After a pair of tournaments in Hawaii, the PGA Tour returns to the mainland this week for the CareerBuilder Challenge.
The tournament, which was known as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic for years, has a celebrity component in addition to the regular tournament.
Each professional has a celebrity partner throughout the tournament, so while the normal stroke play event takes place, there is a tournament within the tournament as the pro-celebrity partnership play in a best-ball competition. The celebrity influence is engrained in this tournament as Bob Hope was influential in the event’s creation and was the face of the tournament for most of its existence.
A 30-footer for par and a kiss from Joe Pesci. 😘 pic.twitter.com/YQoJjMWhT8
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 18, 2017
Another source of buzz for the tournament is that Phil Mickelson will make his calendar year debut this week. Mickelson underwent hernia surgery in the fall and this will be his first tournament since the operation. In fact, the entire Mickelson team is on the mend as Bones had a double knee replacement in the fall as well.
Mickelson won this tournament in 2002 and 2004, but has limited expectations this week and actually considered withdrawing earlier in the week. The event provides a great opportunity for Mickelson to knock of some rust, post some low score, and hopefully get into contention.
In most years, low scores will be plentiful this week. The perfect weather in Palm Springs and the shortish courses in play leads to a tremendous amount of birdies and eagles and the winner is generally at least 20-under. This year, however, there is rain in the forecast. Will that effect the scoring? Well it depends if that rain comes with wind.
There is a three-course rotation this week – Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, TPC Stadium Course. Every player will play a different course in the first three days of competition and after a 54-hole cut, players will commence play Sunday on the TPC Stadium Course. All three courses are similar in difficulty and present a plethora of low scores.
Last Year’s Event:
Jason Dufner took home the title last year as he held off a Sunday charge from Phil Mickelson among others. It was Dufner’s fourth career win and first victory since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
Dufner held a comfortable lead through most of the final round until he pulled his tee shot on the par-3 16th. His shot narrowly avoided the water, but left him with a tricky lie amongst the rocks. Dufner elected to play the ball from the hazard and his ensuing chip was one of the signature shots of the 2016 season.
Most Memorable Moment:
The CareerBuilder Challenge has had many different names and incarnations over the years, but the event’s list of champions is as prestigious as any tournament.
Arnold Palmer won the first edition of the CareerBuilder Challenge in 1960 and went on to win the tournament five times. This tournament was also home to Palmer’s final PGA Tour victory in 1973. Names like Nicklaus, Mickelson, Miller have all graced the winner’s circle.
The most memorable moment, however, did not come from any of those Hall of Fame champions. The most memorable moment came in 1999 when then-No.1 in the world David Duval fired a final round 59 to secure the come-from-behind victory. Duval had started the day seven shots behind the lead and the comeback remains one of the greatest in PGA Tour history.
Mark Wilson: Admittedly, my dark horses in previous weeks were not the darkest. Pat Perez and Paul Casey were both off the radar, but they were also top-100 players, so I am going way off the board this week. Mark Wilson has not played well in a few years (he’s ranked 590th in the world), but Wilson has had a tremendous amount of success on the west coast early in the season.
Wilson has five career PGA Tour victories with four of those five victories coming western states, including winning the 2012 CareerBuilder Challenge, his last PGA Tour win.
Otter Room Pick:
Patrick Reed (-21): Going with former champions is turning into a theme as Reed won this tournament in 2014. With Justin Thomas’ early success and the perpetual hype of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, etc., Reed’s early season play has gone under the radar a bit. In the “what have you done for me lately” world of the PGA Tour media, this is a perfect opportunity for Reed reinsert himself into into the conversation of best young Americans.