The PGA Tour season began five months ago. The new year is two months old. And yet there's something about the Honda Classic that makes Tiger Woods and a collection of stars feel as though it's all about to get underway.
"I think once we get to Florida, I think we're all thinking about our way to Augusta," Woods said in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Six tournaments remain before the Masters, and this is now serious business. It shows in the strength of the field at PGA National, with seven of the top 10 players from the world ranking.
The last time Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott competed in the same tournament was the BMW Championship near Chicago last summer.
Woods has plenty of work to do based on his early performance -- a missed 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines in his lone tour start this year, followed by a tie for 41st at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Since returning from overseas earlier this month, Woods said he has spent most of his time working on his short game.
Woods isn't the only player coming off a break.
Scott, the defending champion at Augusta, hasn't competed since the Sony Open in Honolulu in January. He plans to play three of the next four tournaments.
"After three weeks, I kind of felt like I needed to start swinging again, but I think I timed it pretty well because I've had a nice couple weeks of intense practice before getting here," Scott said.
PGA National looks to have as much blue (water) as green (grass), and the course is converted into a par 70 for the Honda Classic. Michael Thompson won last year at 9-under 271.
It wouldn't seem to favor Mickelson, who has not played PGA National since he was an amateur.
Mickelson missed the past two weeks because his kids were on spring break. He did not want to fly from California for one tournament next week at Doral, so he added the Honda Classic.
"It's a wonderful test of golf," Mickelson said.
This is only the third time Woods has played the Honda Classic as a pro. He rallied with a 62 in the final round in 2012 to finish behind McIlroy and then struggled off the tee a year ago when he tied for 37th.
McIlroy has his own set of memories from PGA National, not all of them good. Even though he won in 2012 to become No. 1 in the world for the first time, he followed that by playing 26 holes last year before walking off the course with his game in disrepair and his business affairs not much better.
A sponsor would have a lot of input on where it was played. While the players were not fond of Dove Mountain (Ariz.), Accenture loved being at The Ritz-Carlton.
Colombia remains a big part of the discussion, but the Match Play hasn't left the U.S. since it went to Australia in 2001 and 28 players didn't show up.