It was only coincidental the Palm Springs Golf Classic was founded in 1960 – what many believe was one of the most important years in the history of the game of golf. It was also a coincidence that the tournament's first winner was Arnold Palmer who, a few months later, would put golf on the front page of America's sports pages, earning forever the title "King".
Arnie didn't just win the first Classic – he dominated the field. His total of 338 (22 under par) set a tournament record that would not be broken for nearly 20 years. It was also the first of his eight victories in the 1960 season – Arnie's best-ever year as a professional.
But what made the year so important came in June of 1960 when Arnie shot a final round 65 (including driving the first green at Cherry Hills) for one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the U.S. Open. That single 18-hole round catapulted golf into the top ranks of sports, created the famous "Arnie's Army" and made Arnold Palmer a legend. Arnie won his first Classic five months before he was crowned "King" with his dramatic Open triumph.
Palmer continued to reign supreme at the Bob Hope Desert Classic during the decade. He added victories in 1962 and 1968 with runner-up finishes in 1965 and 1966.
Arnie's performance was impressive – but Billy Casper, who some have dubbed the "quiet great", nearly matched Palmer's accomplishments.
The Classic's early years determined the format and traditions which remain to this day. Bob Rosburg is credited with creating the tournament's unique five-day format played over four different courses. The founding courses played were Thunderbird, Tamarisk, Bermuda Dunes and Indian Wells Country Clubs. The tradition of the Classic Girls began in the event's early years, with the earliest tournaments having a Classic Queen (Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell and Jill St. John were early title holders.)
From the start, the Classic attracted an unbelievable array of celebrities to compete in the tournament's pro-am competition. Some of the early stars are now legends: Bing Crosby, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Phil Harris, Desi Arnaz, Ray Bolger and Hoagy Carmichael. Dwight Eisenhower was the first former President to play in the tournament and of course, the biggest celebrity of all, Bob Hope, played in the early years, added his name to the tournament in 1965 and became the Classic's Chairman of the Board.
But the Classic's most extraordinary challenge was the fabulous $50,000 prize offered for a hole-in-one. Consider how tremendous that prize was: Arnold Palmer won eight times in 1960 (including the U.S. Open) and his total earnings for the year were $75,000.
For the first three years of the tournament, the Classic purchased an insurance policy from Lloyd's of London for a hole-in-one payoff – and the $50,000 was won in each of these years. Cigar-chomping Joe Campbell accomplished the feat in 1960 on hole 5 at Tamarisk, followed by Don January in 1961 on the 15th at Indian Wells and Dick Mayer in 1962 on the 2nd at Tamarisk.
The combination of Arnie's victories and the hole-in-one bonanza was a winning one. The Classic was televised for the first time in 1961, becoming a pioneer in bringing the tournament's excitement into the living rooms of golf fans around the country.
The 1960′s was an exciting decade for golf – and the Bob Hope Desert Classic was one of the prime factors for making the sport popular among the general public.
Arnold Palmer's reign continued in the early 70s with two more Bob Hope Classic victories, pushing his lifetime total to five. By the middle of the decade, the Classic torch had been passed to Johnny Miller, who put his indelible stamp on all desert tournaments.
Miller won back-to-back Classic titles in 1975 and 1976 and had six consecutive top-four finishes beginning in 1972. His desert mastery also included events at Phoenix and Tucson, and in the memorable year of 1975, he made a clean sweep of the desert with victories in all three events. In a space of only three years, Johnny Miller won seven desert tournaments, including three consecutive Tucson titles.
Miller's dominance during the decade had its preview in 1973 when he was locked in a three-way battle for the Classic title with Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Palmer won the title by a single stroke over Miller and Nicklaus. Later that year, Miller shot his record-breaking 63 in the final round to win the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.
Frank Sinatra made his Hope debut in 1972. Other stars of the era who played often were Jack Benny, Andy Williams, Lawrence Welk, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin. Gerald Ford joined the field in 1977, making him the second former president to play in the tournament. Willie Mays, Joe Louis, Johnny Bench, Merlin Olsen, John McKay, Maury Wills and Bear Bryant were among the sports world stars who teed it up in the Classic during the 70s.
