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Friday, December 13, 2002
Celebrities make it fun
By Curtis Strange
Special to ABC Sports Online
There are two distinguishing factors that make the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic a great event. For one, it's in sunny Palm Springs. The majority of the country is still cold, and there's a lot of snow on the ground. So it's fun to watch an oasis for a couple of days. The other thing is the celebrities -- the sports stars, movie stars and music stars -- that are involved. People enjoy watching them.
From a player's standpoint, it's a little longer tournament because it's 90 holes (as opposed to the standard 72 holes) played on four different courses: PGA West, Bermuda Dunes, Tamarisk and Indian Wells. The fact that it's a five-day tournament doesn't really mean that much, other than you have to play an extra day.
The big difference comes when you're on the celebrity rotation (certain pros are playing with certain celebrities every day). It's more fun and entertaining, but it's also tougher because there are more distractions -- not only from the celebrities themselves, but from the masses of people that want to see the celebrities. When you're on the three non-celebrity courses, it's like playing on a Saturday morning at your club. There's nobody out there. You're just out there in your group having a nice day. The atmosphere from the celebrity course is like night and day.
|Joe Durant set a 90-hole record with his 36 under-par total at the 2001 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.|
PGA West is a modern golf course, compared to the other desert courses. Remember, Palm Springs usually has nice weather and virtually no wind. So the course is usually in perfect condition.
Indian Wells, Bermuda Dunes and Tamarisk are three typical, fun-to-play desert courses, which means they aren't particularly long, they're tight off the tee. Basically, you would enjoy playing every day. They are old-style golf courses, and that's why you see such low scores. The courses aren't real tough, are played in perfect weather conditions, and without a doubt, they are the finest putting surfaces we putt on all year long. All those factors make for the low scores.
It's fun to do an event like this early in the year when there are a lot of birdies being made. You've got to shoot really low to win this event -- Joe Durant shot 36-under last year to set a 90-hole tournament record. Someone will always go low.
And to have the celebrities on TV is fun. Some of them are excellent players, and some aren't so excellent. For example, Charles Barkley, as great an athlete as he is, has the worst golf swing we have ever seen in our lives. But there are many celebrities who take the game very seriously.
Melissa Stark will be there as well, and when she interviews the celebrities on Saturday, I believe viewers like to put a voice to the face and see all of that.
This is the first year I'm not playing in it. I enjoyed it more as I got older. When you're young, you think just golf, golf, golf, and some of the distractions sort of wear on you. For the last 10 years or so, I really enjoyed it because I got to see guys I never get to see, and you meet stars of sports and entertainment that are really nice people. We have a lot in common. It's fun to talk about the different lifestyles and see what you do have in common. It's also fun to see the best in their world get nervous because they really get nervous.
The guy I loved playing with the most was the late former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Derrick Thomas. He was just the most unassuming guy, loved the game and was just a joy to be around. I didn't know about all the charity work he did until I read about it after he died. You get to meet some personalities like that that stick with you.
Glen Frey of The Eagles was another who made a big impression. Five years ago I was telling him about how my boy started playing guitar, and I asked him if I should push him, what's the best way to go about developing him. We talked and then Glen said, "I want to give him something."
I said, "Glen, no, you don't have to."
Glen said, "I want to give him something."
Three days later, a package came in the mail. I was on the West Coast but was talking to my son when the package arrived. It was a Glen Frey electric guitar with an autograph that said, "To play is to live."
I thought to myself, "Wow. Sometimes the guys that you look up to really are as big as you think they are."
Players to watch
Once again, this will be a very good field. You have a good mix of perennial contenders and guys looking to prove they can play on the PGA Tour. Because of the courses and the conditions, it becomes a putting contest, and the guy with the hot putter usually wins.
With that said, you'll see a lot of guys who you wouldn't expect to play well come to the forefront -- like Joe Durant did last year. The Hope, as well as the other West Coast events, is important in setting the tone for the rest of the season. In Durant's case, he went on to win at the Doral in March and had his best season on tour.
Durant is just one example. David Duval shot 59 in the final round to win here in 1998 and won three more times before the Masters. It's the same in any sport: If you get off to a good start, you ride that mow for a long time.
Two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange is a golf analyst for ABC Sports and a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.