Bob Hope Classic Preview

The PGA Tour heads for California this week and the 52nd running of the Bob Hope Classic. Bill Haas defends the title but this year’s tournament appears wide open.

Bill Haas defends

Lowdown: The PGA Tour heads for California this week and the 52nd running of the Bob Hope Classic. Bill Haas 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. Stars lined up for this year's event include Kurt Russell, Alice Cooper and Sugar Ray Leonard. 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 all four courses ranked in the seven easiest tracks played on the PGA Tour in 2010. Watch out for a "birdie-fest" again this year.

Venue: PGA West Palmer Course (Host course), La Quinta, California Date: Jan 19-23 Course stats: PGA West - par 72, 6,930 yards; La Quinta Country Club - par 72, 7,060 yards; SilverRock Resort - par 72, 7,403 yards; Nicklaus at PGA West - par 72, 6,924 yards Purse: $5,500,000 Winner: $990,000 Defending Champion: Bill Haas (-30)

TV Coverage: Wednesday 19 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm Thursday 20 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm Friday 21 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8pm Saturday 22 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 9pm Sunday 23 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 9pm

Player Watch: Matt Kuchar - Last year he was tied second place in this event and he's made a solid start to 2011 recording sixth and fifth place finishes in the two tournaments contested so far on the PGA Tour in Hawaii.

Tim Clark - The South African was tied for second with Kuchar in last year's tournament, he was also tied second last week in the Sony Open. (Although, he may not start the tournament because he's suffering from blisters on his feet.)

Steve Marino - He was tied second last week and, when he's on his game, is a force to be reckoned with. Look for him to continue his good run this time out.

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, sand and water comes into play.

Skills required: Making birdies. This tournament tends to be a shootout with the winning score often in excess of 30-under-par. The winner will go low on at least one of the five days. Pat Perez started the 2009 event with rounds of 61 then 63. He was 20-under-par after just two days.

Where next?

Previews: Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Equipment: Mizuno JPX800 driver launched

Courses: Top 100 Rankings 2010

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?