The 60th annual $5.9 million Desert Classic golf tournament begins Thursday at three courses in La Quinta, with rain threatening to disrupt play.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a 50 percent chance of rain, mainly in the early afternoon, according to Jimmy Taeger, a weather service meteorologist.
There is no chance of rain for the final three days of the tournament, which is set to conclude Sunday, Taeger told City News Service.
The field of 156 includes Justin Rose, the world’s top-ranked men’s golfer, defending champion Jon Rahm, Hall of Famer and tournament ambassador Phil Mickelson and 2018 Palm Desert High School graduate Charlie Reiter. The winner will receive $1.062 million.
The tournament is Rose’s first of 2019. He said he bypassed the PGA Tour’s two tournaments in Hawaii because “I just didn’t feel ready to leave on the 28th of December” from his home in Orlando, Florida, for Maui.
“I played lot of golf towards the end of last year and needed a little bit of a break,” Rose said. “My original plan was to play in Maui and keep the momentum going and then maybe take a bit of a break in February but … it just came around too quick.
“I also felt like it was important for me to play before getting to San Diego. That’s an event that I’ve found is a tricky one to play for being your first event after a break. So this fitted in perfectly.”
Rose is playing in the tournament for the first time since 2010 when he missed the cut.
Rahm, 24, is trying to join Johnny Miller as a back-to-back winner of the tournament. Miller won the event in 1974 and 1975.
“Obviously, it’s an event that I really want to win again,” said Rahm, who is seventh on the Official World Golf Ranking.
“It was really important to me because it’s not only a great event with a lot of history, with a legacy of a lot of great players, but it’s one of those courses — the Nicklaus course at PGA West is one of them that I played quite a few times as an amateur, an amateur event in Palm Springs every year.”
Reiter began last year’s tournament by shooting a four-under-par 68 at La Quinta Country Club in his PGA Tour debut. He concluded his play in the tournament by shooting a five-over-par 77 on the Stadium Course at PGA West and missed the cut at one-under-par 215 for three rounds.
“I’m just trying to go out here and play the best that I can,” the USC freshman said. “But learning from last year, just couple mental mistakes too many, so being able to fix those out on the course and learning from that.”
For the third time since 2012, the tournament has a different name. The former CareerBuilder Challenge underwent a rebranding after title sponsor CareerBuilder withdrew from the tournament, which will take place at its usual courses at PGA West and the La Quinta Country Club.
“There is no better place on the PGA tour to host an event than La Quinta, California, under sunny skies to start every year in January,” said Jeff Sanders, executive director of Lagardre Sports, the sports marketing agency which operates the tournament.
“The weather is normally the best in the country, the entertainment value with the golf and music is the most attractive and affordable on the PGA Tour, and the long history of great PGA Tour golf and giving back to the local community, with proceeds going to children’s charities in the Coachella Valley, makes the Desert Classic a can’t-miss event.”
Daily tickets starting at $30 are available at Desert-Classic.com.
This year’s event also expands on recent additions to the tournament, such as the inclusion of live music introduced with rousing success during last year’s event.
Former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar and his group The Circle — which also includes former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Van Halen guitarist Vic Johnson, and Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham — will perform Friday night.
The English hard rock supergroup Bad Company will perform Saturday night, continuing a recent tradition of big name acts that included last year’s lineup of Huey Lewis and the News and the Goo Goo Dolls, which organizers said drew 10,000 attendees for the concert portion of the event alone.
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