CareerBuilder Challenge: Shootout in the Desert

The PGA Tour returns to the mainland of the United States after a couple of stops in Hawaii, where one tournament was won in dominant fashion by the world's number one player and the other was taken in extra holes by the next new golfing sensation. Thirty-one year old Patton Kizzire, who is in the field this week, notched his second win of the 2017 - 2018 season by bettering James Hahn after six holes of sudden death in the Sony Open and took a big lead in the FedEx Cup after nine events. With this piece, we begin a weekly preview of the upcoming PGA Tour event.

CareerBuilder Challenge
Laquinta, California


Stadium Course (host course), Nicklaus Tournament Course, LaQuinta Country Club


The tournament was founded in 1960 as the Palm Springs Desert Classic. In 1965, famed comedian and actor Bob Hope lent his name to the tournament and it was known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic until 1983, the Bob Hope Classic in 1984-1985, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic until 2008, and again the Bob Hope Classic from 2009-2011. Humana took over as sponsor from 2012-2015 until CareerBuilder came on board in 2016.

The unique nature of the tournament was that it was a 90-hole (five rounds) event on four courses. For the first four rounds, a professional was teamed with four amateurs in a pro-am format. Only professionals played in the final round on the host course, which changed throughout the history of the tournament. Since 2012, the event has been played for the traditional 72 holes, now played over three different courses with professionals paired with a single amateur for the first three rounds, more like the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Unlike its northern neighbor, no amateurs play in the final round.

In addition to Hope, the other name synonymous with the event is Arnold Palmer. The King won the tournament five times, including his final PGA Tour win in 1973. With the plethora of celebrities on hand, the tourney seemed more like a television variety show than a prestigious tour event. Despite the lighter-hearted environment, the tournament sports a long list of high-profile winners in addition to Palmer, including major champions Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper (two-time winner), Bob Rosburg, Johnny Miller (2), Hubert Green, Craig Stadler, Lanny Wadkins, Steve Jones, Corey Pavin (2), Tom Kite, John Mahaffey, Bill Rogers, Fred Couples, David Duval, Mark Brooks, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson (2), Justin Leonard, and Jason Dufner.

2018 Field

* Four of the top 10, 11 of the top 20, and 29 of the top 50 in FedEx Cup points

* Sixteen countries represented

* Eight colleges have four or more former players represented: Georgia (7), Arizona State (5), Arkansas (5), Georgia Tech (5), Auburn (4), Clemson (4), Florida (4), Oklahoma State (4)

Oldest player

Corey Pavin, 58

Youngest Player

Charles Reiter, 18 (local high school player)

Major Champions

Phil Mickelson (5), John Daly (2), Zach Johnson (2), Bubba Watson (2), Corey Pavin, Mark Brooks, Lee Janzen, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, Geoff Ogilvy, Jimmy Walker, Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson

Total Tour Victories

288 (Phil Mickelson, 42)

Total Major Victories

21 (Phil Mickelson, 5)

Who's Hot

There's no question that newcomer Patton Kizzire is the hottest player on tour. He currently has a commanding lead in the FedEx Cup race and with his win last week jumped into the top 10 in Ryder Cup points. That last point is particularly impressive considering those points are accumulated over a two-year period and Kizzire has only been picking up points since joining the Tour in October. We've seen a lot of players in the past get off to fast starts before the top-ranked players hit the course for the new year, but the scheduling has changed with the advent of the wrap around FedEx Cup season. It appears that Kizzire is a player to be reckoned with in 2018.

Who's Not

Of the top players of the past several years, Bubba Watson has enjoyed continued success. But he had a setback in 2017, with only 14 cuts made in 22 events with no wins and only six top-25 finishes. He hasn't started out the 2017-2018 any better, playing two tournaments and finishing no better than 51st. The popular Watson hasn't played at LaQuinta since 2011, when he missed the cut. Low scores are generally the norm at the CareerBuilder, so perhaps this is an opportunity for Bubba to get back on track.

What to Look For

With a lot of the top players taking the week of, it gives an opportunity for new Tour members to compete for a title. There are also a number of seasoned tour veterans, such as Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney, who are looking to notch a win and re-energize their careers. Look for a lot of birdies and a close finish, maybe even a playoff late Sunday afternoon, which would be the fourth in eight years. It's also a chance for golf fans to see just how good the new crop of players are. The new qualifying system, which takes players after they've successfully navigated a full Tour season, better prepares players for life on the PGA Tour and increases their chances for prolonged success.

Kevin Krest is the author of the entertaining PK Frazier series of sports suspense novels and the co-host of the weekly "The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports" broadcast. His books can be found on

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