Pro Golf Weekly

2019 Desert Classic Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

After its two-tournament Hawaiian swing, the PGA Tour returns to the U.S. mainland this week for the 2019 Desert Classic at PGA West in La Quinta, California.

Jamie Lovemark putts on the 17th green during the third round of the CareerBuilder Challenge at TPC Stadium at PGA West on Jan 23, 2016 in La Quinta, CA. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The long-running tournament, with its rich history and tradition, provides yet another opportunity for Tour players to get their early season moving in a positive direction.

The field of 156 players is headlined by Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, and defending champion Jon Rahm, among others.


THE SKINNY

Tournament: Desert Classic
Dates: Jan. 17-20, 2018
TV Network: GOLF Channel
Course: TPC Stadium Course at PGA West
Where: La Quinta, California
Distance: 7133 yards, Par 72
Architect: Pete Dye, 1986
Field/Format: 156 players; 72-hole stroke; 54-hole cut
Purse: $5,900,000
Winning Share: $1,062,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500
Defending Champion: Jon Rahm


TV & ONLINE COVERAGE

Round 1: 3-7:00 pm
Round 2: 3-7:00 pm
Round 3: 3-7:00 pm
Round 4: 3-7:00 pm
All times EST. Golf Channel.

Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Wikipedia


HISTORY

Remember when one of the early-season west coast events was a five-round tournament? It was this one, back when it was called the Bob Hope Classic.

The tournament is best remembered for David Duval’s final-round 59 in 1999 – when 59s were a bit rarer.

Bernhard Langer with Bob Hope during the Bob Hope British Classic at Moor Park Golf Club on September 26, 1981 in Rickmansworth, England. Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

In 2012, the tournament moved to a traditional four-round variety, but its compelling past has not been forgotten. The Desert Classic began in 1960 as the Palm Springs Desert Golf Classic. The inaugural tournament was won by Arnold Palmer, who shot 20 under in a three-stroke triumph over Fred Hawkins.

Palmer would go on to win the tournament a record five times.

Other past legendary winners include Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Johnny Miller, and Phil Mickelson.

Bob Hope was added to the tournament title in 1965 (he became the tournament’s Chairman of the Board) and his famous name stayed as part of the top billing through 2011.

Hope and Palmer, along with the advent of golf TV, made for a perfect marriage. The five-day tournament, known for its celebrity pro-ams, allowed the TV networks to showcase not only Palmer, but the many famous celebrity golfers, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and President Dwight Eisenhower.

The tournament will be contested at PGA West and played on three courses for the first three rounds: the Stadium Course, the Nickalus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club. For Sunday’s finale, the Stadium Course will play host.

This will be just the fifth year at the Stadium Course, as it was so difficult in its 1987 debut that players petitioned to have it removed from the tournament rotation.

The Pete Dye masterpiece made its return to the rotation in 2016, and it plays much easier now than it did in ’87, with winners Jason Dufner (2016, -25), Hudson Swafford (2017, -20), and Jon Rahm (2018, -22) each shooting better than 20-under par en route to their victories. The 1987 winner, Corey Pavin, was 19 under for FIVE rounds.

HISTORY: RECENT CHAMPIONS

2018: Jon Rahm
2017: Hudson Swafford
2016: Jason Dufner
2015: Bill Haas
2014: Patrick Reed
2013: Brian Gay
2012: Mark Wilson
2011: Jhonattan Vegas


HISTORY: RECORDS

Wins: 5 – Arnold Palmer (1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1973)
72-hole score: 259 (-36) – Joe Durant (2001)
18-hole score: 59 – David Duval (1999), Adam Hadwin (2017)


DEFENDING CHAMPION

Jon Rahm fired a bogey-free 5-under 67 at the Stadium Course, and then beat Andrew Landry on the fourth playoff hole to win the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge.

Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm celebrates after winning the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge in a playoff over Andrew Landry at PGA West. Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The then 23-year old Spaniard, who started the day two back of 54-hole leader Austin Cook, finished his final round at the PGA West Resort with seven birdies, including two-straight on hole Nos. 13 and 14, to reach 22 under.

Landry, who was in the day’s final pairing with Cook and Martin Piller, made a clutch birdie on the 18th to sign for a 68, and force a sudden-death playoff.

In overtime, the two finalists matched pars over the first three holes, but on the fourth hole, Rahm holed a five-foot birdie putt to win his second PGA Tour title.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Rahm said. “I had a good feeling going into today and to play the way I did and gave myself a chance, obviously props to Andrew, to birdie 18 from the right rough, having to birdie it, it’s, I mean it’s a heck of an accomplishment.”

The win earned Rahm a first-place prize of $1,062,000 and 500 FedExCup points, while moving him to No. 2 at the time, in both the FedExCup standings and world rankings.

FINAL TOP-10

1 Hudson Swafford -20
2 Adam Hadwin -19
3 Brian Harman -18
3 Bud Cauley -18
5 Dominic Bozzelli -17
6 Brendan Steele -16
6 Chad Campbell -16
8 Scott Stallings -15
9 Sean O’Hair -14
9 Richey Werensky -14


THE FIELD

The field this week at PGA West is headlined by world No. 1 Justin Rose, who makes his 2019 PGA Tour debut after sitting out the Hawaiian Swing, alongside five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, and defending champion Jon Rahm.

WGC-HSBC-Champions-Justin-Rose-Caddie
Justin Rose during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International GC on October 29, 2017 in Shanghai, China. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Rose and No. 7, Rahm are the only players in the field ranked in the world top-10. In fact, Patrick Cantlay – at No. 19, is the only other player teeing it up this week with a world ranking inside the top-30.

Three more players are ranked inside the top 50, including Mickelson (No. 34), Kevin Kisner (No. 39), and last week’s runner-up Andrew Putnam (No. 45).

In addition to Rahm, the Desert Classic field also includes former winners in Hudson Swafford (2017), Jason Dufner (2016), Bill Haas (2015), and Brian Gay (2013), among others.

Major winners Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Lucas Glover, and Danny Willett are some of the other familiar names.


FULL FIELD & ODDS


Joel Cook contributed to this report.


Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images


Jeff Smith

Jeff is a writer and content producer for Pro Golf Weekly. He is working on a book, documenting the 2017 and 2018 seasons on the major golf tours.

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