4 players to watch at the Honda Classic

McIlroy has topped the world rankings for a combined total of 95 weeks

McIlroy has topped the world rankings for a combined total of 95 weeks

This event began life as the Jackie Gleason Inverary Classic back in 1972 but it's been sponsored by Honda since 1982 and has been contested at the PGA National Champion Course since 2007.

"If we were just focused on the golf brand, you certainly wouldn't see the crowds that we see out here".

Justin Thomas, Louis Oosthuizen, Daniel Berger, Morgan Hoffmann and Mackenzie Hughes are all one stroke off the pace on the crowded leaderboard at three under. Woods is T-20 alongside 15 others.

Key hole: 17th. This is an extremely challenging par-3, the last hole of the "bear trap". The stretch from Nos. Long iron lay-up also finds the fairway, but 98-yard pitch shot is way short, barely making it to the green and leaving him a 40-footer for birdie.

McIlroy squandered two stellar chances for victory during the European Tour's Middle East swing in January, but says his tie for third at Abu Dhabi and a runner-up in Dubai were just as valuable.

As predicted, there were some interesting rounds.

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Aside from Woods, notables like Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and defensding champion Rickie Fowler are going to make the battle interesting throughout the weekend.

At the par-4 6th hole, Woods pulled out his driver, a risky choice for the hole as the PGA Tour broadcasters acknowledged. The 42-year-old can now be backed at a best-priced 80/1 to go on and bag his long-awaited first PGA Tour title since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. "It's not something that I'm used to because I've never felt like this before, but this is the new norm". Splashes out and watches ball roll eight feet, five inches past the pin, then misses right-to-left curling par try.

McIlroy should have heeded Simpson's advice. There was hope for Tiger after his top-25 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, but his putting was balky and the rust was definitely showing at Riviera.

"I think the biggest thing we ask of them is being respectful and understanding that it is a very hard golf shot". "There's some times where you've got a ideal number over water to a tucked pin and you're tempted to go 5 feet left of it when you need to go 15 feet left of it".

"I'm starting to get that feeling again of playing tournament golf, where you know each and every shot counts", Woods said Wednesday after his pro-am round. Length off the tee is not almost as important as placement, so I would expect the victor to hit a high percentage of fairways and greens, taking advantage of a hot week of putting. But he didn't force anything and stayed mostly within the vicinity of the fairway. A par 3, then a par 4 and another par 3, each tee shot demands a supremely accurate shot to a very narrow landing area. And last week, his putter let him down - he took 32 putts, including three three-putts, in his second round.

"I do believe he will win another major", said Padraig Harrington.

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