by Jeff Skinner
It’s that time again, that time when the PGA Tour moves to the mainland and all of those fans whose clubs have been replaced with snow shovels check the calendar to see when it will be our turn to tee it up.
The Southern Californian desert plays host the newly configured Humana Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation. That’s a heck of a mouthful for a tournament that used to be called simply “The Hope.” With the trouble that The Bob Hope Classic was having for the last decade the PGA Tour took very drastic measures to reformulate The Hope to make it more appealing to the fans, to get more name players to play and of course, to be profitable. If a tournament can’t attract a deep pocketed sponsor it is not going to be around any longer.
Bob Hope had his name on this event since 1965 and for decades this was a fun, interesting and most of all, significant event. When the PGA Tour tapped President Clinton to pump up the tournament I had my doubts. Politics aside, I’ve never been a fan of Clinton due to his personal flaws and the fact that he’s well known for his ten foot gimmies and conveniently forgetting a stroke or two while playing golf. He wouldn’t have been my choice to lead The Hope.
But Clinton has had a very positive impact on The Humana. As Tim Finchem had hoped, Clinton reached out and used the power of the Presidency; even an ex-pres still has plenty of juice. He got his buddy Greg Norman to play and he also was able to persuade Phil Mickelson to show up. This tournament now has an emphasis on healthy living and that’s a cause that Phil supports himself. So Phil comes back to the desert for the first time since 2007. Jhonattan Vegas will defend and even local boy Anthony Kim has returned as have many others who have skipped this stop recently.
Adding a Norman and a Mickelson doesn’t mean that The Humana is now the hottest thing since Augusta, but it’s a start. Mickelson is the games second biggest draw and his presence will put fans on the ropes but there is more work to be done. Clinton knows it and so does Finchem but they certainly have the tournament headed in the right direction.
However, I think the tour could have still found a way to honor Bob Hope. Yes, there will be touches of the Hope legacy around the grounds of the tournament but in a tournament name that needs eight words in it couldn’t they have included “Hope” in there somewhere. How about: “the Humana Hope Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation.” That would have done it for me and many of the fans that had come to know that this time of year always started with “The Hope.”