Desert Classic preview and betting tips
Desert Classic preview
Venue: PGA West Stadium Course, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta CC, California
Date: January 17-20, 2019
Course stats: Par 72, 7,060 yards
Purse: $5.9 million
Defending champion: Jon Rahm (-22, beat Andrew Landry at the fourth playoff hole)
Weather forecast: Generally cool through the week, with a chance of rain on Thursday, but with winds not getting above 10mph at any point during the tournament.
Thursday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event (4.30pm, featured groups); Sky Sports Golf, 8pm; Sky Sports Main Event, 11pm.
Friday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event (4.30pm, featured groups); Sky Sports Golf, 8pm; Sky Sports Golf, 11.15pm.
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf, 8pm; Sky Sports Main Event, 11pm.
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf, 8pm.
The 60th edition of what was formerly the Bob Hope Classic sees Jon Rahm return to defend the title he won after a four-hole playoff with Andrew Landry last year.
FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson make their 2019 debuts in the pro-am.
Former Masters champion Danny Willett also tees it up for the first time, having elected to concentrate on playing in America this year.
The field will battle over three courses – PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament and La Quinta CC before returning to the Stadium Course for the pivotal round.
A 90-hole tournament until 2012, the exhibition style of the event means you must go low to carry off the goods.
The winning score has been at least 20-under-par every year since the tournament was shortened.
Desert Classic each-way betting tips
While Charles Howell III was getting all the plaudits for finally breaking his winless streak at the RSM Classic, a rival was adding another fine example of early season form.
Luke List’s tied 4th, helped greatly by a final round 65, was his second top five in three starts during the Fall Series.
He then posted a podium finish in the largely ceremonial QBE Shootout, where he was paired with Howell, to prove he remained in good touch and that makes odds of 45/1 here pretty interesting.
That’s especially the case when you consider List can look back at sixth place in this tournament as recently as 2016. A missed cut 12 months ago, and an uninspiring 41st in 2017, might temper your enthusiasm slightly.
But his overall form suggests a player seriously challenging for his first win, and the odds are big enough for me to play.
I’ll also have a small investment on Bud Cauley (100/1) to carry on some consistent Desert Classic performances. Cauley hit the headlines last June after suffering a broken leg, five broken ribs and a collapsed lung when a passenger in a car that crashed at the Memorial Tournament.
There was a lot of love in the golfing world for the 28-year-old, not least from Justin Thomas, and a near death experience like that can cause you to reassess your priorities.
Not only was his recovery impressive but so was some of his golf on his return. He finished tied 10th in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open – assisted by a weekend of 67 and 65 in what constituted just his seventh and eighth rounds back in tournament play.
A solid week at Mayakoba was followed by a missed cut at the RSM Classic but that was his third event on the spin and I think we can allow for some fatigue to have set in as the rigours of tournament play hit home.
A look through Cauley’s tournament history shows some scattergun displays – a top 10 one year and a down-the-field finish or missed cut the next.
But that’s why I like his consistency in this event, where he has finished 14th, third and 14th in his last three showings.
He’s only failed to break 70 on two occasions in 12 rounds over these courses and has two 65s and two 66s in that collection.
That’s where Steve is looking in the each-way markets but who is he focusing on as the likely winner? He reveals all on the next page…