Mickelson's return sparks interest at Bob Hope
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic | Preview | 16 Jan 2007
The USPGA Tour has a quicker than usual turnaround this week when, less than three days after the finish of the Sony Open, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic gets underway in Palm Springs in California.
The tournament begins on Wednesday as it is a 90 hole affair, the only one now on the PGA Tour, the first 72 holes played over four different courses with those making the cut on Saturday evening returning to the host course on Sunday for the final round.
The four courses used this week are the La Quinta Country Club, Bermuda Dunes, PGA West and the Arnold Palmer designed, Classic Club, which plays host and which was used for just the first time in 2006.
The tournament has a rich history in American professional golf as it was first played back in 1960 when won by Arnold Palmer. Palmer still has a place in the tournament as two of the four courses used this week were designed by the Palmer design team. Played in a pro-am format for the first four rounds, the final round reverts to typical tournament golf with those making the cut, playing out the final 18 holes.
Two time winner Phil Mickelson will attract much of the attention this week as he returns to stroke-play golf after a break of nearly five months. Mickelson lost his way during and after the last hole of the 2006 US Open and did little between then and his last stroke-play event at the WGC event at Firestone. His return to competitive golf after such a long break will be of interest to all. Mind you a winning return would not be new to Mickelson as it was at this event in 2002 that he won a playoff over David Berganio after a break of similar length. Mickelson did play the Ryder Cup in September but he would not want to be looking to that for inspiration for his return. Mickelson’s other win in this event came in a playoff over Skip Kendall and he has generally performed well in this event throughout his professional career.
The defending champion is Chad Campbell who arrived in Palm Springs twelve months ago having finished runner up the previous week in Hawaii. He started the Sony Open well last week but fell away at the weekend. If he has been improved by the outings last week and at the Mercedes Championship the week before he could do well but he does not seem at the peak he was last year.
Justin Rose is still looking for his first win on the USPGA Tour but there were several near misses late last year and he was able to win the European Tour’s MasterCard Masters in Australia in late November. He played well everywhere he played late in the season in 2006 and provided there is not too much dust to get off the clubs this week he could be a factor. His 10th place finish last year in this event is a further indicator to his chances.
Prior to his win at the John Deere last year John Senden’s two best finishes on the USPGA Tour were at this event. He was 5th last year and 6th in 2005 but with the success of the John Deere event and his fine win at the Australian Open he no doubt feels more capable of finishing off an event than he was twelve months ago.
Jerry Kelly has often played this event well and his 13th place finish last week at the Sony was encouraging. He often contends but seldom wins and that is the frustration for those keen to have a bet on his chances in any event.
The Australians, aside from Senden, are headed by Robert Allenby, Nathan Green and Peter Lonard the latter of whom finished 4th in this event in his only attempt two years ago. Lonard missed the cut last week in Hawaii but he his game has been coming around of late. Allenby did well in Hawaii last week when 8th but has seldom played this event in recent years while Green had a solid week in Hawaii but he plays this week’s event for the first time. Having said that, Green showed in 2006 that he is capable of tackling any new hurdle and it would not surprise if he did well on debut in this event.
Mark Hensby, Steve Elkington, Stephen Leaney, make up a comparatively small contingent of Australians compared to that at last week’s Sony Open although several are waiting in the wings for a start. As this preview is written, Paul Gow, Andrew Buckle, Jarrod Lyle and Gavin Coles are all close to gaining a start as alternates and one or two should add to the Australasian flavour by Wednesday morning.