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The stars return at the Honda Classic

(Photo: Bruce Young)
The game's three leading players absent from last week's WGC Accenture Match Play will tee it up this week at the Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida where it has been played since 2007.

Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson along with Henrik Stenson are the leading world ranked players in the field, last week's Accenture champion, Jason Day taking a well earned week off. Those in this week's field will not only seek the coveted title of the Honda Classic but prepare their game's for next week's WGC Cadillac Championship in Miami.

The defending champion this week is Michael Thompson who defeated Geoff Ogilvy by two shots to win his only PGA Tour victory to date.

Other recent winners have included Rory McIlory, Rory Sabbatini and Camilo Villegas.

Tiger Woods has seldom played the event but in the past two years he has used it as part of his preparation for the WGC Cadillac and the Masters now only six weeks away.

Woods has not won this event but did finish runner-up to McIlory in 2012 and was 37th last year.

In only two events in 2014 Woods has been very ordinary and there will be much interest if he can bounce back and get things on track for what lies ahead.

Adam Scott returns after a six week break to an event he has played only three times previously with a best of 11th. He has not played the Honda since 2011 when rounds of 77 and 82 saw him miss the cut by a long way. He is in a much better place right now however.

Henrik Stenson is not in the form he was in for much of 2013 and has not played this tournament well previously. It would be a significant turnaround for him to contend.

For the first time since 2002 Phil Mickelson will play this event, one of only three times he has had this as part of his schedule. Like Woods, Mickelson has been a little out of sorts in recent starts although did start the year well when runner-up in Abu Dhabi. He has been plagued by back issues however and might be better for a playing rest over the past two weeks.

Graeme McDowell began to play well last week at the Accenture and having recorded top ten finishes in each of his last three starts in this event he might be some sort of chance at longer odds.

Rory McIlory appears to be back to his free-wheeling best and having won the Honda in 2012 his chances of a first PGA Tour victory in nearly eighteen months look good.

Hideki Matsuyama continues to impress in his rookie PGA Tour season and few will be surprised when he eventually breaks through. He is playing this week's event for the first occasion but that has not stopped him performing well in earlier events and he looks a possible contender.

Sergio Garcia is in great form at present having won in Thailand and the Middle East in the last three months. He did well enough at last week's Accenture to indicate that form has continued in the US and although he has not starred in this event in the few times he has been here he could do well.

Australians in the field are headed of course by Scott but several others will tee it up.

Matt Jones, Greg Chalmers, Geoff Ogilvy, John Senden, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Steven Bowditch and New Zealander Tim Wilkinson are the Australasians get their chance.

Geoff Ogilvy is an intriguing prospect this week. He has been three times runner-up in this event including last year and although his form has been a roller coaster of late so too was the case leading into last year's Honda Classic. He missed four consecutive cuts prior to pushing Thompson all the way last year.

Two of those runner-up finishes have come on other courses but for some reason he seems to enjoy getting to Florida for the first event of the year there.

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