Just try and imagine the horror of the respective tournament directors at the Honda Classic and the Valspar when they eyeballed the 2023 PGA Tour schedule.
This week we have the poor Honda Classic, starting the Florida Swing on the heels of the Tiger Woods-backed Genesis — a fat purse designated event. Now let’s make it even worse for the folks over there at PGA National — next week is the first of two back-to-back designated events. First is the AP Invitational — the living tribute to the legendary Arnold Palmer. Like the other designated events, it carries a $20 million purse.
Then comes the real “stick it to the Honda and Valspar” and that would be the PGA Tour’s flagship event — The Players Championship. Just so you don’t confuse it with the other “designated events” — The Players carries a purse (drum roll please) — of $25 m-m-m-million.
So given that all the top-ranked guys just wrapped up things out in L.A., you think they want to hurry 3,000 miles cross-country to play in the Honda?
That’s a hell to the “no.”
Also, the Honda is played on a darn difficult layout — PGA National. The National can be a total beast when the wind blows and it’s not unusual for the winds to come whipping off the Atlantic Ocean that is just a couple of miles east of the course.
Sepp Straka is the defending champion at the Honda Classic and we’re not sure that folks in Palm Beach County are falling all over themselves to get out there and watch good old Sepp.
The Honda used to draw good names from a plethora of pros who inhabit the Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens area. But that doesn’t help anymore. Residents Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka ran away and joined the LIV Circus.
So — the only thing the Honda can do is offer a party atmosphere and hopefully some partiers show up.
Where the names will be is the following week at Bay Hill for the event started by Arnold Palmer in 1979. Palmer’s name and legacy still carry weight in the golf world and add the fact that Scottie Scheffler is the defending champion, well, no trouble drawing great crowds at Bay Hill.
Then they head north to Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach to be exact where the PGA Tour is headquartered. The PGA Tour has no role or any ownership in the four majors so it’s done its best to give this one a big-time feeling. It draws big-time crowds and for the longest time, the PGA Tour encouraged golf writers to refer to it as “the fifth major.” But that train left a long time ago.
The Players is prestigious and it’s been an awkward promotional campaign for this year’s event considering the defending champion — Cam “The Mullet” Smith, defected to the LIV Circus.
Of course there are 25 million good reasons to be in Ponte Vedra.
Then comes the other Florida Step-Child and that would be the Valspar.
The Valspar is played at a terrific course — The Copperhead at Innisbrook. But after those back-to-back biggies, no one you’d recognize on the street is going to play.
Two big Florida events, two step-children.
As Tiger Woods says so very often: “It is what it is.”