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The Florida Swing: A roundup of March's PGA Tour tournaments in the Sunshine State

There is little doubt that March is one of the best sports months on the Florida calendar. Baseball's spring training is in full swing, and the PGA Tour plays on state courses for the next four weeks. The golf run starts today in Palm Beach Gardens with the Honda Classic, passes through Miami next week for a World Golf Championships event, Palm Harbor's Innisbrook Resort the next for the Transitions Championship, and ends in Orlando with the Arnold Palmer Invitational. There is a good chance Tiger Woods will play in two of the tournaments, likely the events in Miami and Orlando, where he lives. "All the Florida courses are long and demanding,'' said 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, who will play in three of the Florida tournaments, including the Transitions Championship on March 19-22. "That's why it's a good road leading to a major championship. That's what you'll find at a major. You have to be on all aspects of your game.'' After this month, the tour barrels its way north and leaves Florida in the dust, except for a one-week return in May for the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach. This is the time to see the best players in the world, and here's where you can see them.

Honda Classic WGC CA Championship The Transitions Championship Arnold Palmer Invitational
When/where Today-Sunday, PGA National Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens. March 12-15, Doral Golf Resort and Spa, Miami. March 19-22, Innisbrook Golf Club and Resort, Palm Harbor. March 26-29, Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando.
Defending champ Ernie Els Geoff Ogilvy Sean O'Hair Tiger Woods
The course The PGA National Champion Course (Jack Nicklaus redesign). Doral's "The Blue Monster.'' Copperhead. It gets rave reviews from Tour players, and last year it bit a lot of them. Four-under won the tournament, and only nine of 71 players finished four rounds under par. Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando
Purse $5.6 million. $8.5 million. $5.4 million.
What to look for The Tour returns to normalcy after a week of match play in Arizona. Tiger will not be in the field but defending champ Ernie Els is. He broke a three year winless streak when he won the event in 2008. This is a World Golf Championship event, so only the top players in the world will play. This is where most expect Woods to make his second appearance since returning from knee surgery. It is a guaranteed four rounds since there is no cut. This tournament was on its last gasp in 2008 before Transitions Optical in Pinellas Park came to the rescue. Now some of the PGA's best will be in our backyard for at least the next four years. Sure, John Daly won't be here because he is suspended for six months, but there are still good players to watch. A new one to keep an eye on is 17-year-old Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa. Likely going to be another talented field, and expect Woods to be there. He lives in Orlando and usually doesn't let host Arnold Palmer down. Now that this tournament is just two weeks away from the Masters, expect players to use it as their last tune up before Augusta.
Why you should care It's the first leg of the Florida swing. A good start in the Sunshine State could be the spring board to a good season. It's a star-studded field and probably the best field you can see in Florida. It's also the week before the Tampa Bay tournament, and some of these players will make the journey to Palm Harbor. Tiger has won this event five of the last seven years. It's right down the street. Golfers like Vijay Singh, Boo Weekley, Retief Goosen and Stewart Cink are right in front of you. This is as close as you can get to seeing Tiger play live, if he commits as expected. A 90 minute drive isn't much to see the world's best, and you'll probably get a glimpse of Palmer as well.


Honda Classic

When/where: Today-Sunday, PGA National Resort and Spa, Palm Beach Gardens

2008 champion: Ernie Els

The course: Champion Course (Jack Nicklaus redesign)

Purse: $5.5 million

What to look for: The PGA Tour returns to normalcy after a week of match play in Arizona. Tiger Woods is not in the field, but defending champ Ernie Els is. Els hadn't won on the PGA Tour since 2004 when he took the event last year.

Why you should care: It's the first leg of the Florida swing. A good start in the Sunshine State could be a player's springboard to a good season.

World Golf Championships- CA Championship

When/where: March 12-15, Doral Golf Resort and Spa, Miami

2008 champion: Geoff Ogilvy

The course: "Blue Monster''

Purse: $8.5 million

What to look for: This is a World Golf Championships event, so only the top players in the world will play. This is where most expect Tiger Woods to make his second appearance since returning from knee surgery. It is a guaranteed four rounds because there is no cut.

Why you should care: The field is star-studded and probably the best you can see in Florida. This also is the week before the Palm Harbor tournament at Innisbrook, and some of these players will make the journey north. Woods has won this event five of the past seven years.

Also going on: The rest of the tour is in Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Open. Clearwater's Greg Kraft won this tournament last year, when it was also a split-field event.

Transitions Championship

When/where: March 19-22, Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Palm Harbor

2008 champion: Sean O'Hair

The course: Copperhead. It gets rave reviews from tour players, and last year it bit a lot of them. O'Hair's winning score was 4 under par 280, and only nine of 71 players finished four rounds under par.

Purse: $5.4 million

What to look for: This tournament, known as the PODS Championship last year, was on its last leg in 2008 before Transitions Optical in Pinellas Park came to the sponsorship rescue after PODS exercised its option to withdraw two years into a six-year deal. A new player to keep an eye on is 17-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa.

Why you should care: It's right down the street. Golfers such as Vijay Singh, Boo Weekley, Retief Goosen and Stewart Cink will be right in front of you. But John Daly is suspended, so he won't be back to hang out in the Hooters tent.

Arnold Palmer Invitational

When/where: March 26-29, Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando

2008 champion: Tiger Woods

The course: Champion Course at Bay Hill Club

Purse: $5.8 million

What to look for: Likely another talented field, and expect Tiger Woods to be there. He lives in Orlando and usually doesn't let host Arnold Palmer down. Now that this tournament's date has been moved back in the month and is just two weeks from the Masters, expect players to use it as their last tuneup before Augusta.

Why you should care: This is as close as most of us will get to seeing Woods play live, if he commits as expected. A 90 minute drive isn't much to see the world's best, and you'll probably get a glimpse of Palmer as well.

The Florida Swing: A roundup of March's PGA Tour tournaments in the Sunshine State 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 8:55pm]
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