The times they are a changin’
Here’s my new adventure at PGATOUR.COM
I’ll have more “old skool” stuff in here at the normal time today.
Ok, we’re back with MOAR STUFF so stuff your E-FACE until you can’t take it anymore!
60th Desert Classic
Stadium Course at PGA West (host)
La Quinta, California
Stadium Course Cheat Sheet
|Yards (per official scorecard):||7,113|
|Rough:||Bermuda at 2″|
|Architect(s):||Pete Dye (1986)|
|Purse:||$5.9 million; $1.062 million, 500 FedExCup points (winner).|
|Defending Champion:||Jon Rahm, -22.|
|Notes:||Stadium Course has hosted only since 2016.|
|Notes II:||Pro-Am field of 156 pros will be cut to the top 70 and ties after playing ALL THREE COURSES.|
It’s back to the continental United States for the West Coast swing beginning this week in the Coachella Valley. The old Bob Hope Desert Classic is in year 60 but without a tournament sponsor. Let’s hope that rectifies itself before the TOUR returns next January.
Anyhow, in fantasy land, this is one of the most difficult events to handicap for a myriad of reasons:
- The winning score is a million under so that opens up the field to plenty.
- The three courses are all short so that opens up the field to even more.
- The weather is usually null and void so there is no stress to play easy, resort courses.
- The Pro-Am portion suggests long rounds, tests of patience and long rounds.
- All of these guys can make tons of birdies and this will help break a few who have been quiet out of recent slumps.
- There have been five, first-time TOUR winners of the last 11 champs crowned.
If you missed my almost-full player preview, it’s in the PREVIEW section.
If you weren’t around last week and wondered how it all went down at Waialae, I have four Emergency 9 columns for you to catch-up on in the RECAP section.
As always, the comments are always open as is email, carrier pigeon and signal flags. My New Year’s resolution is to continue to have fun, provide information and keep the discussion going with all who choose to engage. It’s a community that I love being a part of and want to make it even better in 2019. I’m listening, as always, so make your voice heard!
And as always, GOOD LUCK!
Previous Winners (since 2012):
|2018||Jon Rahm||-22||Won on the fourth playoff hole|
|2017||Hudson Swafford||-20||First TOUR win|
|2016||Jason Dufner||-25||Playoff winner over David Lingmerth; first year for Stadium Course|
|2015||Bill Haas||-22||All-time leading money winner at this event|
|2014||Patrick Reed||-28||30 birdies never hurts|
|2013||Brian Gay||-25||Beat Lingmerth and Charles Howell III in a playoff|
|2012||Mark Wilson||-24||First year of using just three courses and four rounds.|
|Safeway Open||Kevin Tway**|
|CIMB Classic||Marc Leishman|
|CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES||Brooks Koepka|
|Sanderson Farms Championship||Cameron Champ**|
|WGC-HSBC Champions||Xander Schauffele|
|Shriners Hospitals for Children||Bryson DeChambeau|
|Mayakoba Golf Classic||Matt Kuchar|
|The RSM Classic||Charles Howell III|
|Hero World Challenge*||Jon Rahm|
|Sentry TOC||Xander Schauffele (2)|
|Sony Open in Hawaii||Matt Kuchar (2)|
(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)
Facts and Figures:
In 2012 the event shrank from 90 holes to 72 and reduced the courses used from four to three. While I do look back at past performance to see who handles desert golf well, the course form is muddled before 2012. Live in the now, man!
|Tournament Record:||260 (-28); Reed.|
|Course Records:||La Quinta – 59; Adam Hadwin (2017).
Nicklaus Tournament – 62; Kevin Na and Lingmerth (2016).
