Golf's big names are playing this week, but not at the Bob Hope Classic
Bob Hope was almost too handsome to be a comedian, but what saved him was his nose, a small ski-jump that became part of the Hope brand. (Just check out the logo of his eponymous tournament, and every other drawing of the late American icon.)
What will save the Bob Hope Classic? For the second straight year it has no title sponsor, a fact that was made all the more conspicuous by Monday's announcement that Farmers Insurance will sponsor next week's Tour stop in San Diego.
Phil Mickelson, a two-time Hope champion who made the pro-am his season-opener, got turned off by the windy Classic Club (an ill-advised, 2006 addition to the rotation of courses that lasted only three years) and hasn't played the Hope since 2007.
The 2010 Hope, set to begin in the rain Wednesday, features another lefty as its marquee player: Mike Weir, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 37. A former Hope champion and an excellent mudder, Weir will get competition this week from Justin Leonard (2005 Hope champion, '08 runner-up) and a resurgent Ryan Moore.
John Merrick, who played well at times during last week's Sony Open and was second to Pat Perez at the 2009 Hope, also could be your 2010 Hope winner. So could 2006 Hope champion Chad Campbell, who looked solid at the Sony (T8).
On the Hope undercard:
David Duval (didn't make it out of Q-School) and rookies Jamie Lovemark (ditto) and Sam Saunders (ditto) will try to show they belong on Tour and gain entry into future tournaments on the 2010 schedule. Rickie Fowler looks to bounce back after falling flat with an opening-round 75 and MC at the Sony, while less celebrated first-year Tour pros Troy Merritt (T20) and Graham DeLaet (T25) try to maintain momentum.
And of course it wouldn't be the Hope without such aspiring golfers as Bo Jackson, Evan Longoria, Greg Maddux, Dr. Phil McGraw, Kurt Russell and Vinny Testaverde highlighting the celebrity field. (Alice Cooper has been playing this thing so long I'm making him an honorary pro this week. Congratulations, Alice!)
But the biggest news at this year's Hope, other than the dismal forecast (rain all the way into the weekend) is who is not playing.
Kenny Perry, the 1995 Hope champion, opted out of this year's Hope to get ready for next week's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. The world No. 11 explained that he's always wanted to visit the Middle East, and he's getting "decent" appearance money.
Anthony Kim, who went to high school in La Quinta and plays out of the Madison Club there, will play the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship this week instead of his hometown tournament.
Abu Dhabi is also where Geoff Ogilvy will be making his first start since winning the SBS Championship, Sergio Garcia will tee it up for the first time since hurting his hand last November, and Rory McIlroy will kick off his 2010 season.
Also in the Abu Dhabi field: Defending champion Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Camilo Villegas and Todd Hamilton.
Abu Dhabi isn't the only place generating heat this week. Fred Couples and Corey Pavin (both former Hope champions) will make their Champions Tour debuts at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Meanwhile the Hope plods along, a tournament in search of an identity, whose hosts have included George Lopez, Arnold Palmer and now Yogi Berra since Hope died in 2003.
Perhaps someday Mickelson will return, the Euro Tour will stop handing out appearance fees, and the rest of the PGA Tour's upper echelon (and a title sponsor) will follow.
Until then the Bob Hope Classic will likely remain golf's version of the Catskills, a sad specter of a party that ended long ago.