Americans dominated the first two PGA Tour events of this year in Hawaii, but the fields will start getting a bit tougher from an international perspective this week at the Desert Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. You may know this event from previous names such as the CareerBuilder Challenge, Humana Challenge or some version of the Bob Hope Classic. It’s the 60th staging of the event.
The first three days of the tournament — the cut is after 54 holes — are held at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament course and La Quinta Country Club. All are par 72. The Nicklaus course is the longer one, but the Stadium Course is what all the competitors will play on the final day.
Englishman Justin Rose, who recently returned to No. 1 in the world, plays in the USA for the first time since winning the FedEx Cup. He has a win since then, though, at the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open. It’s also the first PGA Tour event of the year for Phil Mickelson, last seen beating Tiger Woods in that Match Play made-for-TV event in Las Vegas on Thanksgiving Weekend.
Two of the 59s in PGA Tour history came in this tournament, with David Duval doing so in 1999 (when it was a five-round event) and Adam Hadwin two years ago at La Quinta. Americans have hugely dominated this tournament, but the defending champion is Spaniard Jon Rahm. He and Andrew Landry finished 72 holes at 22-under 266 last year, with Rahm beating Landry with a 12-foot birdie make on the fourth extra hole. Landry had forced the playoff with an 11-foot birdie putt on the last hole of regulation. Landry missed another 11-footer on the fourth playoff hole after Rahm made his putt.
A handful of players have won this tournament multiple times – led by Arnold Palmer’s five – but only Johnny Miller repeated, doing so in 1976. A few of the PGA Tour’s biggest names are skipping this to play the big-money Abu Dhabi Championship, led by Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
BetOnline Golf Betting Favorites & Picks
Rahm is the +700 BetOnline favorite to join Miller as the only back-to-back winners. His victory last year made him just the second international winner in the past 15 Classics. Rahm comes off an unofficial PGA Tour win at the Hero World Challenge in December in the Bahamas.
Rose is +900 and has five straight PGA Tour Top-5 finishes. He hasn’t played here since 2010. Big drop-off then to Patrick Cantlay (+1800), Charles Howell III (+2000) and Hadwin (+2200). Cantlay finished Top 10 in three of four fall starts, including second at the Shriners. Howell was my pick to win last week at the Sony Open and was T8. He was runner-up here in 2013 to Brian Gay. Hadwin hasn’t finished worse than sixth here the past three years. In 2017 he was runner-up despite that 59.
We like Hadwin for a Top 10 finish but our value play to win is Brian Harman at +6600 at BetOnline. He hasn’t had a very good start to this season and missed the cut last week but has a pretty solid history here, including a third in 2017.