Honda Classic field: 8 of OWGR’s top 50; Pierceson Coody among invites
On the heels of back-to-back designated events, the PGA Tour begins its Florida Swing with next week’s Honda Classic, where eight of the top 50 players in the world will be teeing it up at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Sungjae Im, ranked No. 18 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is the highest-ranked player in the field, followed by Billy Horschel (19), Shane Lowry (22), defending champion Sepp Straka (30), Aaron Wise (40), Alex Noren (41), Min Woo Lee (47) and J.T. Poston (50).
By comparison, the Tour’s first three non-designated events drew 14 (Sony), 17 (AmEx) and 13 (Farmers) top-50 players.
Last year, the Honda had 11 top-50 players in the field, topped by top-20 players Louis Oosthuizen, Brooks Koepka and Joaquin Niemann, all three of whom have since bolted to LIV Golf.
Honda is set to end its 42-year run as title sponsor this year, news that was first reported by Golfweek last November.
“It’s unfortunate that we will lose a loyal sponsor like that, especially one that is pulling out because of the decisions we made, not because their business is struggling or don’t see the value but because we’re sandwiching them in between these elevated events,” an anonymous Tour pro told Golfweek. “They’re like, ‘You did us wrong and now we’re gone.’ They’re probably really mad. I’d be.”
While the strength of field takes a big dip from the past two events, the WM Phoenix Open and Genesis Invitational, there are some intriguing sponsor exemptions, mainly a trio of top Korn Ferry Tour talents – Pierceson Coody, Akshay Bhatia and Andrew Kozan.
Coody, who led Texas to the NCAA title last June, finished No. 1 on last year’s final PGA Tour University ranking and has already won twice on the KFT, though a hand injury last summer derailed his hopes of earning his PGA Tour card via KFT Finals. Bhatia is a former U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up who bypassed college and won last season’s KFT opener in the Bahamas. Kozan is a South Florida native who starred at Auburn before getting through Q-School this past November.