Barbara Eden was the first Classic Queen of the 70s, reigning over a court that wore outfits with "Bob", "Hope" and "Classic" emblazoned across the front. Other Classic Queens during the decade were Gloria Loring, Brucence Smith, Linda Carter, Lexie Brockway and Terry Ann Browning. The last four were also Miss World USA. Beginning in 1975 the Bob Hope Classic Girls became the ambassadors of the Classic, as there was no longer a queen. By this time, Bermuda Dunes, Indian Wells and La Quinta served as the host courses on a rotating basis. Eldorado and Tamarisk rotated as the fourth course in the lineup each year.
It didn't matter which courses were in the rotation. Johnny Miller played all of them with extreme brilliance. Although there were many remarkable Classic performances in the 1970′s the era still belonged to Miller, who crossed the barrier from a good player to a future Hall of Famer. It was another golden era for golf – and it was led by golf's new golden boy.
The third decade of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was a period of significant change both for the tournament and the PGA TOUR. These steps forward in the 1970′s were largely responsible for the tremendous success of the Classic and the TOUR in the 1980′s.
For the Classic, the biggest step was the addition of Chrysler to the tournament's name in 1985 as our title sponsor. The auto manufacturer had been a major sponsor of the telecast for several years, but saw the opportunity to further showcase their products through this association.
These two changes had an immediate impact in the size of the Classic's purse. In only nine years, the Classic's total purse had increased 228 per cent.
Yet another significant change was the addition of a new course. PGA WEST was added to the Classic's course rotation in 1987. The first year, the Stadium Course was the host course, with the Palmer Course being utilized in later years.
Beginning in the 1980′s the depth of the tournament field was much stronger than in previous years. Reflecting this new era of competitiveness, the Classic had ten different winners in the '80′s, the only decade in which the tournament had no repeat winner.
There were significant accomplishments in the 1980′s. Bruce Lietzke became only the second man to lead from start to finish and a score of 25 under par. The tournament mark would be tied the next two years before Lanny Wadkins and Craig Stadler established the new mark at 333 (27 under par) in 1985.
The Classic did set a new standard, of sorts in the 1980′s by becoming the leader among all TOUR events for playoffs. In the eight tournaments from 1982 to 1989, six were decided in sudden death.
In the first playoff, Ed Fiori eliminated Tom Kite to take the title, while the next year, Keith Fergus survived a playoff against Rex Caldwell. In 1984, the Classic's Silver Anniversary, John Mahaffey outlasted Jim Simons on the second hole of sudden death.
The next year, the new tradition continued in one of the Classic's greatest confrontations. Lanny Wadkins and Craig Stadler were deadlocked at the end of regulation. The longest playoff in the tournament's history came to a thrilling climax when Wadkins birdied the fifth playoff hole for his 13th PGA TOUR victory.
The event's champion was decided via playoff for the fifth consecutive year in 1986, when Donnie Hammond defeated eventual two-time Classic champion John Cook by making birdie on the first playoff hole.
1990 - 1999
The first three decades of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic produced incredible drama featuring the reigning stars of their eras. In retrospect, however, those first thirty years served as a warm up to some of the most exciting golf played on any Tour in the world.
Peter Jacobsen kicked off the 1990's with a popular, one shot victory. His win, however, was a prelude to the next three Classics, which were among the most exciting in the tournament's history.
In 1991, birdies were raining everywhere, as three players broke the tournament record (and Tim Simpson didn't even make the sudden death playoff). Corey Pavin, winner of the 1987 Classic, and Mark O'Meara finished the regulation 90 holes at 29 under par. On the first playoff hole, O'Meara appeared to have a distinct advantage. Mark had a 20 foot birdie putt while Pavin was in the rough with a difficult chip. that advantage disappeared when Pavin holed the 40 foot chip, O'Meara missed and Pavin took his second Classic crown.
While 1991's playoff was exciting, it didn't come close to the one in 1992 — probably the most exciting sudden death playoff in history.
Five players finished tied in regulation (equaling the existing TOUR record). John Cook, Gene Sauers, Rich Fehr, Tom Kite and Mark O'Meara (who lost in sudden death in 1991) teed it up in overtime. Kite and O"Meara were eliminated on the first hole with par fives. Fehr was the next to fall when both Cook and Sauers birdied the second hole, the par five 18th. Sauers seemed to have a sure birdie — and probable win — locked up on the third playoff hole (number one, again), until Cook chipped in for birdie to send the playoff back to the 18th hole. Cook of Rancho Mirage then took the title when he chipped in for eagle, finishing the four playoff holes in five under par!
