The Florida Swing Begins

The Honda Classic last week marked the beginning of a four-tournament stretch known as the Florida Swing. The challenging setup of PGA National produced season records for bogeys and worse, scoring averages, and water balls. If you missed the tournament this weekend, we’re here to catch you up on some of our favorite moments!

The Bear Trap and Tough Conditions

Golf viewers who are tired of seeing players dominate courses and win tournaments with scores of -25 were certainly pleased this week. Jack Nicklaus’ design for PGA National’s treacherous 15th,16th, and 17th holes (known as the Bear Trap) brought plenty of drama and high scoring averages. 

But the Bear Trap isn’t the only tricky stretch of PGA National. The course is well guarded by strategically placed bunkers and water that borders more than half of the holes. Low points and bunkers around the greens are designed to collect errant approach shots, often leaving players struggling to get up and down for par. 

According to the PGA TOUR, this course leads the season in the following categories: Bogeys (1,308), Double Bogeys (232), Triple+ (33), average score to par (+1.3), and water balls (289). Based on these numbers, no lead was safe at the Honda Classic which ultimately became the story of the week for one young star. 

Daniel Berger Takes Control

Daniel Berger got to an early lead by scoring a -5 (65) on Friday and Saturday’s rounds to take a five-shot lead over Sepp Straka and Shane Lowry going into Sunday. A betting man would agree that the tournament looked like it belonged to Daniel Berger as he went into the final round, but the golf Gods had different plans in mind.

Daniel Berger Loses Control, Lowry Finds It

Berger started Sunday’s round with two Pars, a Double Bogey, and a Bogey, which effectively erased his five-stroke lead, putting him in second place behind Lowry. After Daniel Berger’s tee shot found the bunker on the par-3 7th hole, he finally had one go his way. He holed out for birdie to regain the lead for a short time before Lowry took it back. As Berger and Lowry exchanged leads over the next few holes, Sepp Straka, Adam Svensson, and Kurt Kitayama were close behind.

Here Comes Straka

On the 14th hole, Straka made a long birdie putt to pass by Berger and get within one of Lowry’s (-9) lead but for only a brief moment. On the same hole, Berger holed out a wayward approach shot from behind the green for a birdie to match Straka. 

Straka took advantage of the Bear Trap and avoided big mistakes; completing the difficult three-hole stretch with an impressive (-1) total. On the par-five, 18th hole, a perfect approach shot to the center of the green set Straka up for an Eagle putt just as the rain clouds opened up. 

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Straka Birdies in the Rain to Win

Straka’s Eagle putt traveled 48 feet across the now rain-soaked greens to just inches short of the hole for an easy tap in birdie to take the lead and victory over Shane Lowry.This historic victory made Sepp Straka the first-ever Austrian winner in PGA Tour history. 

A Lesson to All Golfers

When asked after the round what the most memorable part of this win will be for him, he answered with a quote that all of us golfers can learn from: “Just kind of hanging in there.The third round, I definitely didn’t have my best stuff but hung in there and grinded out a good round. I hit the ball really nice today and I could really take advantage so yeah, just hanging in there.” 

Arnold Palmer Invitational

This week, we look forward to the PGA Tour continuing its Florida swing at the famous Bayhill Club and Lodge for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Bryson Dechambeau would be the defending champion but has withdrawn from the tournament due to a recent injury in his left hand and hip. Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and Viktor Hovland are listed as the top contenders this week. 

Who do you have for this weekend? Let us know in the Stick & Hack Community Boards!