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 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.
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:
Hudson Swafford joined the litany of Georgia Bulldogs as PGA Tour winners as Swafford emerged from a crowded leaderboard Sunday to earn his first career PGA Tour win.
What the leaderboard lacked in marquee names it made up for in drama. Swafford’s closing 67 was enough to edge Adam Hadwin, the Canadian who shoot 59 in the third round, by one shot. Swafford birdied three of the final four holes en route to the victory.
The outcome was in doubt through much of the back nine Sunday and saw as many as eight players within one shot of the lead. The critical hole turned out to be the island green par-3 17th hole. Chad Campbell, who took the lead on the front nine, found the water, other contenders made par, but Hadwin and Swafford both tallied birdies.
Trailing by one on 18, Hadwin pushed his drive and was unable to give himself a realistic attempt at a tying birdie. Swafford drove it in the fairway, hit his approach to the middle of the green and two-putted for an easy par to clinch the tournament.
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.
Zach Johnson: Johnson had an off year last season with his only solid performance coming at the John Deere Classic. The Iowan will be looking to begin his bounce back season with a strong performance in the California desert. Johnson will play the first three rounds with Phil Mickelson, which could rekindle the group’s strong play from the 2015 President’s Cup
Otter Room Pick:
John Rahm (-24): Rahm is the highest ranked player in the field and low scores at the event play perfectly into the gameplan of the the hyper-aggressive Spaniard. Although this is Rahm’s second year on tour, he has experience playing on similar courses from his time at Arizona State.