Stadium Course (TOUR event) – 64; Dominic Bozzelli (2017).
|Recent Defending Champion(s):||That Johnny Miller (1975-76).|
|Multiple Winners (entered)||Phil Mickelson (2002, 2004); Haas (2010, 2015).|
|First TOUR Win (last):||Swafford (2017), also 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.|
|First-time (event) this century:||Jhonattan Vegas (2011), Charley Hoffman (2007),|
|Low Round 2018:||62; Jon Rahm (LQ), Round 1.|
|Odd Fact:||13 of the last 20 winners have played Kapalua the previous week.|
|Odd Fact II:||Henley, Thomas and Paul Stankowski (1997) are the only 20-somethings to win here since 1997.|
The Confidence Factor was the weekly column I wrote for PGATOUR.COM. It has evolved into Horses for Courses. I’ve included the link here for you. It can also be found in The Confidence Factor section at my website. For now. Until I make a new category. Relax.
Inside the Ropes
Easy street this week as wide fairways, flat greens, easy pins and no weather await 156 pros and their amateur playing partners. Golf should be fun and this week is pretty stress-free unless you’re an 18 trying to make a three-footer for par net birdie.
The guys who annually play here enjoy the six hour rounds and everything that goes along with it. It didn’t bother Charley Hoffman or Jhonattan Vegas the first time they participated!
Here’s what’s easiest to remember: The really good players are really good and everyone on TOUR makes birdies. That doesn’t solve much, does it? That’s why I believe it’s the hardest week on TOUR to handicap because just about everyone is in play.
Trend or Not a Trend?
The winning score approaches 23-under in the three years of this new rotation. Scores in the 70s aren’t any good unless they are matched with scores in the very low 60s.
Rahm became only the fourth international winner this century. The European Tour annually opens this week in the desert of Abu Dhabi so maybe that shouldn’t be surprising.
It shouldn’t be surprising that guys who enjoy desert golf will factor this week so you might wanna go back and check Shriners results as well.
The highest winning score since reducing to 72 holes was 20-under in 2017. The wind blew 20-30 and gusted (allegedly) up to 40 mph in Round 3. Psst: 20-under still won the event!
Here’s what the last three winners have done:
|STAT||Jon Rahm (2018)||Hudson Swafford (2017)||Jason Dufner (2016)|
|Greens in Regulation||T50||T50||T9|
|Putting: Birdie-or-Better %||2nd||2nd||1st|
|Selected golfers with multiple cuts made sorted by rank on the tournament’s money list|
|Rank||Player||Cuts Made/Starts||Top 10s||Best Finish|
|1||Bill Haas||12/14||5||Win (2010, 2015)|
|2||Phil Mickelson||12/15||5||Win (2002, 2004)|
|4||Charley Hoffman||6/11||5||Maiden win (2007)|
|Sorted by best finishes since 2016 when the host course moved to The Stadium Course|
|Player||Cuts Made/Starts||Top 10s||Best Finish|
|Jon Rahm||1/2||1||Win (2018)|
|Andrew Landry||1/2||1||P2 (2018)|
|John Huh||3/4||1||T3 (2018)|
|Martin Piller||2/3||1||T3 (2018)|
|Scott Piercy||4/7||1||T6 (2018)|
|Jason Kokrak||3/6||2||T8 (2018, 2013)|
|Brandon Harkins||1/1||1||T8 (2018)|
|Sam Saunders||1/7||1||T8 (2018)|
|Hudson Swafford||4/5||1||Win (2017)|
|Adam Hadwin||4/4||3||2 (2017)|
|Bud Cauley||5/6||1||T3 (2017)|
|Brian Harman||5/6||1||T3 (2017)|
|Dominic Bozzelli||1/2||1||5 (2017)|
|Scott Stallings||4/8||2||T4 (2013); 8 (2017)|
|Brendan Steele||6/8||2||T6 (2017)|
|Luke List||3/4||1||T6 (2017)|
|Martin Laird||9/11||1||T9 (2017)|
|Sean O’Hair||4/7||1||T9 (2017)|
|Richy Werenski||2/2||1||T9 (2017)|
|Jason Dufner||8/9||1||Win (2016)|
|Jamie Lovemark||3/3||1||T6 (2016)|
|Si Woo Kim||1/1||1||T9 (2016)|
|OTHER SIGNS OF CONFIDENCE|
