Honda Classic memorable moments: Early Rory-Tiger battle, wisdom tooth troubles

Honda Classic memorable moments: Early Rory-Tiger battle, wisdom tooth troubles
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The PGA Tour is heading across the country to PGA National this week for the start of the Florida swing at the Honda Classic.

Before we embark on a week at PGA National, let’s reflect on some of the Honda Classic’s most memorable moments.

Take 2012

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods teed it up in the 2012 Honda Classic, each knowing that a win would carry extra significance.

For a 22-year-old McIlroy, it would elevate him for the first time to the world No. 1 ranking, becoming the youngest to move to No. 1 since Tiger was there at 21. For Woods, it would be his first triumph since 2009 and would answer the segment of golf fans who wondered if injuries and swing tinkering would prevent him from ever winning again (sound familiar, anyone?).

McIlroy achieved his goal with a win, but not before Woods put on a charge, punctuating a closing 62 with a final-hole eagle. It was Woods’ lowest final-round score of his career, up to that point. Woods wouldn’t have to wait long to return to the winner’s circle, prevailing at Bay Hill later that month, the first of his three wins in 2012.

Rory McIlroy ranks his Honda Classic victory in 2012 as one of the most memorable moments in his career, as he held off Tiger Woods and rose to world No. 1.

Jack roars back

It’s not as celebrated as, say, the 1986 Masters, but what Jack Nicklaus did in the 1978 Jackie Gleason-Inverrary Classic was masterful nevertheless. The Golden Bear birdied the last five holes to edge Grier Jones by one shot.

Nicklaus’ remarkable run included two chip-ins – one from 80 feet – and three birdie putts. Tied with Jones on the 18th hole, Nicklaus stuck a 9-iron to within 5 feet, then made the winning putt after Jones missed his 15-foot birdie attempt.

“The man’s amazing,” marveled Hale Irwin, who finished two shots back. “He birdied No. 16, walked across water to No. 17 and teed it up.”

The eagle has landed

For final-hole fireworks, it’s hard to beat the 1992 Honda Classic at Weston Hills.

After losing his lead thanks to a double bogey on 15 and a bogey on 17, Corey Pavin flew a 136-yard 8-iron directly into the cup on 18. Then, after signing his scorecard, he was almost one-upped by Fred Couples, whose 118-yard wedge shot stopped 10 inches from the cup, setting up a birdie that forced a playoff.

The extra session matched the two most accomplished players of the previous year: Pavin, the leading money winner and PGA of America Player of the Year, and Couples, the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Pavin won with a birdie on the second playoff hole.

Nothing but the tooth

Defending champion McIlroy was 7 over par and certain to miss the cut when he walked off the course on the ninth hole of his second round at the 2013 Honda Classic.

In the players’ parking lot he told reporters, “I can’t really say much, guys. I’m just in a bad place mentally.” Later that day, however, the PGA Tour said that McIlroy cited “wisdom tooth pain” for withdrawing. STILL later that day McIlroy issued a statement, saying wisdom tooth pain had left him “simply unable to concentrate.”

In January 2014, in an exclusive interview with, McIlroy stuck by the wisdom tooth story but said withdrawing was “not the right thing to do.”

Opportunity Knox

Here are the key facts about 1986 winner Kenny Knox:

  1. He Monday-qualified.
  2. He shot 80 in the third round.
  3. He closed with 70 to earn his first PGA Tour win.

 Now for some context:

The third round was played in winds topping 45 mph; Knox was one of 36 players to shoot in the 80s that day at the TPC at Eagle Trace. And he is the last player to win with a round in the 80s.

One of the great bogey saves of all time helped him win. On the seventh hole on Sunday, he hit his tee shot on the par 3 into a bunker. His sand shot rolled off the green and into a water hazard. He opted to take a drop in the bunker, then holed the next shot for a 4.

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