(Reuters) - Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy will play in the same tournament for the first time this year when they contest the Honda Classic starting in south Florida on Thursday.
The $6 million PGA Tour event used to be the weak link on the four-stop PGA Tour Florida swing, but no longer as a confluence of factors has brought the game’s four biggest global stars together in Palm Beach Gardens.
Woods and McIlroy both now live locally, while Scott and Mickelson opted to skip the World Golf Championships Match Play event in Arizona last week (as did Woods), and instead will use this week as the springboard for their preparation for the Masters in April.
“Once we get to Florida, we’re all thinking our way to Augusta,” Woods told reporters at Palm Beach National on Wednesday.
He has played only two events this year, struggling by his own high standards both times, but he has at least three more tournaments to find his competitive legs before the first major of the year at Augusta National.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how well I was hitting it today,” said Woods, whose form has prompted former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch to suggest that the 14 times major champion stop worrying about swing intricacies and instead focus on finding his rhythm.
Woods suggested he is doing that to some extent.
“We’re just working on the same things,” Woods said of himself and coach Sean Foley.
”He’s doing a lot of video and he’s looking at it. I‘m not really looking at it. I know what I need to do, the feels that are associated with certain parts of the video and I‘m just focused on that. He focuses on a more technical level.
“He comes up with a game plan of what I need to work on and then I go off and work on it. I’ve always done it in the past and it’s worked pretty well for me.”
Masters champion Scott, meanwhile, returns to competition after a six-week break. Since curtailing his schedule, the Australian has been a regular contender in the majors, and he says the less-is-more theory is working.
“The last couple of years has been planned well and executed well. It’s obvious what I‘m trying to peak for,” Scott said.
”I‘m trying to give myself enough time to peak. What a great field this week. It’s going to be a true test.
Scott said the layout would provide a worthy challenge.
“With a tough golf course like this I think everyone is trying to measure themselves up and see where they’re at and how much work needs to be put in,” he said.
“These are all important steps and a poor performance sets you back. Peaking is the real art form.”
Three-time Masters champion Mickelson went skiing in Montana last week, but he also found time during his break to get a quick putting lesson from former PGA champion Dave Stockton.
“It was just a minor thing. Thirty minutes was all it took,” said Mickelson, who endured a wretched final round on the greens at Pebble Beach in his most recent start.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina