The PGA TOUR Winner Yesterday: The Bear Trap

A bunch of PGA TOUR pros got caught in “the bear trap” yesterday. It was the final round of the Honda Classic on the Champions Course at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. So, the real winner was the bear trap.

This golf course was designed by Jack Nicklaus. It’s a good track, especially its last four holes: 15, 16, 17, and 18. They are called “the bear trap” because of Jack’s nickname–The Golden Bear. Watching this tournament on television, the commentators kept telling us about the inordinate number of golf balls the world’s greatest golfers were donating into all those watery graves bordering the last four holes.

The young superstar Irishman Rory McIIroy started the day with a two stroke lead which he increased to three strokes on the 7th hole. After firing a sizzling 63 during the first round on Thursday, he was vying to break out of a long slump and win on the American circuit for the first time in 18 months. But he faltered down the stretch on Sunday to finish with a 74 which included a double bogey in the bear trap–on the 16th hole.

The eventual winner was Russell Henley, a previous one-time winner on the PGA TOUR. Playing in front of McIIroy yesterday, Henley looked like anything but a winner when he enlarged the wreckage pileup at the corner of the bear tray by depositing his pellet into the watery blue on the 15th hole.

When everyone had motored across the finish line, four drivers emerged atop the heap: McIIroy, Henley, Ryan Palmer, who bogied his last two out of three holes, and Russell Knox, who double bogied the 14th hole probably because he got scared as he was approaching the yawning bear trap. Henley won the four-man, sudden-death playoff by holing a three-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to finally get the misery over with for all else and host the bright-shining trophy.

That golf course is one of my favorites. The last time I played there was the last round of the Senior PGA Championship on the Senior/Champions Tour in the year 2000. And guess who I was playing with–the maker of the bear trap himself. I was happy to get through the bear trap safely, post a score of 71, and finish the tournament in 10th place. It wasn’t really anything to brag about. But I must admit that what made it sweet was dusting off my two fellow competitors I was playing with–Jack Nicklaus, who had a 72, and Tom Watson, who had a 73.

Come to think of it, heh you juniors, none of us got caught in the bear trap that day. Seniors could still play the game a little bit. I doubt we could do it now. Better bring some extra balls.

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