Mickelson heads 2006 debutantes at Bob Hope
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic | Preview | 18 Jan 2006
The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic will see the addition of a new course to the rotation of four courses for the 90 hole event in Palm Desert California. The Tamarisk Country Club which has in recent years alternated as the fourth course for the event has been replaced by the new Arnold Palmer designed Classic Club in Palm Desert. In fact so new is the course that it will not be officially opened to the public until the day after this year’s event.
The other three courses are the PGA West, La Quinta Country Club and the Bermuda Dunes Country Club although the Classic Club will replace the PGA West course as the host course in 2006.
The first four rounds of this event are played in a pro am format with the final round for the pros only back at the Classic Club on Sunday.
128 professionals will team with 348 amateurs over the first four days with the low seventy professionals and ties at the completion of 72 holes on Saturday evening making it to Sunday.
The defending champion is Justin Leonard, who last year beat Tim Clark and Joe Ogilvie by three shots with Peter Lonard and Loren Roberts one shot further back.
Phil Mickelson, who has won this event twice in the last four years, is here to begin his 2006 campaign. Mickelson was 12th here last year and returns after a three month layoff from the PGA Tour. He has won previously after a long break, in fact when he won here in 2002, he had returned from a five month break. His much awaited return to the PGA Tour will be watched with interest.
Justin Leonard has, in addition to his win last year, often played well here and coming off a solid start to the year when 8th at the Mercedes Championship, he can be expected to do well.
Davis Love has not won here but has played well enough on occasions to be considered some sort of chance. He has not played since the Target Challenge but was very solid late in the season. If he can recover that form he might be in this.
Chad Campbell has made all three cuts at this event and last week he managed to put it all together at the Sony Open. He has made his last ten cuts on tour and is perhaps sneaking closer to his first PGA Tour win in nearly two years.
Tim Clark has developed into such a good player in recent times and his second last year suggests that he is comfortable in the Desert.
Yet another South African might go well this week namely Rory Sabbatini who did so well last week and who finished runner up in 2000 very early in his PGA Tour career.
Chris Riley is another who has often played well in this event and after a slow start in Hawaii last week he finished strongly over the final 54 holes suggesting he is close to being ready to do well here.
The player perhaps of most interest here is David Duval whose last round of 63 on Sunday in Hawaii gave an indication as to where he is at with his game right now. He is of course a previous winner of this event when his last round of 59 at the PGA West course in 1999 saw him win by a shot over Steve Pate. This perhaps will provide an interesting litmus test as to where he is at right now.
Of the Australians in the field, Rod Pampling has played well in three attempts and played nicely in Australia towards the end of last year. He is playing his first event of the season.
John Senden recorded his best ever PGA Tour finish here last year when 6th and arrives back in the US following his best Australasian Tour season. He has struggled on Sundays on occasions on the USPGA Tour but he showed at the Australian Open when runner up to Robert Allenby that he is getting better in that regard.
Steve Elkington, Steve Bowditch, Mathew Goggin, Stephen Leaney and David McKenzie, are other Australians in the field.
The tournament is worth US$5 million.