La Quinta, CA
The 58th annual CareerBuilder Challenge will officially kick off today rain or shine with defending champion Jason Dufner and new tournament ambassador Phil Mickelson among the 156 pros taking part in the annual desert golf showcase.
Formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, the tournament will embark on its second year under the sponsorship of CareerBuilder and its first with Phil Mickelson leading the way as tournament ambassador. Mickelson was announced last spring to take over for former President Bill Clinton, who stepped down after five years in the role.
Mickelson, who had been uncertain to play following two sports hernia surgeries, the most recent performed in December, announced Wednesday that he would be teeing off Thursday morning at 8:40 a.m. with two-time tournament champ Bill Haas on the Ernie Dunlevie Field at the La Quinta Country Club.
“I feel good and I want to play,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know where my game is, but I figure the only way to find out is to play.”
Dufner, who is set to tee off at 9:10 a.m., is seeking to become the tournament’s second back-to-back winner. Johnny Miller remains the tournament’s only back-to-back champion after winning in 1975 and 1976.
Though Dufner said his routine would stay the same this year, he did tell reporters that he noticed “a lot of people in the area remember me from winning because the community is so involved in this event. So getting a lot of `congrats’ and `make it two in a row,’ and stuff like that, so that makes you feel good.”
Participating golfers will be competing for a $5.8 million purse, with $1,044,000 going to the tournament’s winner, matching the tournament-record purse figure set in 2016.
Others set to tee off at the La Quinta Country Club, the Stadium and Jack Nicklaus courses at PGA West include World No. 8 and 2014 tournament champ Patrick Reed, two-time major champion Zach Johnson, 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink, and 2007 U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera.
Locally, the tournament will be represented by Idyllwild native Brendan Steele and 20-year-old Aaron Wise from Lake Elsinore.
The tournament will feature international representation as well with Cabrera, who hails from Argentina, World No. 31 Francesco Molinari of Italy, Camilo Villegas of Colombia, Korea’s Si Woo Kim and Spain’s Jon Rahm, among others.
A number of new amenities will be debuting at this year’s event, including a Saturday concert by indie pop group Fitz and the Tantrums, a preview of March’s La Quinta Arts Festival, and a fashion show.
CareerBuilder Challenge executive director Nick Raffaele said that with the new additions and attractions, organizers are seeking “to match that golf viewing experience with what we do in terms of entertainment outside the ropes.”
However, rainy conditions threaten to keep fans and perhaps even some of the playing field off of the courses through the weekend. Heavy rain is expected to blanket the Coachella Valley over the next few days with a trio of storms arriving in the desert starting Wednesday night.
The first was expected to last through Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service, with a brief reprieve before the second storm hits Friday morning. Most of the heaviest rain was expected to fall Friday afternoon, followed by scattered showers forecast through Saturday.
A third storm will move in Sunday, and forecasters said the heaviest rains will hit the region Sunday evening.
Daily tickets are still available for $40, with kids and military members admitted free of charge. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.careerbuilderchallenge.com/tickets/.