PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The Honda Classic gets underway Thursday at PGA National. There will be plenty for patrons to do besides watch the pros play their rounds.
Even the weather promises to cooperate, although it might be a bit warm for this time of the year.
One thing to watch for is the water ball.
Ryan Palmer has become the poster child of the Bear Trap. And not in a good way.
No player has hit more balls into the water – 19 – that surround the 15th, 16th and 17th holes on the Champion course at PGA National since 2007 than Palmer.
No player is more over par – 44 – on the three-hole stretch since ’07 than Palmer. The next closest is 34 over.
Yet Palmer is back at this week’s Honda Classic, having missed the tournament only twice since 2009.
“Of course, I’ve heard about it. I’ll be watching the telecast after playing and it (the statistic) always pops up,” Palmer said Wednesday. “If you play here long enough, the numbers are going to add up.”
Palmer is not alone with his struggles. The Bear Trap – named after legend Jack Nicklaus, who redesigned the holes – is tied for the fourth-toughest three-hole stretch on the PGA Tour since 2007. The 15th and 17th holes are par-3s, with the par-4 16th sandwiched in between.
Since 2007, the field is a combined 4,374 strokes over par with 1,686 balls in the water. That’s 562 sleeves of balls going to their watery grave by the world’s best golfers.
“They’re such demanding holes,” Palmer said. “A lot of it depends on the wind, especially on 15 and 17. But I’ve had weeks where I hit the green every round.
“It’s not like I get to the 15th tee and go, ‘Oh, crap, here we go again.’ ”
Despite his Trap troubles, Palmer almost won the Honda Classic in 2014, losing a four-way playoff to Russell Henley, and was T-4 in 2019. He has earned more than $1.1 million in 15 starts, which explains why he calls the Honda one of his favorite tournaments.
“I love playing a challenging course,” Palmer said. “It’s a ball-striker’s course. I think the course takes a lot of players out of the tournament. You have to grind to survive out there.”
How aware is Palmer of his past problems at the Bear Trap? He texted PGA Tour rules officials during Wednesday’s pro-am about how he played the Bear Trap.
“I birdied 15, parred 16 and hit it into the water on 17,” Palmer said. “We kid around about it. Someone has to hit the most balls in the water there. It just happens to be me.”
Most balls in the water at the Bear Trap since 2007
Ryan Palmer, 19
Vaughn Taylor, 14
Jimmy Walker, 14
Brian Harman, 12
Rory McIlroy, 12
Graeme McDowell, 12
Jason Dufner, 12
Adam Scott, 12
Ernie Els, 12
Greg Chalmers, 12
Most rounds played without a ball in the water at the Bear Trap Since 2007
Jim Furyk, 18
Alex Noren, 16
Adam Schenk, 16
Sungjae Im, 14
Phil Mickelson, 14
Michael Bradley, 12
Cam Davis, 12
Kelly Kraft, 12
J.J. Spaun, 12
Gorgeous weather all weekend
How nice is it to go to a golf tournament without having to look at the radar?
The PGA Tour didn’t do the Honda any favors with its spot on the schedule – three designated events and the Players on each side – but Mother Nature has shown the event some affection.
The forecast for the four tournament days is glorious – zero chance of rain on Thursday and Friday and 5 percent chance on the weekend, with temperatures in the mid-80s.