For the second week in a row, the No. 297-ranked golfer in the world has won on TOUR as Padraig Harrington defeated rookie Daniel Berger in a two-hole playoff to win the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Just like last week at Riviera, the total was posted at six-under par and the playoff was won on a par-three but this week the champion was a three-time major winner.
Harrington, who played the final round as if on a roller coaster, birdied the final hole to force a playoff after making double-bogey five the previous hole. His putt from 16 feet was pure and off to the playoff it was. After a pair of pars opened the proceedings on No. 18 the playoff moved back to No. 17, the final hole of the Bear Trap. Harrington, fresh off a double bogey from the water in regulation play just minutes before, stuffed his approach while Berger found the water in front of the green to effectively end it. Two putts later and Harrington racked up his seventh TOUR win and moves his playoff mark to 3-1 on the PGA TOUR and to 7-5 worldwide.
Well, if last week was crazy, this was insane. First, for the second week in a row we saw a Euro Ryder Cup legend fall apart on the back nine on Sunday. Last week Sergio Garcia finished bogey-bogey when he had a two-shot lead on No. 17 to miss the playoff. This week, Ian Poulter had a three-shot lead disappear after a double on No. 11 and a triple on No. 14. Don’t forget former Cupper Paul Casey was tied for the lead too when they called play yesterday after going out in 31! He closed in 37 to round out the podium with Poulter and Scotsman Russell Knox, who closed birdie-birdie, like Poulter, to make it interesting.
Let’s remember moving forward that this week was also a product of the weather and the draw. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Patrick Reed didn’t play on Saturday. That’s not normal. Neither is playing in rain and winds that gust upwards of 50 MPH. It’s not an excuse; it’s what happened.
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise:
If “performance” read “performance in a playoff” then it wouldn’t surprise that Harrington was the victor. This was Harrington’s 12th playoff worldwide and his seventh victory (on the major tours) so it’s not a huge surprise he went out and beat a greenhorn rookie who, to be fair, was hitting balls for three hours waiting to hear his name called. Harrington should have had the class, guile and ability to execute in the playoff and he did so, just like he did against Garcia to win the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Also, Harrington had tasted victory as recently as December 2014 as he won the Bank BRI Indonesian Open. Hey, winning golf is winning golf and that should have at least alerted gamers in his direction.
Why This Performance Surprises:
Harrington, entering the week, had not posted a top 10 in his last 30 starts on TOUR, reaching back to his T10 at FESJC in June of 2013. Last year he played 16 events and racked up seven cuts with a single top 25, T22 at HPBNC. On TOUR in 2014-15 he teed it up eight times entering the week and had never finished better than T56 in the three weekends he played. It gets better: 18 of 22 rounds were 70 or better during this stretch. If more proof is needed, check his stats page at pgatour.com. This was some week he put together!
How Harrington Won This Week:
Birdieing five of his last eight didn’t hurt, but it was the last one, on No. 18, was the most necessary because of that nasty double the hole before. Birdies were the key this week as his 18 led the field and none was more clutch than the final one from 16 feet. The other impressive stat was he only made eight bogeys, good for T3 among the field. Harrington was second in strokes gained tee-to-green to Berger but was T1 in strokes gained total. His putter wasn’t on fire but it contributed, especially after he found GIR as he was fifth in putts per GIR. All of the tweaks, leans, yardage charts, club/swing adjustments, it all came together for the Irishman this week. Not bad for 43!
Dave Tindall asked on Twitter during the final round if this would be a day in the sun or a reclamation project. I think the question is very fair but I’ll give gamers a very clear answer.
No, thank you.
I’m an ageist so I’m never jumping on 40-somethings except in a supporting role. I’m also not thrilled because Harrington used seven years (SEVEN YEARS), part of those in the prime of his career, to get this figured out. That doesn’t read as “quick fix” especially after winning three majors over two seasons. Also, please reread the sections above that shows his recent performances on TOUR.
Harrington is impossible not to like. He’s a great interview. He’s intelligent. But he’s hardly long-term fantasy material with the Daniel Bergers of the world running around. Use him wisely on tough courses where par matters but he’s not a solution to any long-term problems gamers might currently have.
