La Quinta California hosts the 60th Desert Classic on the PGA Tour this week. It’s been raining a good bit in California, but the rain is supposed to subside tomorrow afternoon and the temperature will be in the low 70’s and sunny Friday through Sunday.
Jon Rahm is the defending champion. He shot 62-67-70-67 to outlast Andrew Landry in a playoff last year. Last week’s winner on tour was Matt Kuchar, who was victorious at the Sony Open in Hawaii shooting -22 to win by 4 shots over Andrew Putnam. Kuchar also won the Mayakoba Classic in early November. He has 15 victories in his career. The 40 year old said after the Sony victory that “40 is the new 20.” It does seem pretty young and it looks like some of the 40 year olds can hang with the young guns on the tour.
The winner 2 weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui was Xander Schauffele.
World No.1 Justin Rose is in the field and he’s changed clubs, at least 10 of them. He signed a contract with Honma, a Japanese club manufacturer, to use a “10 club” deal. He will still use his Taylor Made driver and will keep his putter. He’s also got Henrik Stenson’a caddie on his bag as his regular caddie, Mark Fulcher, is having heart surgery. Garreth Lord will be on Rose’s bag. He and Stenson are taking a break from each other. I don’t really get why a No.1 player in the world, who won the Fed Ex Cup in 2018, would switch clubs. The last player to do that was Rory when he switched to Nike Clubs in 2013 and that was disastrous. So I don’t like Rose’s chances this week and I’m not sure he’ll figure it out before Augusta National. It’s a questionable decision.
Jordan Spieth seems like he’s fallen off the edge of the Earth. His game has digressed significantly since his victory at the Open Championship in 2017. Last year at the Open Championship, he seemed on edge, and frankly, arrogant. That attitude continued into the PGA Championship and in the Ryder Cup and it’s gotten him nowhere except below average results. I don’t know what’s cookin in Spieth’s head, but he needs to turn around his attitude if he wants to be successful again. He got married recently so that should help him. He’s got 3 majors, the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 and the Open Championship in 2017. Needs to get his attitude back together and become a classy guy again like he had been before last season’s meltdown.
The Desert Classic in La Quinta, California starts the California Leg of the tour. Next week the players will be at famed Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open. Should be a top flight field for that. Jason Day is the defending champion. The TPC Stadium at PGA West course hosts this week. It’s 7,113 yards, and a par 72. It’s a Pete Dye design and features a lot of sand and a lot of water. No.’s 9, 17 and 18 stick out to me.
No.9 is a 452 yard par 4 and the No.1 handicap hole on the course. It’s a slight dogleg left to right. There is trouble off to the left off the tee and a large sand trap on the right. The better play is to favor the left side of the fairway as there is also water on the right. The green is guarded by bunkers to the right and left and in back and there is water to the right. The green breaks back to front and left to right. No. 17 looks very similar to the Island Hole at TPC Sawgrass, home to the Players Championship which will be played in March this year as the PGA Championship will be played in May and the Fed Ex playoffs will finish up at the end of August so as not to conflict with college and pro football. The focus can be on golf for all of the summer months. No.17 is an island hole with water surrounding the green on all sides. You can’t miss right, left, short or long or you’re in the water and staring at a possible double. Could lose the tournament here. No. 18 is the No.2 handicap hole, a 439 yard par 4, that has water on the entire left side of the hole and sand covering the right side. There are 4 sand traps on the right side with one pretty large one the furtherest from the tee. The approach needs to be to the right hand side of the hole with water covering the left side. There is more bail out on the right. The scores are usually low here, but it’s a challenging course that can eat the player’s lunch on some holes if he’s not focused.
There’s a highly competitive field this week for the tournament. The stars in the tourney are Rose, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Rahm. It’s a pro-am so they’ll also play the Nicklaus Tournament Course (7,159/72) and La Quinta Country Club course (7,060/72) as well. The players competing on Sunday will be at the Stadium Course though. All 4 of those guys I mentioned above are contenders though I’m not sure how great Rose will be. I’m going to take somebody else though. This guy won here in 2017, and he finished tied for 3rd last week at the Sony shooting a 64 on Sunday. I’ll take the 31 year old from Tallahassee, Florida by way of the University of Georgia.