Hitting Honda fairways key for Tiger
And which of Victor Dubuisson's miracle shots rates better?
This week's Honda Classic comes as part of a World Golf Championship event sandwich. The recently finished WGC-Match Play and the upcoming WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral serve as bookends to this week's tournament at PGA National.
Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.
1. Fill in the blank. For Tiger Woods to contend at the Honda Classic this week, he'll have to ________.
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Hit fairways. PGA National can be extremely penal off the tee if you're out of position. That being said, there are places you can miss off the tee. Unfortunately for Tiger, he usually doesn't miss in those places.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Play four good rounds. Tiger hasn't strung together four under-par rounds in a tournament since he finished in a tie for second at the Barclays in August. His 74 in the final round of Honda last year matched his highest final round of the 2013 season.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Get his tee shots, especially his driver, in play. Not finding fairways off the tee has ultimately led to his struggles at Torrey Pines and Dubai. Yes, there were some putting issues at both tournaments, but for the most part, he failed to give himself enough scoring opportunities. It all starts with playing from the fairway.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Get the ball in the fairway at PGA National. That track isn't for the faint of heart, and if Woods aspires to a top-10 finish or possibly a victory, playing out of the rough more than half the time just won't cut it.
2. Fact or fiction: Jason Day will win a major in 2014.
Collins: Fiction, with an asterisk. Only two guys have won Match Play and a major in the same year: Tiger (of course, but only once, in 2008) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006). The asterisk is there because it's been done before -- but if Day does win a major, according to this research, it's going to have to be the U.S. Open. Those were the majors won by Woods and Ogilvy.
Evans: Fact. Day has six top-10s in 13 major appearances, including two seconds in 2011. The win in the Match Play, the biggest victory of his career, will only serve to fuel his desire to capture a major.
Harig: Fiction. While he has been a contender in majors, it remains remarkable that he now just has two victories. And the Match Play title on Sunday was a struggle, one he should have had wrapped up much earlier.
Maguire: If you asked at the start of the year, the answer would have been maybe. After seeing how he kept it together despite Victor Dubuisson's heroics at the WGC-Match Play final, that's turned into a "fact." Winning is never easy (notice for all his talent, it's only Day's second PGA Tour victory), but the Aussie didn't wilt under the pressure as his French opponent pulled some all-world-pars from the cactus on two occasions to stretch the match to 23 holes.
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3. What kind of impact will Adam Scott's long layoff have on his play this week at the Honda Classic?
Collins: Depends. Has he been chilling (literally) in New York or working on his game in the Bahamas? If he's been working on his game for the last two weeks, we should expect a top-15 finish. If he's been in New York, he'll have the weekend off.
Evans: Since Scott made a pledge at the beginning of 2012 that he was going to play a reduced schedule, he has had 20 top-10s worldwide, including five wins, the most substantial of these being the 2013 Masters. His game might show some rust at the Honda, but his commitment to not play too much and focus his schedule around the majors has taken him all the way to second in the world ranking.
Harig: Little impact. This is the kind of schedule Scott has purposely put forth. He wants to be fresh, and is trying to give himself as much rest time as possible. But he's also been working on his game, and while it's been six weeks since he last competed, it would be surprising if he struggled.
Maguire: Not much. Scott's be in laid-back mode, away from the PGA Tour, for what feels like a couple of months since he last played at the Sony Open. That smooth swing will find its groove once again, although I don't suspect he'll be battling for the title on the back nine on Sunday as he works off a little competitive rust.
4. Which of Victor Dubuisson's two escape shots in extra holes Sunday was more impressive?
Collins: The first one. No way you're going to make me believe he'd seen a lie like that before. For him to play that (with the time and routine) like it was just a normal scramble, it even caught the announcers and camera guys off guard. The result was something that would make Stephen A. Smith speechless!
Evans: It's hard to single out one over the other. They both required a great deal of courage, imagination and luck. Out of those two very difficult lies, it was just about impossible for him to know how hard to hit the ball. That he was able to use both force and finesse on each shot is a testament to his unflappable mental composure and talent.
Harig: The first one at the first extra hole. When his ball came to rest behind the green, not only was it in the desert, but up against a cactus that could have caused all kinds of problems. There was also TV wire he had to deal with, and Dubuisson actually caught the wire on the follow through. And then he holed the par putt. Victor made a name for himself there.
Maguire: Both were simply phenomenal, but the second one seemed more improbable -- if that's possible -- than the first. The Frenchman looked like he just went up and wacked that first one on the 19th hole. On the second one, though, at the par-4 ninth, he had what looked like a large piece of dead brush above his ball and he just lofted that one up there and let it trickle down to the hole. Seve Ballesteros would have been proud to witness that one. Either way, both will get added to that end-of-year highlight reel for those "best of" shows.
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