While the 1993 Classic didn't have the customary playoff, it did feature on of the most historic achievements in golf. Tom Kite, the reigning U.S. Open champion, did the seemingly impossible. He finished 90 holes in 35 under par, including a course record 62 in the final round at the tough Palmer Course at PGA WEST. He broke the PGA TOUR's 90 hole record by six shots in a performance for the ages.
The next three Classic were more conventional affairs — with Scott Hoch, Kenny Perry and Mark Brooks winning without playoffs. In 1997, another golfer would achieve another incredible feat.
Mark Calcavecchia seemed to have the 1997 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in his pocket. Going into the final round, he was three strokes better than John Cook with a 72 hole tournament record of 26 under par. Cook, however, had moved up on Saturday with brilliant 62 at Indian Wells. Playing head to head on Sunday, Cook finally caught Calcavecchia on the 11th hole and passed him on the 17th when Mark bogied.
With a closing birdie, Cook had fired a 63 in the final round — with his consecutive rounds of 62 and 63 tying the PGA TOUR record. Cook had accomplished the same feat the previous year, making him the only golfer to ever have performed the feat twice.
Last year, one of the games' biggest stars finally came through to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Fred Couples always had played well at the Classic — in fact, going in to the 1998 tournament he had five straight Top Ten finishes. Yet, he had never found the Classic's winner's circle.
Fred Couples did win the 1998 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic — but just barely. He trailed Bruce Lietzke and Andrew Magee throughout the tournament until the 90th hole, when he two putted for birdie from 25 feet to tie Lietzke, who missed an eight foot putt that would have won the title. The sudden death playoff — also on the 18th hole — was almost a replay of regulation. Couples just over the green got up and down for birdie, while Lietzke missed a 10 footer that would have continued overtime. This year the Classic has a defending champion who is one of the great players of our time.
The biggest news event at the Classic during the ‘90's didn't even involve the world's top professionals. In 1995, the "power fivesome" of President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, President Gerald R. Ford, Tournament Host Bob Hope and defending champion Scott Hoch teed it up for the tournament's opening round (with the White House Press Corps and 25,000 fans tagging along). This historic day was the first time a sitting president had played during a PGA TOUR event and perhaps the first time three presidents had played together — ever. the quality of play may not have been world class — but the Classic appeared on newspaper front pages and TV stations around the world.
Another huge development during the decade was the tremendous increase in the tournament's purse. The decade began with a $1 million purse for the 1990 tournament. The purse had slowly increased for six years until the 1998 tournament, when Fred Couples took home the lion's share of $2.3 million. In 1999, the purse increased again — this time to $2.8 million (a 180 percent increase in only 9 years) with the winner taking home $504,000.
This year's 40th Classic celebration is an historic occasion in its own right. If the golf gods continue to smile on the Classic, it will be another of the most memorable golf tournaments ever played.
The first decade of the new millennium was highlighted by some of the greatest stars in the game – and for three straight years, the domination of "the lefties".
Jesper Parnevik , the exciting Swede known for his colorful attire, started things off right with his victory in the 2000 Classic. It marked only the second time a foreign-born golfer had won the tournament. And Parnevik won in exciting fashion, coming from behind for a one-stroke victory over Rory Sabbatini.
The 2001 tournament featured one of the most dominating performances in PGA TOUR history. Joe Durant's win that year was near perfection: in his four-shot win he set new Classic records for 36, 54, 72 and 90 holes, the latter two also TOUR records. He did it in style, birdying the final hole to beat Tom Kite's tournament mark by a shot.
One of the game's top stars asserted his mastery at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in 2002. Phil Mickelson, playing after a five-month layoff, opened with a 64, then stayed close to the lead all week. He shot to the top of the leaderboard on the back nine on Sunday, finished 90 holes in a tie with David Berganio, Jr., then won his first Classic title with a birdie on the first playoff hole.
