by Jeff Skinner
By any measure the newly reconfigured Human Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation has to be considered a success. President Clinton’s presence and influence have set the former Bob Hope Classic on a successful path to recovery.
Mark Wilson may have carted home the hardware and the million dollar check but the star of the show was President Clinton. Much like it had been during its heyday as The Hope the star was never the players. It was always the host. For decades Bob Hope was the face of the tournament and the reason this tournament had such panache. Now, with Hope gone Clinton has stepped in to rescue this event.
There were many doubters, including me, when the tour announced the relationship with Clinton and his foundation. It certainly looked like a case of strange bedfellows as the two term democrat would be smack in the middle of a travelling Republican Convention. During Clinton’s campaigning days it is fair to say that the PGA Tour membership wasn’t giving him much support. But that was then and this is now and Clinton still has that charisma that put him in office and more importantly he still has a passion for his projects.
It showed all week at The Humana as Clinton spent more time on the course than anyone. He once again was a rock star. The players, the fans and The Golf Channel all wanted a piece of Clinton and he was more than accommodating. During his weather shortened round on Saturday he made Phil Mickelson look like a wallflower as he signed autographs, posed for pictures and talked up the crowd like he still needed their vote.
Clinton worked his magic long before the first ball was struck as he used his connections to pump up the field with Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson. “They were the only two I personally recruited, but we have a lot of other good players playing here,” Clinton said “We’ll have to see. We won’t know probably until the year or the year after whether it works for the golfers.” And while neither figured in the outcome it is a sign that there still is hope at The Humana.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and The Humana Challenge can’t be considered rescued after one successful week but this is a very healthy start. Humana, Clinton and the PGA Tour signed an eight year deal to rebuild this tournament and few could have envisioned such a successful beginning.