Phil Mickelson was here for a junior tournament the last time he played the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa.
After playing the course, which has undergone significant renovations by Jack Nicklaus, for the first time since then during Wednesday's pro-am, Mickelson, 43, was feeling good about his game and the Honda Classic, which begins here Thursday.
"Like most courses, it's a little tighter off the tee than I would like," Mickelson said, smiling, "but it's in incredible shape. The greens are beautiful. If you get hot with a putter, you can make a lot of putts.
"I do like the golf course. I've always liked Nicklaus-designed golf courses. It's a wonderful test of golf and I think that's a real credit as to why such a strong field continues to come here."
Besides the fifth-ranked Mickelson, who is playing the Honda for the first time since 2002, when it was held at Heron Bay in Coral Springs, the 144-player field includes No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 3 Henrik Stenson.
For Mickelson, playing the Honda this week and the WGC-Cadillac Championship next week at Trump National Doral made more sense than flying from his home in California just to play at Doral.
"It was just a nice fit to put the two together, and it's always been a very good test of golf, a strong finish," he said. "And I'm excited. This feels to me like the start of the year because I feel good, I'm healthy, I'm able to swing it well. I feel strong and ready to play some good golf.
"With the Masters six weeks away, this is kind of where guys like myself and others are getting geared up for that event, and it's important to get competitive, get sharp mentally and focused and play some good golf, get in contention for weeks like this."
Woods, who lives nearby on Jupiter Island, also is starting his Masters preparation here.
He said he has worked "quite a bit" on his putting. As for the rest of his game, he was "pleasantly surprised how well" he hit the ball Wednesday. His teacher, Sean Foley, walked the course with him.
"We're just working on the same things," Woods said. "He's just 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 and the feels that are associated with certain parts of the video and I'm just focused on that."
Scott, who became the first Australian to win the Masters last year, comes to the Honda after a six-week layoff. His first three weeks he didn't play any golf.
"I was trying to find a couple of things to do other than spend 12 hours on the couch," Scott said. "The last few weeks I've really been back up at the golf course and into the gym and into the routine.
"[The Honda is] going to be a true test of where my game is, because I think the field is as strong as we're going to see on the PGA Tour this year."
Woods is commuting to the Honda and said he enjoys going home to his own TV remote and bed.
"Those are things that we don't get a chance to do very often," he said. "Most sports you spend half the year on the road and half the year at home. Most golfers spend pretty much their entire career on the road."
Phil a fan favorite
Mickelson had the largest group of fans following him Wednesday. Here's one reason why:
On the par-3 17th hole, the pro-am had "Birdies For The Brave," where members of the military caddied for the pro. But Jared Pudvan, of Doral, did more than tote Mickelson's bag.