost certainly add this event to his permanent calendar, and the Nicklauses have themselves a winner.
— by Rob Doster