Mar 01, 2021
Im, Westwood Lead International Contingent Committed to Play in the 2021 Honda Classic
Sungjae Im, a South Korean who won the 2020 Honda Classic with two massive birdies down the stretch on Sunday, and Englishman Lee Westwood, the winner of last year’s Race to Dubai as the top player on the European Tour, have committed to play in the 2021 Honda Classic, a PGA TOUR event which will return to PGA National Resort & Spa March 15-21.
Im, the 17th-ranked player in the world, and Westwood, presently 37th, join a developing world class field that already includes 12th-ranked Brooks Koepka and three of the last four winners on the PGA TOUR – Waste Management Phoenix Open champion Koepka, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am champion Daniel Berger and Genesis Invitational champion Max Homa.
The two International superstars lead a foreign contingent that also includes 2005 and 2015 Honda Classic champion and European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, Englishmen Ian Poulter and Luke Donald and Swede Henrik Stenson,
Before he won The Classic in The Palm Beaches, Im played golf on the PGA TOUR as much as anybody, traveling from tournament to tournament and living out of hotel rooms without a home base in the United States. But it was in his 50th start at The Honda that the golf world really learned what this rising young player, the reigning Rookie of the Year, was all about.
Im began the final round three strokes out of the lead, but made birdies on four of his first five holes. The middle of his round included three bogeys and a birdie, so Im was one off the lead as he arrived at the Bear Trap.
That’s where he hit precision irons to exactly 7 feet, 10 inches at both the par-3 15th and par-3 17th holes to set up the makeable birdie putts he drained. An up-and-down for par from the front bunker at No. 18 ended up being the difference.
Hughes, a Canadian who made the cut on the number Friday, shot his second consecutive 66 to get into contention. He missed a birdie putt at the par-5 finishing hole that would have gotten him into a playoff.
Fleetwood, the third round leader, started birdie-birdie to get to 7 under, but he made bogey on the par-4 6th and couldn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-4 8th, giving back what was left of his lead at that point. Moments after Im finished, Fleetwood made a 25-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th to get to 5-under. But Fleetwood’s second shot on the par-5 finishing hole leaked right and splashed into the water.
“I’ve been in this spot many times. … I just felt like the experience really helped,” Im said. “I’m just so happy to be on the PGA TOUR and just to play golf, and it’s almost as — I don’t really look at it as work, it’s more of a chance to just go out and do what I love. As far as difficulty-wise, it’s not very hard because I’m doing what I want to do.”
Westwood, 47, clinched the Race to Dubai title to end the 2020 season as the European Tour’s No. 1 player for the third time. He won what was formerly known as the Order of Merit title for the first time 20 years ago at Valderrama, and again in 2009 in Dubai.
Westwood got his 2020 momentum going at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which he won in January, and then finished fourth two months later at The Classic in The Palm Beaches. He was second in the Race to Dubai standings behind Patrick Reed heading into the DP World Tour Championship in December and claimed the Race to Dubai by leapfrogging Reed down the stretch.
“It’s difficult to take it all in right now,” Westwood said. “Obviously it’s been a bizarre year for so many reasons. The combination of it all here, it was a great finish. It was an exciting finish to the year, it’s really hard to quantify.”
The Classic in The Palm Beaches has released a limited initial allotment of tickets for public sale as it continues its plan to welcome a reduced number of fans to this year’s tournament.
Grounds tickets for each day of competition are now available for $60. Public hospitality tickets at the Champions Club on the 18th hole and the Waterford Club at the 17th green are $325.
The Bear Trap, which usually winds around the 16th green and 17th hole tee box area, is being re-imagined into three sections with limited seating in socially-distanced blocks of two and four seats. Bear Trap tickets are $200.
With the primary focus on the health and well-being for all involved with the tournament and the local community, daily attendance will be limited to approximately 10,000 fans each day.
Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at thehondaclassic.com along with limited number of on-site parking passes that don’t require shuttles ($100). Nearby parking is also available at the PGA of America lot ($50) and the BallenIsles lot ($25).
There will be no on-site ticket or parking sales this year. All purchases must be made in advance at thehondaclassic.com. Anyone interested in hospitality can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be social distancing guidelines at all areas. Protocols will be put in place that include the mandatory use of facial coverings, social distancing and other health and safety measures. All permanent and temporary structures will have complete daily sanitation along with all golf carts and vehicles used in tournament operations. All interactions from start to finish including ticketing, admissions, merchandise, and concessions will be contactless and safety measures regarding food preparation and distribution will be in place.
The Classic in The Palm Beaches awarded a record-shattering $5.35 million to 103 South Florida philanthropic organizations in 2020, the 14th consecutive year that the PGA TOUR event has been able to increase its impact on the lives of local children and their families. Honda Classic Cares is also considering additional ways to raise money this year to minimize the impact of a possible reduced charity distribution because of limited crowds and hospitality venues.
The tournament has now surpassed $50 million in charitable contributions as American Honda approaches its 40th year as title sponsor of the PGA TOUR event, including almost $35 million in the 14 years since Children’s Healthcare Charity, Inc. became the host organization and moved the event to PGA National Resort and Spa. The 2020 distribution is impacting more than 91,000 children and their families this year in Palm Beach County.