|Sorted by most recent top 10s(before The Stadium Course), selected golfers and desert foxes|
|Player||Cuts Made/Starts||Top 10s||Last||Best Finish|
|Ryan Palmer||9/14||5||T10 (2015)||2 (2014)|
|Zach Johnson||5/8||2||T3 (2014)||T3 (2014)|
|Brian Stuard||2/5||2||5 (2014)||5 (2014)|
|Ben Crane||12/15||3||T9 (2014)||T5 (2004)|
|Brian Gay||10/16||2||Win (2013)||Win (2013)|
|Charles Howell III||11/13||2||P2 (2013)||P2 (2013)|
|James Hahn||4/4||1||T4 (2013)||T4 (2013)|
|Kevin Streelman||6/9||2||T10 (2013)||T10 (2013)|
|Robert Garrigus||8/10||1||T2 (2012)||T2 (2012)|
|Johnson Wagner||5/10||1||T2 (2012)||T2 (2012)|
|Jhonattan Vegas||4/8||1||Win (2011)||Win (2011)|
|Chris Kirk||4/6||1||T7 (2011)||T7 (2011)|
|Vaughn Taylor||6/8||2||T10 (2010)||T8 (2008)|
|Alex Prugh||2/3||1||5 (2010)||5 (2010)|
|Pat Perez||9/13||2||Win (2009)||Win (2009)|
Jon Rahm: Cruising along with a win in the Bahamas and T8 at Kapalua, the 2018 champ will defend again this week. That’s good news for gamers as he struggled with his first defense (his words) last year at the FIO. Pedal down again this week.
Phil Mickelson: Confidence is never a problem here but after defeating Tiger Woods heads-up, it should be at an all-time high. Vacation is done and he lands as softly as possible on a course where he’s won twice. Resort fairways are even better!
Justin Rose: Ranked No. 1 in the world but arrives for the first time since 2010 and does so with new clubs and a new caddy. Mark Fulcher is resting after a heart procedure but Henrik Stenson’s bag man Gareth Lord fills in. As you know these two are tight from their Ryder Cup days so nothing to see here. As for the new clubs, breaking them in on the easiest courses on TOUR sounds to be a smart plan.
Patrick Cantlay: Almost defended his title in the Las Vegas desert as he fell just short of Bryson DeChambeau to finish second. He hasn’t played since late last year as he closed T7 in China, 2nd at Shriners and T5 in the Bahamas. Windy? No wind? Trees? Bent? Bermuda? Checks them all!
Andrew Putnam: The ONLY worry I have is the putter cooling COMPLETELY off after last week. That’s it.
Charles Howell III: He makes birdies for fun and has just two rounds this decade at par-or-worse here.
Chez Reavie: Can’t remember the last time that he missed! Another week of short courses but with extra birdie chances isn’t scaring me off after T3 at Waialae.
Adam Hadwin: The course horse this week as he’s 59-under with a 59 in the last three years. He’s cashed for T6, second and T3 last year in the three events in the new rotation. Picked up a win on the Mackenzie Tour event right up the street on another desert course.
Brian Harman: The lefty also has an affinity for desert golf in this new rotation as he hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 in three tries. He’s 50-under here and comes in with a rust-buster on Oahu (MC).
Bill Haas: If he’s going to pop this year, this week should be a barometer. I’m taking a chance to get on at Stop 1 instead of catching up down the road. He won’t be more comfortable anywhere else.
Corey Conners: Got in this week by doing it the hard way last week. He Monday qualified and turned into T3, his second podium in six events. Both finishes were on 17-under so he can turn on the birdies.
Ryan Palmer: Last time we saw him he claimed back-to-back top-10 checks in Las Vegas and Korea before T33 in Malaysia. His track record in the desert is excellent as he roasts the Par-5 holes and makes par-breakers for fun.
Scott Piercy: He’s playing for the third time in three weeks so he’ll be primed to build on his T6 from last year. The Las Vegas resident should feel right at home to continue his streak of six consecutive starts of T33 or better on TOUR.
