The PGA Tour heads for California this week and the 51st running of the Bob Hope Classic. Pat Perez defends the title but this year’s tournament appears wide open.
There are a few unique challenges faced by the players at the Bob Hope Classic. Firstly the tournament is played over 90 rather than 72 holes, secondly, they have to contend with the different questions asked by the four layouts in play and, thirdly, they have to deal with the large crowds attracted by the celebrities playing in the amateur portion of the event.
The pros rotate to play one round on each of the courses over the first four days then, on day five, the top-70 pros return to the Palmer Course at PGA West. It’s a tournament that’s been won by some great names over the years – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Lanny Wadkins and Phil Mickelson have all taken the title.
This is an event that tends to witness extremely low scoring – David Duval shot a 59 around the PGA West Palmer Course back in 1999 and Pat Perez was 20-under-par after just two rounds in 2009. Watch out for a “birdie-fest” again this year. Many top players are missing from the start list this week so it’s a good chance for one of the PGA Tour’s lesser lights to shine.
The weather may play a part in the tournament – the forecast is for storms to hit La Quinta on Thursday and Friday.

Venue: SilverRock Resort, La Quinta CC, PGA West, California
Date: Jan 20-24
Course stats: PGA West (Palmer) par 72, 6,950 yards; La Quinta CC, par 72, 7,060 yards; SilverRock Resort par 72, 7,578 yards; Nicklaus Private at PGA West par 72, 6,951 yards
Purse: $5,000,000 Winner: $918,000
Defending Champion: Pat Perez (-33)

TV Coverage:
Wednesday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm
Thursday 21 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm
Friday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm
Saturday 23 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 9pm
Sunday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8.30pm

Player Watch:

Justin Rose – The Englishman was third in his last start at the Bob Hope back in 2007. He’s showing signs of returning to form after switching his coach in the second half of 2009.
Justin Leonard – Runner up in 2008 and the winner in 2005, Leonard has earned more in this event than any other player in the field. If his putter gets hot he could contend again.
Chad Campbell – A strong finish in the Sony Open suggests he’s coming onto his game. If he plays his best golf he could be too strong for this field.

Key hole:
18th – Palmer West: This will be the final hole of the week. A 543 yard par 5 where there is the option of biting off part of the hole to try and reach the green in two. Whether you gamble or play safe there is sand and water in play.

Skills required: Making birdies. This tournament tends to be a shootout with the winning score often in excess of 30-under-par. In 2009 the four courses used ranked as the four easiest on the PGA Tour schedule. The winner will go low on at least one of the five days. Pat Perez started last year’s event with rounds of 61 then 63. He was 20-under-par after just two days.