Graham Rahal knows how to win as a driver. Today, he won using a driver.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing pilot in the Verizon IndyCar Series teamed with PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler and a trio of Honda representatives to win the pro-am tournament at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Playing a "shamble" format in which the best drive off the tee is selected and then all players play their own ball to finish the hole, the Rahal-Fowler team scored an impressive round of 19 under par on the PGA National course to claim victory.
It is Rahal's third triumph in the Honda Classic pro-am, while Fowler is the defending champion of the PGA tournament that begins Thursday. As special as today's win was, the pairing also allowed the fellow car fanatics and friends to catch up.
Joining them on the team were Henio Arcangeli Jr., senior vice president of American Honda's automobile division, along with Bob and Jim Lindsay, father and son Honda dealers who attend the Indianapolis 500 annually.
The Rahal-Fowler fivesome was one of the early groups off the first tee and took a lead into the clubhouse that was never surrendered. Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, wasn't sure if the score would hold up but was pleased with the effort.
"We played well," he said. "I didn't play particularly great but I'm not surprised. I haven't played in about five months, so to even go out this morning, swing the club off the first tee and hit a perfect drive, it was quite a surprise, trust me. I was pleased with the way we played.
"This tournament's always a lot of fun, it does a lot for the community. I would say a lot of the players say the Honda Classic's one of the best."
The 29-year-old six-time INDYCAR race winner was just as happy to spend time walking the fairways with Fowler, who owns four PGA Tour victories.
"He's had a couple strong years the last couple, very similar to me," Rahal said. "We just kind of caught up. It's been a while since we've had the opportunity to do so. Wish him luck. I hope he can go out and have an amazing weekend, and follow up on his Honda Classic win from last year."
Fowler was a motocross rider as a youngster before turning his attention to a blossoming golf career. But he has a passion for cars that rivals that of Rahal.
"We're both big car nuts," Rahal said. "We caught up on that. Rickie and I have stayed in touch over the years. I don't get a lot of time to chat with him, but it's always fun to play with him. He's great for all the dealers here because he's so personable and easygoing and relaxed.
"We have a lot of mutual respect for one another and what we do."
Fowler has an open invitation from Rahal to attend a Verizon IndyCar Series race. Rahal said the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May would be an ideal time since it takes place the week before the Memorial Tournament played outside Columbus, Ohio, where Rahal grew up.
"I know he wants to get out to a race soon, so we're going to try and make that happen," Rahal said. "Indy's always a good opportunity with the Memorial Tournament after. We'll see how it all pans out."