This PGA Tour main stay started out in 1960 as the Palm Springs Desert Classic and was won by Arnold Palmer. Before that it was called the Thunderbird Invitational and after was called the Bob Hope Classic, The Humana Challenge and even the Career Builder Challenge, but one thing has remained the same.
The celebrity pro-am still attracts some of the biggest names. From movie stars to presidents, the celebs have watched as American players dominated this tournament. In all the years it has been running since 1960, only 5 non Americans have won here. Last year was one of them, Jon Rahm. The others were Jhonny Vegas in 2011, Mike Weir in 2003, Jesper Parnavik in 2000 and our own Bruce Devlin way back in 1970.
Rahm is back to defend this week but it will not be easy. Justin Rose is here this week and will be looking to consolidate his spot on the OWGR table near the top. Rose is hungry for the top spot and has changed his equipment in an effort to gain an edge over his competitors. He uses his Honma's this week in competition for the first time. Keeping the focus on the English, Danny Willett is also playing this week. The Masters champion has got his game back and will be looking to play more events on the PGA Tour in 2019.
Other big names in the field this week include Charl Schwartzel, Pat Perez, Phil Mickelson, Russell Knox, Kevin Kisner, Patton Kizzire, Zach Johnson, Charley Hoffman and the long shot taking Patrick Cantlay. There is no need to keep saying that I know, but c'mon, hurry up!! Australians include Badds, Jones, Senden, Pampling, Luck and Cam Davis.
Played on one of the more famous golf courses in America, the PGA West Stadium Course. The Pete Dye classic was unveiled during the 1986 skins game and has been getting rave reviews ever since. It's a classic Dye layout with plenty of deep bunkers and water. He is famous for his risk/reward holes and this is no different. The undulating fairways and small greens will make sure that whoever wins this week will have earned it.
The Pro-am will also be played on the Nicklaus Tournament Course and at LaQuinta Country Club over the first 3 rounds. Tune in to see some of the big names try and play.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Let's face it, a few years ago it looked like Shane Lowry would be a world beater. He was winning on the European Tour, even as an amateur and looked to be taking his place as one of the guys to beat going forward. His win at the Irish Open in 2009 was special, but it was 3 years before he won again at the Portugal Masters. Another drought of 3 years before again wining at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and now he fights off veteran Richard Sterne on the final hole for a wire to wire victory in 2019 at the HSBC.
Sterne had it his own way through the front nine holes with birdies at 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 & 9. A bogey at 6 was his only blemish, but Sterne had not won in a long time too (2013 Joburg Open) and was a little nervous. His 2 over back nine had him on the defensive and hoping that Lowry couldn't seal the deal. Both men stood on the 18th tee -17 and both hit the fairway.
Sterne sliced his second shot onto the cart path right of the final green, but Lowry was more composed and hit his second to the par 5 onto the green and 25 feet from an eagle. Sterne took the drop and played his 3rd to about 15 feet. Lowry rolled his putt to about a foot and marked his ball. It was all up to Sterne. There was 15 feet between him and a playoff. His putt missed and Lowry tapped in the winning birdie to take the tournament and a place inside the world's top 50.
It's a significant win for Lowry because it solidifies him as a world top 50 player. It gives him access to all 4 majors for the year and puts him back on the path we all thought he was on a few years ago as one of the world's best golfers. Joost Luiten shot 2 eagles on his final round to finish 3rd at -15. Louis Oosthuizen had a final round 66 to remind everybody that he was still there. Soren Kjeldsen finished a worthy 5th after rounds of 66, 69,71 & 69.
Jason Scrivener was the leading Australian at tied 16th, with Scott Hend shooting a final round 67 and finishing tied 27th. Lucas Herbert was sitting pretty after 2 rounds, but finished with 76, 73 to finish the week tied for 54th. We are in Dubai next week for the Omega Desert Classic where Haotong Li will defend his title. Don't miss our preview hitting the Facebook page on Wednesday. Tommy Fleetwood failed in his attempt to win 3 in a row this week, but did celebrate his birthday in style finishing tied 42nd at -5.
