It’s not a secret that the Honda Classic is one of, if not the most difficult non-Major tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. But even at a course as tough as PGA National, tour pros still have the ability to go low on any given day.
However, this past week it seemed to play more difficult than usual, and there is statistical evidence to back that up. According to this wild stat shared by the PGA Tour Communications’ Twitter account, the 2020 Honda was the toughest non-Major event in nearly a quarter of a century:
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) March 2, 2020
Of course, it should be noted that Jack Nicklaus’ Champion course is a par 70, but that doesn’t make the stat any less impressive. There were just 11 rounds of four-under 66 shot all week, two of them belonging to the winner, Sungjae Im. Mackenzie Hughes also shot a pair of 66s, which helped him jump from a tie for 59th at the beginning of the weekend to second place when it ended.
At last year’s Honda Classic, five players shot 65 or lower, including Im, who posted a second-round 64 but eventually finished in a tie for 51st. Ryan Palmer was the only player to shoot lower, finishing with a final-round 63 that vaulted him 35 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for fourth. Even lower scores have been shot at PGA National in the past, including a Sunday 62 by Tiger Woods in 2012. That same year, Brian Harman shot the course-record nine-under 61 in the second round.
Im’s six-under 274 total was the second-highest in the 14 years the Honda has been played at PGA National. The highest came in 2007, the first year it was held in Palm Beach Gardens, where Mark Wilson finished at five-under 275 along with Camilo Villegas, Boo Weekley and José Cóceres, then won in a playoff.
This week, the average score was 71.904, nearly two full strokes over par (+1.904), making it the toughest in relation to par so far this season. No other course has even played a full stroke over par on average, with Spyglass Hill (+0.877) the only course coming close. Torrey Pines (South), Pebble Beach and Waialae Country Club all played just more than half-a-stroke over par.
Last year, only Bethpage Black during the PGA Championship had a higher average score in relation to par (+2.543), and the highest at a regular tour event was the WGC–HSBC Champions (+1.256). Since 2016 only two courses have played harder than PGA National did this past week. One was Torrey Pines in 2016, with the field averaging +2.498 over par, helped by a 77.901 scoring average in the final round. The other? PGA National at the 2018 Honda Classic, when the field averaged +2.303 over par.