Lucas Glover: Absolutely blazing finish in 2018 shouldn’t be forgotten. All I need is a decent week with the putter on his beloved Bermuda.
Abraham Ancer: He was in here last week and T29 with four rounds in the 60’s surely isn’t knocking him out. Just three rounds above 70 in 24 this season.
Aaron Wise: He needed to go 23-under on a Par-71 to win at Trinity Forest last May so he’s no stranger to making birdies. He improved from T34 to T17 last year so it won’t surprise me if he’s in it late.
Danny Willett: Winning all the marbles on the European Tour in Dubai provides a clue.
Peter Uihlein: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.
Brian Gay: Cashed his last two on TOUR in the top 25 and has rattled off 13 straight dating back to July.
Luke List: A pair of T4s from the early season of 2018 plus his ability to feast on Par-5 holes makes for a convenient marriage this week.
Richy Werenski: Probably didn’t want 2018 to end as he closed T23, T3 and T15 as he cashed in his final five events. Toss in he’s 27-under (T9, T29) in two tries here and he should be in any and every lineup.
Bud Cauley: I love Bud Cauley. Bud Cauley loves (T14, T3 and T14) the Desert Classic. I’d point out he was T10 in Las Vegas but I was already convinced.
Hudson Swafford: Noble defense in his first opportunity (T29) last year. Those who rode his cash streak last week at nine were rewarded with T3 in event No. 10. Let’s make it 11.
Jason Kokrak: Plenty of length to gobble up the Par-5 holes and will have a bit of revenge on the mind. He made bogey-double to finish last year and drop from T3 to T8. Gulp.
Beau Hossler: Big fairways and greens will give him more chances to get in position to wield his sword.
Long Shots, Course Horses, Wings, Prayers
Jamie Lovemark: Played in the final group with Dufner in 2016 and blew a tire in the final round (T6). SoCal kid makes a lovely outsider.
Martin Laird: Enjoys the desert and golf in this part of the country. His record in Reno, Las Vegas and T9 here in 2017 supports that notion.
John Huh: The only year he didn’t cash in the last four was the WINDY 2017. He was in the fight in 2016, entering the final round on 17-under, before blowing a tire and collecting T24. Last year he was 20-under and T3.
Dominic Bozzelli: Almost met the terms of his medical last week at the Sony but cooled in the final round. He’s the TOUR course-record holder at the Stadium Course but shot 83 on Saturday here last year. Confused yet?
J.T. Poston: Gave it a sniff early at Sony and then rallied on Sunday with 66. Roll on momentum.
Sam Saunders: Did he finally crack the code last year with 64 on Sunday? It was his first paycheck in eight previous tries and a nice one (T8).
Brandon Harkins: T8 last year and co-led the field in birdies last week in Hawaii but finished T51. HANG ON WITH BOTH HANDS!
Brian Stuard: He was down here last week and threw up a T8 after four straight MC. He’s 2-5 here with both finishes in the top 10 but neither on this rotation of courses.
Bronson Burgoon: He’ll give it a knock and eat up these short tracks. He’s in the top 25 in both Par-5 scoring and birdies. Love it.
John Catlin: Popped up with T22 in Malaysia and returns to his native California for his first crack on U.S. soil.
Robert Garrigus: He’s 32-under since the move but nothing better than T17. Sneak him in last.
Charley Hoffman: He’s never played Sunday in two previous tries on this rotation but his record otherwise is tasty. He’s T19 or better in the six events he’s cashed. The bad news is he’s MC the other five times. New man on the bag this week as well. His last top 10 was at the 2017 Hero.
Brendan Steele: T34 or better the last four years in the desert includes T6 and T20 in his last two appearances. I jumped in with both feet at another event he loves even more, the Safeway Open, and left missing some toes.
Pat Perez: One top 25 since his victory in 2009 and rolls in off MC from Waialae. I’d just like to congratulate Pat on his title on Wednesday.
Daniel Berger: Making his first start since a wrist deal kept him out for the entire fall portion of the new season.
Harold Varner III: 0-3.