Thursday's first round of the Honda Classic was like a trip to the zoo for Sergio Garcia. It seemed like everywhere he turned, he was running into animals of some shape or size.
The first one Garcia encountered was an eagle with this impressive approach shot on the par-4 second hole. He pretty much commands the wind to help his ball, and it obeys nicely.
The next encounter was a little more unsettling for the Spaniard. His drive at No. 6 found a shallow water hazard to the left of the fairway. Garcia took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants, and prepared to join the alligators in their natural habitat.
Watch as Garcia casts a wary eye behind him as he tries to settle down and hit the shot.
The shoes came off for Sergio Garcia.
He stayed clear of alligators and the rough with this shot. https://t.co/SMheyhyq8A
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2016
Fortunately, Garcia escaped without being bitten by an unfriendly gator. Unfortunately, he didn't escape the hole without carding a bogey.
Goodbye, California. Hello, Florida.
The PGA Tour begins its Florida Swing this week with the Honda Classic at PGA National, and it's a star-studded field, headlined by Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
They're not the only big names heading for the Palm Beaches this week. Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson are also entered. In addition, defending champion Padraig Harrington and sudden-death playoff loser Daniel Berger have returned.
PGA National is your classic Florida layout: long, flat and chock-full of water hazards. The player who can keep his ball dry and in the fairway has the best chance of being around at the finish Sunday.
But even that may not be enough. PGA National features a three-hole stretch called the "Bear Trap" that could decide who takes home the trophy. You'd think two par-3s wouldn't be so knee-buckling, but you're talking tiny targets surrounded by water, so there's no bailout area. And if the wind's blowing, those holes pose even more of a challenge.
Here are the five players to keep a close eye on this week:
5. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Second at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Reason to watch: When Phil Mickelson says he's having fun playing golf again, and it's showing up in his results, there's nothing better. We know how well Lefty can scramble, but his entire game is showing vast improvement over the past couple of seasons. He's never been the most accurate driver of the ball, but he continues to amaze with his chipping and his putting hasn't been this good in a long time.
4. Jason Dufner
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Won Career Builder Challenge
Reason to watch: After his victory in the 2013 PGA Championship, Dufner seemed to fall off the radar for the next two seasons. But the king of Dufnering has more top-10 finishes (three in nine events) so far than he had all of last season, including the playoff win at La Quinta. He may not allow his emotions to rise to the surface often, but there's been a hint of a smile that's been missing until recently. What's hurt him recently is driving accuracy and putting. If he gets those going again, he could be tough.
3. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Second at CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: For all the concerns over having to switch putting styles, Scott had the flatstick going at the Northern Trust Open. And he's still amazingly consistent on par-5s, having gained 33 strokes to par so far this season. That birdie-eagle finish Sunday at Riviera can't do anything but help Scott's confidence heading into the Florida Swing.
2. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2015-16 season: T11 at the HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: After three strong rounds that put him in contention at the Northern Trust Open, McIlroy had a Sunday setback. If that sounds familiar, that's almost exactly what happened to Rory at PGA National in 2014, when he let a wire-to-wire victory slip away in the Bear Trap and missed the playoff. He's more than capable of putting together four strong rounds -- and perhaps has learned his lesson from that near-miss.
1. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2015-16 season: Second at Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: If Jordan Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day are considered golf's current Big Three, there's room for Fowler as a fourth. He's certainly played that way already this season, with three top-five finishes, including losing the sudden-death playoff at TPC Scottsdale to Hideki Matsuyama. That one stung a lot, especially since Fowler seemed to have things in hand before overshooting the 17th green in regulation. He's battle-tested on tough Florida layouts -- winning last year's Players -- so anything's possible at PGA National.
How's Tiger Woods? He finally answered the lingering questions about his health Wednesday morning with his own video post on Twitter, showing him swinging a club in a simulator.
See for yourself.
After reports surfaced on social media claiming Woods' recovery from the most recent back surgery was going poorly, his agent disputed those rumors earlier this week. And now there's video proof from Tiger himself that he's "progressing nicely," in his own words.
Could we see Woods at Augusta National in six weeks? If that video is any kind of conclusive evidence, it seems more than likely.
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club