PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL – Rory McIlroy, who used a victory in the 2012 Honda Classic to spark an ascent to the No. 1 world ranking, has committed to defend his title February 25 - March 3 at PGA National Resort & Spa in the 2013 edition of the PGA TOUR event.
McIlroy will take on a world class field that will include current No. 7 ranked Lee Westwood, who also is an early commitment to The Honda, along with Graeme McDowell, Stuart Appleby, Robert Garrigus, Lee Janzen, Justin Leonard, Rory Sabbatini, and Jesper Parnevik. The deadline for commitments is 5 p.m. on February 22.
In 2012, McIlroy held off a ferocious Sunday charge from Tiger Woods (62) to win by two strokes as The Honda Classic shattered attendance (161,700) and charitable contribution ($1.85 million) records.
Despite a mid-year slump that saw him miss three cuts in a row, McIlroy rebounded to win four more times, including The PGA Championship, and won money titles and Player of the Year awards on both the PGA TOUR and the European Tour. He also won the Byron Nelson Award for top adjusted scoring average (68.87).
The success has put him on the cusp of becoming an International icon at age 23, much in the way that Tiger Woods rose to fame in his 20's. Nike announced a new lucrative endorsement deal with McIlroy January 14 that will cast him alongside Woods as the face of Nike's golf division.
That announcement came with the kind of great fanfare that people have grown accustomed to seeing from McIlroy on the golf course. He emerged from a backdrop of his image projected onto a water fountain hologram in Dubai.
"Nike has always been associated with the best athletes in the world and to join the likes of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, LeBron James … it's a proud moment for me and something I've been looking forward to,'' McIlroy said.
McIlroy, who won the U.S. Open in 2011, started his 2012 season with four straight top-5 finishes before his victory at The Honda. The win didn't come easily as McIlroy didn't make his first birdie on Sunday until the eighth hole and players like Woods and Westwood made charges ahead of him. But in the end, he was just one of two players to post four consecutive rounds in the 60's on PGA National's Champion course.
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