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PGA Tour European Tour
Matt Kuchar has won his 9th title and his first in Hawaii taking out the Sony Open with an incredible display on the back nine. His front nine was let's say, forgettable. Bogeys at 2, 4 & 5 with a few 2 birdies thrown in saw his 2 shot lead vanish and Andrew Putnam take over in front, but Kuchar's back nine's all week had been good and he clicked into gear with birdies on 10 & 12 then rolled one in where Putnam should have on 15 to take the lead away. He backed it up on 16 as well, then birdied the par 5, 18th to take the "W" in style by 4 shots over a pedestrian Putnam who could only manage par around the back. That will never win you a tournament on a Sunday.
It's Kuchar's 2nd win of the 2018/2019 season and he jumps up to 2nd on the FedEx Cup standings, only a few points behind Xander Schauffele.
A strong showing over the 4 days though by Putnam and the top 10 will keep him in the picture for the next few tournaments. Marc Leishman was looking to charge over the final day and made a pretty good fist of it. He was 3 under through the front nine and birdied 11, but a poor approach to 12 saw him stall and a few missed putts later, he had finished tied 3rd with Chaz Reavie, Hudson Swafford and Corey Connors. He did though shoot a 6 under 64 which tied the best round of the day. It's good to see Leish finishing off a tournament well.
54 year old Davis Love III turned back the clock to come in 7th and defending champion Patton Kizzire charged on the last day with a 5 under 65 to finish tied 13th. Luke Donald on his comeback could only manage even par and did not make the cut, but he wasn't alone with Jordan Speith, Paul Casey, Zac Johnson, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott all failing to make the weekend. Scott says he is finally getting over his sleep worries after having 2 young children and the past 2 years will hopefully seem like a distant memory in 2019. Not off to a good start though Adam.
Cam Smith finished a creditable 22nd and Matt Jones 29th to round out the Aussie assault for the week.
Sentry Tournament of Champions
I think I can quite safely say, Xander Schauffele has played the round of the year! Granted it was the 1st tournament of 2019, but Schauffele closed with an incredible 11-under 62 to beat Gary Woodland by a shot – round of the year – and take out the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Xander Schauffele teed off 5-shots adrift of 54-hole leader Woodland and opened with a bogey. Then in tough windy conditions, Schauffele could do no wrong making 4 birdies and a chip-in eagle on the 9th to be out in 31.
Things only got better. He holed a wedge from 107-yards for eagle on 12, then birdied 14/15 for a share of the lead. But Xander wasn’t done. In the group behind, Woodland watched as Schauffele stiffed his 2nd shot into the tough 508-yard, par-4 17th and make birdie. Gary Woodland new the drill and it was simple, make birdie – and he did. It was Schauffele’s turn now and he flushed his 3-wood to 12-feet on 18, narrowly missed his eagle and signed for an 11-under 62. Needing to match Schauffele, Gary Woodland hung his 4-iron out right and missed the green. He chipped to 10-feet but missed his putt and Xander Schauffele had his 2nd win in 4 starts on TOUR this season.
Gary Woodland would be no doubt disappointed, very. He was the only player in the field to fire 4 rounds in the 60’s, never shooting worse than 68, but it still wasn’t enough. Justin Thomas carded 2 rounds in the 70’s, but closed with an 8-under 65 to finish solo 3rd. Defending champ Dustin Johnson, Australian Marc Leishman and Rory McIllroy finished T4. Johnson had a 2nd-round 74 that buried his chances. Leishman got off to a solid start but a front-9 38 (3-over) on Friday cost him dearly. McIllroy only had 3 bogies for the week but couldn’t find any momentum and whilst solid, a closing 72 saw him lose ground.
Jason Day shot an ordinary 75 on moving day, closed with an eventful 66 and was never really in it. Spaniard Jon Rahm had another solid week firing 4 sub-par rounds and finishing T8 on 13-under but like McIllroy, seemed to lack momentum. Young bomber Cameron Champ impressed again amid a quality field. A 3rd round 74 cost him any chance of contending. Reigning player of the year Brooks Koepka made a disappointing start to 2019 finishing 24th at 4-under. An opening 76 did him no favours.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Jan 16 - 19, 2019