Losing the Honda Classic in a 4-man playoff was hard for Rory McIlroy to take, but probably not nearly as tough as losing the 2-stroke lead that was his at the start of the day. Little known Russell Henley birdied the first playoff hole and beat out McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox for the win at the PGA event in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Tiger Woods did not make it past the 13th hole.
McIlroy began the day at 12-under par and at one point had a 3 shot lead. After a double-bogey on 16 and a bogey on 17, he found himself down by one shot heading into the last hole. For all the bad that had happened to him, he actually had a makeable eagle putt that would have won it for him on the par-5 18th. The putt just missed on the right side, and Rory tapped in to join the 3 others in the playoff.
Of the four players tied for the lead, Palmer had scored the best of the final round, firing a 1-under total of 69. He missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th that might have won it outright. Knox birdied two of the first three holes, but also had a bogey and a double bogey to end his fourth round at 1-over 71.
For Henley it was a roller coaster day. Starting the day at 10-under, two shots in back of McIlroy, he played the front nine at even par 35 with one birdie and one bogey. He then bogeyed the 10th and 13 holes and looked to be shooting himself out of it at -8. Birdies at 13 and 14 got him into a tie for the lead before hitting his tee shot into the water on the par-3 15th and making double bogey. As it happened, the rest of the field came back to his -8 total, and 3 pars to finish up were good enough to put him in a tie for the lead.
On the first playoff hole, which was the par-5 18th, Henley was the only player of the foursome to hit the green in two. A 2-putt from 40 feet for birdie was enough for his second win on the PGA tour. With the win, Henley qualifies for the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral next week and moves into the top 50 in the world rankings. He’ll also get an invitation to the Masters next month. For Rory McIlroy, even if a loss in a playoff in the Honda Classic is not what he wanted, it was a strong performance nonetheless. Promising to pick himself back up, he said he’d just have to head to Doral next week and see if he can “get the job done.”
If playoff loss made it a bad day for Rory McIlroy, it was a Honda Classic that the world’s No.1-ranked player Tiger Woods would like to forget. Woods carded a 5-over 40 on the front nine on Sunday then left on the 13th hole of the PGA National course with lower back problems. Those who had watched him said that he had been stretching and bending all day, obviously experiencing some tightness in his back even before his round started. When asked if he would be in the field next week at Doral, Woods only said he would wait and see.
By Chuck Podhaisky