Desert golf sure to produce low numbers

January, 18, 2010

It's difficult to take any of the numbers that come out of this week's Bob Hope Classic too seriously when placing them within the context of the rest of the PGA Tour schedule. The nature of the event (five rounds instead of four, the pro-am format, different course schedule) is a chief cause of that, but the low numbers posted by the entire field play a big role in making it an outlier, too.

Trivia question

The Bob Hope Classic has featured luminaries and legends from all walks of life playing in the pro-am over the years. Who was the first U.S. president to play (Answer below.)

There were 584 rounds played by professionals at last year's tournament. Of those, only 44 were played to a score above par, or 7.5 percent. Compare that with last week's Sony Open, where 15 under was the winning score, and eight different golfers were more than 10 strokes under par for the event. There were 433 rounds played there last week. Of those, 183 were played to scores above par (42.3 percent.)

Only one winner in the history of the Bob Hope Classic has posted a cumulative score that was not double digits below par (Tommy Jacobs, 7 under in 1964) and back then it was still called the Palm Springs Golf Classic. David Duval shot a 59 in the event in 1999. Seven times the winner has been at least 30 under, with five of those instances coming since 2001, when Joe Durant posted his record of 36 under.

It's an event known best for casual pro-am schmoozing and video game numbers on the leaderboard. The professionals in the field treat the tracks like munis, painting the big board red at will. The relative ease of one of the tour's most famous pro-ams renders most of the statistics posted in the event as a total anomaly.

Those aren't even the primary reasons why Steve Stricker's snowman-at-No. 10-enhanced collapse on Sunday at this event last year was so surprising.

Through four rounds of the five-day event last year, Stricker had set the 72-hole record for strokes under par (33), and the low mark for consecutive rounds (61-62). When he went to sleep that Saturday night, he owned a 3-shot lead over Pat Perez, and had just finished a round in which he hit 13 of 14 fairways.

Through four rounds, he had missed only 11 greens in regulation, and carded one bogey in 72 holes. Here's a look at his first four rounds compared with Sunday's 77 that cost him a win:

Steve Stricker -- 2009 Bob Hope Classic

1st four rounds Final round
To par -33 +5
Birdies 34 2
Fairways missed 11 7
Greens missed 11 8

The 77 was one of two rounds over par by anyone in the top 24 for the entire event, and tied his highest final round of the year in 2009. He also shot 77 in the final round at the BMW and at The Open Championship.

Trivia answer

Question: The Bob Hope Classic has featured luminaries and legends from all walks of life playing in the pro-am over the years. Who was the first U.S. president to play in the event?

Answer: Dwight Eisenhower

The big names that will be featured in this year's event aren't the golfers but the amateurs they'll be paired with. The highest-ranking golfer in this week's field is Mike Weir, who's currently 37th in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Analysis of the field tells you this isn't much of a stretch, but look for a winner to come from relatively nowhere this week. Defending champion Pat Perez was 90th in the world when he won last year, and D.J. Trahan was 217th when he captured the title in 2008. The only high numbers associated with this event are the world rankings of the winners.

Bob Hope winner's official world ranking, last 5 years

Year Player Ranking
2009 Pat Perez 90th
2008 D.J. Trahan 217th
2007 Charley Hoffman 197th
2006 Chad Campbell 30th
2005 Justin Leonard 40th

Enjoy the red digits.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008, and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he studied convergence media. Send comments and suggestions to





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