PGA Tour: Desert Classic Preview

Golfer line sup iron shot

Damein Kayat previews the PGA Tour's Desert Classic set to get underway at the La Quinta Country Club on 17 January. 

Desert Classic | 17 - 20 January | La Quinta Country Club, California

The tour moves from the tropical climes of Hawaii to California and the stark aesthetic contrast that is the desert classic. This marks the beginning of the West Coast Swing and this will be the 60th edition of this event. It has known many guises, having first been won by Arnold Palmer when it was known as the Palm Springs Desert Golf Classic. It has been adorned with some clunky monikers- Human Challenge and CareerBuilder Challenge to name a few. This year they have failed to pick up a sponsorship deal, which has at least resulted in a far more succinct title: the Desert Classic. The Pro-Am was spread over five rounds until as recently as 2012. The more streamlined four-round edition has proved far more appealing to the professionals.

Considering the fact that amateurs and celebrities will be involved for the opening three rounds, it’s little wonder why the organizers perennially pick some of the easiest courses on the entire PGA circuit. The Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course will provide the sternest test and will indeed host the top 70 professionals (and ties) for the final day’s play. Both the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West and La Quinta will play markedly easier. What is done off the tee has largely proved irrelevant here, with birdie average and par 4 scoring far more reliable indicators of potential success.

Defending champion Jon Rahm is the betting favourite again, and that’s really no surprise. The temperamental Spaniard is a remarkably consistent desert golfer. But perhaps the most high profile contender this week is the 2018 Fed Ex Cup Champion: Justin Rose. Rose has enjoyed a significant break from the game and will be looking towards further Major success this year. Phil Mickelson will no doubt attract huge galleries while the likes of Patrick Cantlay and Andrew Putnam will be looking to lay down an early season marker.

Past Winners
2018: Jon Rahm (-22)*playoff
2017: Hudson Swafford (-20)
2016: Jason Dufner (-25)
2015: Bill Haas (-22)
2014: Patrick Reed (-28)

To Win Outright:
Jon Rahm 7/1 | Justin Rose 9/1 | Patrick Cantlay 16/1 | Charles Howell III 20/1 | Adam Hadwin 25/1

Value Bets

Chez Reavie- To Win 40/1, To Place 17/2
I have opted not to go for perhaps a more in-vogue player such as Cantlay or Putnam. Reavie is a player capable of tearing golf courses apart in mundane conditions. He lost in a playoff to Gary Woodland at last year’s Phoenix Open. That event is often seen as an accurate corollary to this one. He also has shown Pro-Am capabilities, finishing runner-up at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Reavie finished alongside Hudson Swafford in a tie for third last week and looks great value at 40/1.

Luke List- To Win 45/1, To Place 19/2
Luke List is a player who definitely seems to be emerging. He finished in a tie for fourth at the RSM Classic, which happened to be his second top-five finish in three starts during the Fall Series. He also managed a podium finish on what is a largely ceremonial outing at the QBE Shootout: he played alongside Charles Howell III- see later. List is a player capable of huge birdie streaks and he does possess some course credentials. He finished sixth here in 2016 and will be looking to make amends for a pair of lacklustre showings in the previous seasons.

The Man to Beat- Charles Howell III- To Win 20/1, To Place 44/10
How happy Charles Howell III must be that he finally managed to capture his third PGA Tour title. Howell III has always been a slightly enigmatic figure on tour. His beautiful swing has been the envy of many golfers and many thought he would go on to Major success. But he has remained consistent and is absolutely devastating in this period of the year. He has made the cut here for the last ten years and has finished inside the top 20 for each of the last three years. But that RSM Classic title win should galvanize Howell III and give him the belief necessary to challenge more regularly for titles. He also finished eighth last week at the Sony Open, highlighting his form.

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets.

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