Barring a win in this week’s Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, Padraig Harrington will bid to return to the world’s top 50 at the Honda Classic in two weeks.
The Dubliner has joined Tiger Woods in adding the first event of the Florida Swing to his schedule as he bids to qualify for the following week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami and boost his chances of winning a seventh Ryder Cup cap this season.
Harrington moved up just seven places to 86th in the world rankings when he finished tied for seventh behind a rampant Phil Mickelson in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last Sunday.
The three-time major champion needed to win at Pebble Beach to make the top 64 available players from the world ranking who will contest next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play in Tucson. But he knows that missing another World Golf Championship would mean missing out on what he calls “easy” world ranking points and had no choice but to add the Honda Classic to his schedule for the first time since 2010, when he finished 40th at the PGA National Resort.
Harrington became the first Irishman to win on the PGA Tour when he captured the 2005 Honda Classic across the street at Mirasol after a play-off with Vijay Singh and Joe Ogilvie. Ogilvie bogeyed the first extra hole before Harrington got up and down for par for the second time at the second play-off hole and then looked on as Singh missed a two and a half foot par putt to extend the play-off, handing him the title.
It’s been more than three years since Harrington’s last PGA Tour win - the 2008 US PGA - but if he wins at Riviera, where he he was seventh in 2007 and tied third the following year, he will move into the world’s top 50 with ease.
There will be a high quality field in Tinseltown this week with Pebble Beach hero Phil Mickelson joined by four members of the world’s top-10 in No 1 Luke Donald, No 7 Jason Day, No 8 Adam Scott and No 10 Dustin Johnson and well as another 12 major winners.
The Honda Classic will have one of the strongest fields of the year with the addition of local resident Woods to the field, who lives just 20 minutes away.
It will be Woods’ first appearance at The Honda since he competed in the event as an amateur in 1993 and his first professional appearance in the Palm Beach County / Treasure Coast area of Florida that he now calls home.
“I have heard great things about The Honda Classic,” Woods said. “Now that I live here, I want to play whenever possible. Jack’s involvement in the tournament and the benefits to the local community are also important.”
Woods’ will be seeking his first PGA TOUR victory since September 2009 though he still counts last December’s Chevron World Challenge as a significant win.
Third in his first event of the new year in the Abu Dhabi, where he lost to Robert Rock on the final day, he still claims he’s upbeat about his game despite Sunday’s 11-stroke hammering at the hands of Mickelson at Pebble Beach where he putted poorly and came home tied 15th.
“I feel very at peace where I’m at,” Woods said at Pebble Beach. “I had to make some changes and that took time. And I’m starting to see the results of that now, which is great. My last four events I’ve played really well. So I’m just building on that. Everything is headed in the right direction.”
There will be a major Irish presence at the Honda Classic with Harrington joined by Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
World No 2 Lee Westwood, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen will also be there alongside Europeans such as Thomas Bjorn, Irish Open champion Simon Dyson, Swedes Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson and Fredrik Jacobson.
“We obviously are thrilled to have Tiger Woods play in The Honda Classic,” Executive Director Ken Kennerly said. “We have worked hard for five years to make this one of the premier events on the PGA TOUR. This is a testament to where the tournament has come and a testament to Honda’s 31 years as the longest-standing sponsor on the PGA TOUR.”
As for Woods, his CV is worth repeating despite his recent woes:
Woods, now 36, has had an unprecedented career since becoming a professional golfer in the late summer of 1996. He has won 95 tournaments, 71 of those on the PGA Tour, including the 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005 Masters Tournaments, 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007 PGA Championships, 2000, 2002, and 2008 U.S. Open Championships, and 2000, 2005 and 2006 Open Championships. With his second Masters victory in 2001, Tiger became the first ever to hold all four professional major championships at the same time.
In winning the 2000 British Open, Woods became the youngest to complete the career Grand Slam of professional major championships and only the fifth ever to do so, following Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. Woods also was the youngest Masters champion ever, at the age of 21 years, three months and 14 days, and was the first major championship winner of African or Asian heritage.
Woods holds or shares the record for the low score in relation to par in each of the four major championships. His records are 270 (18-under par) in the 1997 Masters, 269 (19-under par) in the 2000 Open Championship, and he shares the record of 270 (18-under par) with Bob May in the 2000 PGA Championship, which Tiger won by one stroke in a three-hole playoff. He held the U.S. Open records of 272 and 12-under par (set in 2000) until 2011.
The U.S. Open and Masters victories came by record margins, 15 strokes and 12 strokes, respectively, and the U.S. Open triumph swept aside the 13-stroke major championship standard which had stood for 138 years, established by Old Tom Morris in the 1862 British Open. The record margin for the U.S. Open had been 11 strokes by Willie Smith in 1899. In The Masters, Woods broke the record margin of nine strokes set by Nicklaus in 1965. Tiger won the Open Championship by eight strokes, the largest margin since J. H. Taylor in 1913.
He is the career victories leader among active players on the PGA Tour and is the career money list leader. He is third in PGA Tour career victories, trailing only Sam Snead (82) and Jack Nicklaus (73).
Tiger increased his record total on the PGA Tour career money list to $94,817,542 through 2011, and had won $115,618,045 worldwide.