With This Win:
Harrington punches his ticket back to Augusta for the first time since 2013 plus an invite to THE PLAYERS and PGA Championship. He pockets $1,098,000 and a two-year exemption on TOUR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA continues its dominance this year. Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb, Ben Martin, Brandt Snedeker and James Hahn (born in Korea; US citizen) are the USA champs. Harrington (Ireland) joins Sang-moon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada) and Jason Day (Australia) as the four international winners in the first 15 events.
Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore and Walker are those who have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his lead at Kapalua. For the third consecutive week the 54-hole leader couldn’t take it home as Poulter’s three-shot lead melted over Sunday/Monday. That makes it 11 of 15 who have been unable to hold down the fort. Golf is hard.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 15 events in 2015, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Koepka and Hahn have made their breakthroughs.
For the sixth time in nine events there were 17 or less (16 in 2015) players to break par. Again, nothing “resort” about this course.
Russell Henley was looking to join Jack Nicklaus as the only player to defend his title at The Honda Classic. With four rounds of 70 or worse he never made the necessary move. He finished T44 after closing with 70.
For the second year in a row a playoff was needed to determine the winner.
Harrington wins for the first time at PGA National but had also won at Mirasol. No player has won twice at PGA National.
Harrington is the first sponsor-exemption to win on TOUR since Lee Westwood at the 2010 FESJC.
Northern Ireland (Rory McIlroy, 2012) and Ireland (Harrington) are the bookends to a pair of young American (Thompson, 2013; Henley 2014) winners in the last four events.
The six-under-par, 274 was the highest winning since the first two editions in 2007 and 2008.
Camilo Villegas unbelievably fired 13-under 267 here in 2010 to win. Did they play the up tees for three days?
Michael Thompson remains the only winner here without multiple victories on the resume.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist. GET OFF MY VIAGRA.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 at SFC. Reed joined the party at a whopping 25 at HTOC followed by Koepka, 25 in Phoenix and Jason Day, 27, made it six youngsters from 12 winners this season when he won at Torrey Pines. They have since gone quiet since the courses toughened up.
The old guys (40 and over) finally break through this week and for the second year in a row the first man through the door is not named Mickelson, Stricker or Furyk. Harrington turns 44 in August and he’s the lone wolf in the first 15 events for the old folks.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week:
Daniel Berger: Yeah, he’s going to be pretty good. I understand he grew up playing The Dye Preserve across the way in Jupiter. That tells me he did NOT grow up playing Sony (T13), TPC Scottsdale (T10) or Pebble/Spyglass/MPCC (T10). His P2 will do nothing but fuel his learning curve and add to his belief that he belongs out here. Not bad for his 36th professional golf tournament! He’s only 21 and his last four events have seen him cash T10-T24-T10-P2. Sure, Nick Taylor has won and Tony Finau has been exciting, but he’s the ROY and the 1/3 pole.
Russell Knox: His uneven form to begin the year should not sway gamers once he steps foot on PGA National. After his P2 last year he closed birdie-birdie to hit the podium for the second consecutive year. Not bad for the only two times he’s teed it up on this track as he’s put seven of the eight rounds 70 or better. He painted fairways and greens as he is known to do and it resulted in T3 in strokes gained tee to green.
Paul Casey: Another foreign ball-striker who excels on this track, Casey’s T3 was his third top 12 in four starts and goes along with his T4 in 2010 and T12 last year. After finishing P2 last week at Riviera, Casey fit the “recent form-course form” argument entering the week and gamers who bought in were rewarded. His 31 on the front in the final round saw him share the lead but his putter, hardly surprisingly, cooled off on the back nine and he faded to T3. Gamers who grabbed him in salary cap games are now putting their feet up and having a right giggle.
Ian Poulter: And so it goes. Poulter still has never won a stroke play event on U.S. soil. Gamers will note that his birdie-birdie finish will mute some of the pain but nearly as much as NOT throwing away a three-shot lead in the final round. Poulter, who hasn’t pocketed over more than $1.8 million on TOUR in any of the last three years, picked up his second top six of the season. He showed flashes early at Torrey Pines before fading on the weekend. He showed flashes for 54-holes this week before fading. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Jamie Donaldson: Make it 11 events since November that have seen him finish in the top 30 now 10 times. His solo sixth saw him finally crack the code on a course where he opened 65-69 last year before fading 72-75 on the weekend. Donaldson is a grinder and that’s exactly what is needed here and at Doral. He proved his mettle down the stretch as he birdied three of his final five to storm into the top 10. He only made four bogeys on the back nine this week and his putter was sizzling as he finished the week fifth in SGP.