The following year began the unique connection of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and The Masters Tournament. Canadian Mike Weir, who was coming off a subpar season the year before, came out hot in 2003. Near the lead all week, he birdied the 17th hole on Sunday to tie playing partner Jay Haas for the lead, then won the title on the final hole with a birdie. Weir would later go on to winner in Los Angeles and The Masters that season.
Phil Mickelson's win in 2004 marked the third-straight year a lefthander had won the Classic. When he added The Masters Tournament later that season, it marked the second straight time the Classic winner had accomplished the Classic/Masters feat. As opposed to his previous victory, Mickelson was on or near the lead for the entire tournament, finishing in a tie with Skip Kendall after 90 holes (and winning outright for the second time in three years with a birdie on the first hole of sudden death.
Another of the game's stars scored big in the 2005 Classic. British Open champion Justin Leonard had steady play the first 72 holes of that year's event – then when windy conditions, much like in his home state of Texas, vexed most of the field, Leonard came through with an easy victory. He fired a final-round 67 to win by three shots over Tim Clark and 72-hole leader Joe Ogilvie.
In 2006, the tournament began a three-year stint at The Classic Club. Chad Campbell, the Ryder Cup player used to the winds of his native Texas, took over the lead in the second round and never looked back, winning by three shots over Parnevik and Scott Verplank.
The 2007 Bob Hope Classic was played under difficult conditions: high winds and very cold temperatures. The winds blew especially hard on Sunday, when the field averaged 74.763 strokes per round, the highest final round scoring in the Classic's 48-year history. After 90 holes, Charley Hoffman and John Rollins finished tied, with Southern Californian native Hoffman winning the title on the first hole of sudden death. It was Hoffman's first victory while playing in his first-ever Classic, the only other player accomplishing that feat being Arnold Palmer in the very first event.
Former champion Justin Leonard appeared to have the 2008 Classic "in the bag". With only 9 holes remaining, he had a four-shot lead. Yet someone did roar past him, thanks to Leonard's 39 on the back nine. And the winner was D. J. Trahan, who shot a final round 65 to best Leonard by three strokes. The biggest reason for Trahan's win: his putting. In 2007 he ranked 171st in putting on TOUR. At the 2008 Classic, he led the field in putting thanks to a tip from an amateur back home in Georgia.
Considering the low scores he had posted in his previous appearances, it was no surprise when Pat Perez started hot at the 2009 event. His first-round 61 started him on a near start-to-finish victory. Perez lost the lead after the fourth round when Steve Stricker shot 61 and 62 on Friday/Saturday to set a tournament 72-hole record and pull ahead of Perez by three shots. Gusty winds played havoc in the final round, which saw Perez play steady golf in shooting a 69 to win the 50th Bob Hope Classic by three shots over John Merrick.
The 51st-annual Bob Hope Classic in 2010 opened with rain – forcing the tournament's first Monday finish in 30 years – before reining in a first-time PGA TOUR champion. Bill Haas birdied the last hole of regulation to win the tournament and provide the Classic with its first father-son tandem of champions. To Bill Haas' surprise, his father Jay (1988 Bob Hope Classic champion) and his Masters-winning great uncle, Bob Goalby, were there to celebrate with him as he walked off the 72nd hole. The elder Haas took a red-eye from his Champions Tour event in Hawaii and was secretly at the Classic to watch his son win his first TOUR event. Bubba Watson carded a course-record 62 at SilverRock Resort on Friday and finished one shot back of Haas along with Matt Kuchar and Tim Clark. The Classic served as a significant springboard to Haas' career, and he went on to win the PGA TOUR's FedExCup championship the following year.
2011 marked the final year of the tournament under the Bob Hope Classic name, and produced one of its most surprising champions. Jhonattan Vegas, a hulking 26-year-old rookie and the first-ever PGA TOUR member Venezuela, claimed a share of the tournament lead in the second round and never relinquished it, ultimately winning the tournament after beating Gary Woodland on the second playoff hole despite incurring a one-stroke penalty. Vegas' tee-shot on No. 10 bounced into the lake but, after the drop, he knocked his approach to nine feet and made the par putt for the win. Bill Haas, attempting to become the event's second back-to-back winner (after Johnny Miller), vaulted into contention after a third-round 62 and reached the playoff but lost his title chances with a par on the first playoff hole, while Vegas and Woodland recorded birdies. As for Vegas, this victory remains the only PGA TOUR title in his bag.
