'Bear Trap' awaits McIlroy, Woods at Honda

The PGA TOUR heads to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. this week, where the 2013 Honda Classic starts on Thursday. Rory McIlroy returns to PGA National where his victory last season propelled him to No. 1 in the world for the first time. But if history is any indication, returning as the defending champion doesn’t bode well for him.

Rory McIlroy
When Defending PGA Tour Title

This is the third time McIlroy will defend a tournament title on the PGA TOUR in his career, and in each of the previous two instances (2011 Wells Fargo Championship, 2012 U.S. Open), he missed the cut.

What else is working against McIlroy? Simply, his play so far in 2013. He’s played three competitive rounds since signing an endorsement deal with Nike in January, and none have gone as planned.

McIlroy shot a 75 in his first round of the season at Abu Dhabi, the worst round he’d ever played at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He followed that up with another 75 the next day and missed the cut.

Then, at the WGC-Accenture Match Play last weekend, he was eliminated in the first round by 16-seed Shane Lowry, becoming the fourth No. 1-overall seed to be eliminated in the opening round in the 15-year history of the event.

If he’s going to turn things around and be in contention this week, he’ll need to repeat last season's performance at “The Bear Trap.” “The Bear Trap” consists of holes 15, 16 and 17 -- one of the toughest three-hole stretches on tour. In fact, the 15th and 17th holes played as the two toughest par-3s on the PGA Tour back in 2011.

Last year, en route to victory, McIlroy was 3-under for the week at “The Bear Trap.” In his first three starts at the Honda Classic, he was a combined 16-over par on the three-hole stretch.

Tiger Woods
Most PGA Tour Wins by State


Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, will also be in the field. Woods finished second in this event last season, and more success in Florida this week would not be surprising.

During the Tour’s “Florida Swing” over his pro career (Honda, WGC-Cadillac, Arnold Palmer and Tampa Bay), he’s won 13 times with 20 top 10s, and has shot a combined 258-under par in 28 events.

His 13 Tour wins in the state of Florida are his second-most in any state (14 in California). To put that number into perspective, only five Tour card-holding players in 2013 have more than 13 career wins in any state.

Tiger Woods

WoodsBut, like McIlroy, Woods will be looking to bounce back from a first-round exit last week in the WGC-Accenture Match Play -- the third time he has lost in the opening round of that event.

The previous two times, Woods followed it up with a top-10 finish at Doral (second in 2002 and T-10th in 2011). Woods will try to do the same this week -- this time about 80 miles north at PGA National.