Jeff Overton: His first top 10 in 20 events (T4, Zurich 2014) resulted in T7 this week. Heck, Overton hadn’t hit a top 25 in that same stretch so there’s not any wonder why gamers would have been cool on him entering the week regardless of his course form. This was his third top 10 in his seven starts (six weekends) at PGA National. Gamers have learned that Overton can be a valuable course horse and this week reinforced that position. It didn’t hurt that he co-led the field in GIR and was T10 in fairways.
Jim Herman: His T7 was his first top 10 in 32 starts on TOUR and only his third top 25 during that time so the fantasy value here is muted. He had a great week making only seven bogeys (second) and 54 pars (fourth) based on the back of T10 fairways and T7 GIR.
Luke Donald: He was second in 2008, T10 in 2011, T8 last year and T7 this year. He lives here when he’s not freezing in Chicago and it’s not surprising that he plays well here. He is the first name on the course horse sheet followed by Russell Knox at PGA National. Coming off three consecutive three MCs this was a bit surprising but more proof that he absolutely loves this track.
Patrick Reed: Well, that was interesting. After taking the lead alone on No. 14, Reed backed it up with a ball in the water on No. 15 and bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 to fall to T7. After fending off Jordan Spieth at Sedgefield in 2013 to win a playoff, Bubba Watson and Jamie Donaldson to win a WGC event year last year at Doral and chasing down, catching and beating Jimmy Walker in a playoff earlier this year at HTOC, he had to be the favorite Monday morning coming down the stretch. I guess he’s human! This was his first round in 23 that he posted over par this season. Hot!
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Rory McIlroy: Raise your hand if you saw that coming! Ah, fantasy golf, don’t you ever change!
Justin Rose: The good news is that there was no news about his thumb that bothered him last time out at Torrey. The bad news was three doubles and MC by a shot. It’s his first time in four starts here that he didn’t finish in the top five. Sigh.
Dustin Johnson: When the forecast came out and looked terrible, I thought Johnson would be drooling about his chances for his third consecutive big finish. Maybe it was the ghosts of returning to his old haunting grounds. Maybe it was six doubles and a triple. Barf. He played so poorly that gamers possibly could have saved a start on him in Yahoo if they didn’t play him in round one. #silverlining
Lee Westwood: Backdoored a T25 with 66 in the final round to move up 31 spots. Compared to some of the others on this list, that’s HOF-worthy!
Keegan Bradley: Unlike Casey, Bradley’s recent form and course history provided a lovely trap for gamers like me who thought he was on the verge of breaking out. Not only did he MC 71-75 he also broke a three tournament run here of T12-T4-T12. I was wiped out in OAD AND Yahoo! The Bradley Mysteries continue as his 2015 is T48-T17-T41-T4-MC.
Ryan Palmer: Similar to Westwood, he used his only round under par for the week, 68, to jump 22 spots to T25. His last four here are T26-T41-T2-T25 so he’s a safe option and proved so again this week.
Sergio Garcia: T31 with nothing better than 70 or worse than 72. He can scramble it around better than most but that wasn’t enough this week.
Brooks Koepka: 78-64. I’ll stop typing now. Youth, eh?
Martin Kaymer: The argument was form over course history this week for the German but the Champions Course wins again versus Kaymer. He opened with 68 and closed with 70 but it was the 75-72 in the middle that created too much separation. T44.
Paul Casey: T3, see above.
Graeme McDowell: 74-71, MC. There goes his streak of five weekends in a row here. I usually don’t play guys in their season openers but that record had my attention.
Nick Watney: He couldn’t carry his heat to the right coast but still made the weekend and closed with 69. T41.
Freddie Jacobson: Nothing outside the top T25 in the last five at PGA National and he fires 70-77 to MC. Junk indeed…
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the WGC-CCx plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.