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Shotgun Start: Previewing the Honda Classic

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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PGA National / Getty Images

It's tournament time! We continue the season at the Honda Classic, an event that's quickly becoming a favorite stop for some of the top names in the game.  Here's a tournament primer to get you prepared for the week.

The course: No doubt about it, PGA National's Champions Course is the toughest track on tour. It played +2.540 strokes over par last season, which was second only to the British Open at Royal St. George's; the course finished second in 2010 to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, so you can understand why players have a lot of respect for the Tom and George Fazio designed course (it was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1990). While PGA National has generous landing areas and large greens, the winds -- which are usually a problem each year -- turn this course into a true test of golf. The course also features the "Bear Trap" (you'll get sick of the nickname after hearing the Golf Channel mention it every 10 second during the week), a three-hole stretch that's considered to be the most difficult in golf. Even though the 15th, 16th and 17th get all the accolades, you may want to keep an eye on players going through the par-4 6th hole this week. The 488-yard hole was the third most difficult on tour in 2011.

[Related: Tiger Woods stares down golf writer over ex-coach's tell-all book]

The schedule: The tournament runs Thursday-Sunday. It'll be broadcast on the Golf Channel from 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday,  and 1 to 3 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday; and on CBS from 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

The field:Bay Hill used to be the top stop on the Florida Swing, but over the years, the Honda Classic has put together a tournament field that rivals not only Arnie's tournament, but most top non-major stops on tour. Rory McIlroy (No. 2 in the OWGR), Lee Westwood (No. 3) and Tiger Woods are the marquee names in the field, followed by Mark Wilson, Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Rickie Fowler, Rory Sabbatini (the defending champ) and Ernie Els. The star-studded field definitely makes this a tournament to watch.

The video: Check out some of the memorable moments from the Honda Classic's history.

Your turn. Who are your picks for this week? Swing away!

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