The tournament ushered in a new era in 2012 as it played under the auspices of only its second title sponsor. The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation anointed PGA TOUR veteran Mark Wilson as its champion. Wilson overcame a fierce wind storm which postponed a portion of Saturday's third round into Sunday's close and garnered his fifth PGA TOUR win, and third in 13 months, completing the most successful stretch of his career. That Wilson carded a 5-under-par 67 at La Quinta Country Club on Saturday before the wind wreaked havoc with the scores of his closest competitors may have been the turning point. Strong gusts blew trees down over the courses and even blew over the scoreboard which stood in the lake along the 18th green. The wind did not blow out the tournament week festivities that included the participation of President Bill Clinton. The week began with the Clinton Foundation's "Health Matters" conference, which attracted some of the nation's top health and fitness experts and was attended by Clinton family friends Barbra Streisand and Goldie Hawn. World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman was invited to play the event, while celebrities Morgan Freeman, Craig T. Nelson, Michael Bolton and Alice Cooper played in the Pro-Am.
The 2013 Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation featured another wildly popular "Health Matters" conference before tournament play commenced and closed on Sunday with the second-largest final-round comeback in tournament history. PGA TOUR veteran Brian Gay overcame a six-shot deficit entering Sunday with a 9-under-par 63 on the Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA WEST, entered a three-man playoff and beat Charles Howell III with a par on the second playoff hole to claim his fourth (and most recent) PGA TOUR title. PGA TOUR rookie David Lingmerth erased a seven-shot deficit in the final round with a 10-under 62 to make the playoff, but the Swede bowed out after his second shot on the par-5 18th hole found the lake alongside the green. Fittingly in line with the tournament's key message promoting health and wellness, Gay attributed his new fitness regimen to picking up as much as 15 yards in average driving distance and winning his first PGA TOUR title in four years.
In 2014, golf fans in La Quinta were introduced to one of America's up-and-coming stars through a record-setting performance by 23-year-old Patrick Reed. The Texan shot a blistering 28-under-par 260 to claim the Bob Hope Memorial Trophy and his second PGA TOUR title in 46 career TOUR starts by two shots over Ryan Palmer. Reed set a PGA TOUR 54-hole record for score in relation to par by firing 63-63-63 for 27-under and a seven-stroke lead heading into the final round. Reed became the first player in PGA TOUR history to post scores of 63 or better in his first three rounds. Reed became the second wire-to-wire winner of the Humana Challenge, joining Rik Massengale in 1977, and the event's second youngest champion, next to Jack Nicklaus, who had just turned 23 when he won in 1963. Since this victory, Reed went on to win twice more in less than a year and represent the U.S. in his first Ryder Cup, in 2014, and his first Presidents Cup, in 2015. The Humana Challenge also introduced one a new and exciting ‘Sunday Cut' for amateurs in the Pro-Am. The top six amateurs from the first 54 holes (Thursday-Saturday) made the cut to play with PGA TOUR pros in Sunday's final round. Brian Bassett of Charlottesville, Va. was the low gross winner, at 18-under, while Mike Reed of New Palestine, Ind. Took home low net honors at 40-under.
The most recent edition of the tournament, in 2015, turned out to be the last one under Humana's title sponsorship and brought forth the eighth multi-winner of the event – American Bill Haas. With his great uncle, 1968 Masters champion Bob Goalby, in the gallery, the 2010 Humana Challenge champion fired a 5-under-par 67 in Sunday's closing round for a one-stroke victory at 22-under 266. Haas won his second Bob Hope Memorial Trophy and the $1.026 million prize, which vaulted him into the top spot on the tournament's all-time money list. It was the sixth PGA TOUR title for Haas, who became the eighth player to win the event multiple times, joining five-time champion Arnold Palmer and two-time champs Billy Casper, John Mahaffey, Johnny Miller, Corey Pavin, John Cook and Phil Mickelson. Haas broke a six-player logjam with a clutch birdie on the 71st hole, then got up-and-down for par from a fairway bunker on the 72nd, to secure the win. For the first time, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) moved its Health Matters Activation Summit to the Monday following the tournament.