Believe it or not, the 2011 West Coast Swing is officially in the books, as the PGA Tour starts up the Florida Swing this week at the Honda Classic. Camilo Villegas returns to the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to defend his title in a field that includes the likes of Lee Westwood, Rory McIllroy, Ernie Els and 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. Before the action tees off on Thursday, we caught up with PGA National Director of Golf Jane Broderick.
PGA.com: Thanks so much for joining us again this year, Jane. First off, can you tell us a little about the incredible field you have assembled at PGA National this week? The Honda Classic probably has more international power in one spot than we've seen all year in a full-field event.
Broderick: We are very proud of the field that has been assembled. We have had an international winner for the last three years, and I think that continues to attract more international players. It is an honor to have players such as Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell, Camilo Villegas and all the other international champions play our course. Mix the international players with all the great players from the U.S. and we have the making of an incredible event.
PGA.com: Camilo Villegas is back to defend his title this week. Could there have been a more popular champion in South Florida last year?
Broderick: Camilo has been a very gracious champion. He has a home in South Florida, so it's always nice to see a "local player" win.
PGA.com: Aside from Villegas, the other three Honda Classic champions since the tournament moved to PGA National in 2007 are Y.E. Yang, Ernie Els and Mark Wilson. Ernie was established as a star long before that win in 2008, but for Yang and Wilson, the Honda win served as a launching pad to stardom. What is it about a win at PGA National that elevates a player's game going forward?
Broderick: The Champion Course is gaining the reputation of requiring major championship caliber play. A win here at the Honda Classic gives the victors the confidence to win anywhere on tour. The course is demanding enough to make the statement, "if you can win here, you can win anywhere."
PGA.com: Speaking of that, "major-caliber," from the final winning score to the names atop the final leaderboard, it could be argued that the Honda Classic has more of a major championship feel than any other so-called "regular" PGA Tour event. Would you agree with that? If so, what is it that attracts the biggest names in the game?
Broderick: I think the great attraction is a combination of the incredibly difficult golf course and the great feel of the event overall. The difficulty of the Champion Course along our prestigious golf history provides the true test of golf that the greats thrive on, and the overall atmosphere of the event that has been created by Ken Kennerly and his staff sets the entire event apart from all the others on Tour.
PGA.com: Final question, Jane. In your opinion, what would make for a dream finish on Sunday afternoon?
Broderick: I would love to see the leaders be tied on Sunday going into the Bear Trap, with the ultimate winner being the one who best capitalizes on the risk/reward opportunities presented on Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18.