Leonard new favourite at Bob Hope
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2009 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic | Preview | 21 Jan 2009
The late withdrawal of Anthony Kim due to a niggling shoulder injury has left the Bob Hope Classic sponsored by Arnold Palmer without a top ten player but with the involvement of Arnold Palmer as host, the event is still guaranteed one of golf’s highest profile celebrities.
Gone also this week is the tournament’s association with Chrysler who played such a key role in the support of the event over a 22 year period.
Palmer was quick to extol the virtues of the pro-am format in professional golf events.
“Well, that of course was part of what I enjoyed (when I played). And I have to say that even though that becomes a detriment to some of the players playing with the amateurs, I found that it was pretty enjoyable.”
“And today I still have many friends who I met here playing in the pro-am. And they’re good friends. And in addition to that, some of them were people who had the wares for my association business-wise.”
“And that has worked out extremely well over the years, even though I haven’t played in a number of years, the friendships and the business associates that I have made through this tournament have been extremely valuable.”
The tournament is played over four courses in the Palm Desert region of California. Bermuda Dunes, Silver Rock and the Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus courses at PGA West are all used over the opening four rounds before the cut is made and the tournament returns to the host course, the Palmer course at PGA West
With the withdrawal of Kim, the inform Justin Leonard becomes the pre tournament favourite in most people’s eyes as a result of his current form and also because he has a good record in this event, winning in 2005 and finishing runner up last year. "I always look forward to coming back for the Hope, said Leonard. "It’s a relaxed atmosphere. The golf courses are always in great shape, the weather’s great and it’s a good week to still get some of the winter rust off our games.
“I played at Kapalua two weeks ago and played pretty well and just look forward to getting underway tomorrow. I think the golf courses don’t really set up well for any certain style of play. They’re certainly not overly long but I think you have to be patient.”
Leonard finished 5th at the recent Mercedes-Benz event which came on top of a series of good finishes in events late in 2008. He appears primed for a big week.
David Toms did very well last week when joint runner up to Zach Johnson at the Sony. Toms has not played this event since 2005 and despite making all 9 cuts in the event when he has played, there has been only the one top ten. The revised rotation of course might suit him better this week however.
Tim Clark made a late dash at the leaders last week in Hawaii, that effort coming just a month and one start after winning the Australian Open. Clark finished runner up in the first of his two starts in this event in 2004 and despite having not yet won on the PGA Tour his time must surely be near.
D.J. Trahan is the defending champion in this week’s field. His recent 6th place at the Mercedes-Benz and a 32nd place last week in Honolulu is considerably better form than he had leading into this event last year and consecutive victories are not beyond him.
Since Steve Stricker last played this event in 2004 his significant game has returned and although he has generally struggled in this event he is such a class player now that it might be enough to significantly improve his record at this event.
Steve Marino has shown glimpses of form in this event and following his good round on Sunday last week to finish 7th he has a real chance of further improvement. His first win on the PGA Tour is not far away.
Mathew Goggin is playing his first event of the season and arrives in California with two very impressive but ultimately disappointing finishes behind him. He was runner up at both the Australian PGA Championship and the Australian Open but he let winning chances slip at both. Still that is better form than many in this event and although still looking for that elusive first PGA Tour title he could nevertheless perform well.
Nathan Green’s effort last week was perhaps a surprise given the issues he is having with a knee at present and that he was unable to work a lot on his game over the Xmas New Year period. “I was reasonably happy with my effort in Hawaii,” he said today. "I wouldn’t say I was striking it all that well but managed to hang in there," he added referring to his 12th place finish at the Sony.
Peter Lonard missed the cut last week but did manage a 4th place finish in this event in the first of two appearances three years ago.
John Senden, Steve Elkington, Tim Wilkinson, Jarrod Lyle, Greg Chalmers and James Nitties round out the Australasian contingent.