Humana Challenge. Just doesn’t have much ring to it. Let’s see, how can we make this thing even less appealing? Let’s call it the Career Builder Challenge!
While it’s certainly understandable that the organizers wanted to inject some new life (and funding) into this event, for many it will always be the Bob Hope Classic. In the years since his passing this tournament has struggled to find it’s footing, so it made sense on a lot of levels to bring Bill Clinton into the fold a few years ago and add some cache to the event. Clinton actually played the event as a SITTING PRESIDENT in 1995 along with Gerald Ford and George Bush version 1.0. (Holy Secret Service nightmare!)
Slick Willy got sick of showing up every year (just assuming), so in comes Career Builder to tee Rich Lerner up for the perfect “a win here could be a career builder in itself for (insert name).”
After altering the format from five rounds to four a few years ago (and euthanizing George Lopez in the process), the Tour is FINALLY abandoning the celebrity format (if you could even call them that). It was one thing when you had legends like Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Ike Eisenhower teeing it up on a yearly basis, but these days one annual celebrity pro-am is more than enough (no thanks on the six hour rounds and cloying television coverage). However, instead of doing away with the Pro-Am format altogether, Finchy opted to keep the corporate money flowing and allow wealthy white dudes to still buy their way in. We see you working, Boss Man!
To me, this event feels like the last one of the winter that I really don’t care to pay attention to. Compared to Torry-Phoenix-Pebble-Riviera stretch we’ve got coming up, this week feels like the equivalent of the “trap game” on the schedule. It could sneak up and surprise us, but my eyes are into next week. I’ll tentatively promise you that this is the last week that I’ll mail it in.
It’s really not necessary to do a deep-dive on the courses this week; they’re hilarious resort courses and are the equivalent of setting up a sporting clay’s course in an Audubon sanctuary (which, ironically, these tracks are). Picture the exact opposite of The Open Championship rota and that’s what the Coachella Valley offers – a variety of perfectly manicured tracks in the birthplace of target golf and water-management lunacy. This year’s trio features two PGA West courses (TPC Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament) and La Quinta Country Club. All three courses are short, have nothing resembling rough, and perfect greens. Birdie bonanza.
Guarantees: perfect weather; a smattering of cougars in the gallery; some uber-bro’s who made the trip over from L.A.; and an awkward segment with the Career Builder CEO (you know he’s not passing up that first opportunity to get in the booth). Overall, this is an event caught between a glorious past and a cloudy future. From a television viewer perspective, I wouldn’t expect a lot of social media buzz this year, considering this is one of the few times a year the Euro Tour is able to outshine the PGA Tour in Abu Dhabi.
Bill Haas won. Justin Thomas should have. His 4-iron off the 16th tee rolled out to 277 into a bunker he didn’t think he could reach. His wedge from there found the water, and the double bogey cost him the tournament.
- Brace yourself: Johnny Miller shot a final round 63 to win this event in ’76. He’ll mention it at a time that is completely unnecessary.
- Corey Pavin won this event twice, and as was the case at the Hawaiian Open, attempted to rename it the “Rat Family Open.” Come to think of it, Pavin won the same event twice five different times (Honolulu, Los Angeles, Houston, Colonial, and Milwaukee (RIP)). Pretty remarkable. And he lost Hartford in a playoff twice. Shit, he went to a playoff nine times in his career, going 5-4 with all four losses coming at the hands of an opponent’s birdie. Hat’s off to Corey Pavin (seriously).
- Arnold Palmer won this event five times.
- David Duval shot a final round 59 in 1999 to win by one stroke. Take a minute or two today to appreciate that feat. Who’d he beat? The ‘Volcano,’ Steve Pate!.
- A year ago Tron wrote about how weird it was that they didn’t even play the best PGA West course. Here’s why. Interestingly enough, it’s added to the rota this year. It could make for an interesting element as the telecast tracks the “leaders,” but fails to acknowledge the different difficulty level of the three courses. Most of the betting experts I follow on twitter have already thrown in the towel this week trying to figure out how these courses are going to play and who it is going to favor, so I’m not going to pretend to even try.
- Patrick Reed is 8.5/1 this week. That’s some tremendous respect. He’s quietly top-10’d each of his last seven events, while climbing to 10th in the world. That day where he triumphantly enters the top 5 and comes off the 18th green doing the Ray Lewis dance is closer than we anticipated.
- I chimed in on the Golf.com Tour Confidential this week, so check that out and make fun of my Lanny Watkins call. If you’re too lazy to click through to that, I’ll share some of my takes here:
- Kevin Kisner is going to be on the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team. He and Justin Thomas are hurt by the fact that their fall series wins count for exactly zero Ryder Cup points (thank you, Phil’s task force), but you would have to think DLIII would consider this fact when narrowing down his captain’s picks. The U.S. team is shaping up very nicely, and I’m confident that they have a great group of 11 core guys (Spieth, DJ, ZJ, Rickie, Phil, Koepka, Bubba, Reed, Thomas, Kisner, Furyk) that are going to be on the team barring injury (or winning other events that award them zero points). A lot of these guys started very strong in what should truly be a transcendent year in golf.
- Phil comes back in a big way in 2016. The Presidents Cup seemingly re-lit a fire under him, and he’s helped by the fact that he already knows he’s going to be on the Ryder Cup team regardless of what happens. Despite the zero wins in the last two years, expect to see confidence oozing out of Phil at every stop along the way this year. Bones will be tending some flags in the desert this week.
- I’m probably going to be more focused on Abu Dhabi this week than I will be California due to the Spieth/Rory factor. In a top heavy field, there’s a better chance than usual that we’ll see these guys going head to head come Sunday. We’re all going to lose our heads this year if an actual rivalry develops between these two, with myself included.
- Perhaps for the first time in history, I made a clear mistake and error in a tweet and was not corrected by anyone! The Euro event this week is of course in Abu Dhabi, not Dubai. It took me half a day before I realized the error, and just quietly hoped people would continue not to notice.
Check in with the NLU Gang all week on twitter whilst we do our usual hood-rat act: @NoLayingUp.