As the Humana Challenge embarks on a new chapter in the history of one of the PGA TOUR's most storied golf tournaments, the 144-player professional field provides a rich blend of golf's present and future stars, and many names that have enriched the history of the sport and the Coachella Valley's annual PGA TOUR event.
The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation begins next week with plenty of added intrigue. San Diego native Phil Mickelson, the 2002 and 2004 tournament champion and four-time major championship winner, makes his 2012 season debut along with Dustin Johnson, the field's highest-ranked player at No. 8 in the world. Defending FedExCup champion Bill Haas returns to the site of his first PGA TOUR win, in 2010.
La Quinta High School product Anthony Kim plays his home tournament for the first time since tying for third in 2008. World Golf Hall of Famer, former World No. 1, and 1986 and 1993 British Open champion Greg Norman makes his second appearance in the event (first since 1986) and first stateside start in a PGA TOUR event since the 2009 Masters.
Other leading players in the field include World No. 11 Matt Kuchar, who won the PGA TOUR's money title, was the FedExCup Playoffs' runner-up, and was a tournament runner-up in 2010, 2001 PGA champion David Toms, 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson, 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman and defending champion Jhonattan Vegas.
The event's star-studded celebrity field is headlined by musicians Smokey Robinson, Alice Cooper and Michael Bolton; actors Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Craig T. Nelson, Billy Crudup and Lucas Black; and basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving.
"We are delighted and privileged to host such an accomplished field of players and personalities this year," Humana Challenge Tournament Chairman Larry Thiel said. "The format changes have certainly sparked interest among the PGA TOUR players and our spectators are in for a real treat. The event and the player field is much stronger than it's been in recent years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide for the Eisenhower Medical Center and many of the Coachella Valley's foremost charities."
Mickelson, Haas and Vegas are three of 13 champions of the event formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic who are in the field. They are joined by Pat Perez (2009 champ), D.J. Trahan (2008), Charley Hoffman (2007), Chad Campbell (2006), Justin Leonard (2005), Joe Durant (2001), David Duval (1999), Mark Brooks (1996), Steve Jones (1989) and Keith Fergus (1983), the oldest player in the field at 57.
The field contains five 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup players (Johnson, Kuchar, Mickelson, Haas and Toms), 12 major champions, 12 of the top 43 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, 13 of the top 30 on last year's money list, and 12 golfers who finished in the top 30 in last year's FedExCup Playoffs and played in the TOUR Championship. Collectively, the field has won 300 PGA TOUR titles and 17 major championships, and includes 19 golfers who won on the PGA TOUR in 2011.
Humana Challenge tickets, beginning at $25, can be purchased online at www.humanachallenge.com, by calling 1-888-672-4673, by visiting Lumpy's (the "Official Golf Retail Partner" for the Humana Challenge) in La Quinta and Rancho Mirage, or by visiting Albertson's grocery stores in the Coachella Valley.
For the third consecutive year, the Humana Challenge will take place entirely within La Quinta, where players will compete for a $1.008 million winner's check at La Quinta Country Club and the Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses at PGA WEST. Its $5.6 million purse and winner's check are the largest in event history.
This year's tournament continues to honor and celebrate the legacy of Bob Hope by awarding the new Bob Hope Memorial Trophy to its champion. Live event coverage airs on Golf Channel (12-3 p.m. PST on Jan. 19-20; 1-4 p.m. PST on Jan. 21-22).
Mickelson is the tournament's all-time money leader with $2,029,861 in event earnings. The 39-time PGA TOUR winner (second-most among active PGA TOUR golfers) and champion of the 2004, 2006 and 2010 Masters and the 2005 PGA Championship is scheduled to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May.
Last year in the desert, Vegas shot 27-under-par 333 in regulation and became the first of a record six PGA TOUR rookies to win in a single season by outlasting Haas and Gary Woodland in a two-hole playoff. Vegas became the third consecutive player to win his first PGA TOUR title at the event, joining Haas and Perez.
Humana Challenge sponsor exemptions were awarded to 2001 British Open winner and former World No. 1 Duval, Durant, La Quinta resident Scott McCarron, Brett Quigley, 2002 PGA Championship winner Rich Beem, Harris English, Richard Lee and Sam Saunders, the grandson of golf legend Arnold Palmer, the tournament's all-time leading champion (1960, '62, '68, '71 and '73). Reigning Southern California PGA Section Champion Mike Miles, of Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, is also in the field.
Twenty of this year's 26 PGA TOUR rookies are in the field, which includes San Diego natives J.J. Killeen and USC product Jamie Lovemark, the 2011 and 2010 Nationwide Tour money list champions, respectively. Lovemark is coming off a Major Medical Extension in 2011. Of the tournament's 20 rookies, eight finished among the graduating players from Q-School at PGA WEST last month, and 10 automatically earned PGA TOUR cards by placing among the top 25 on the 2011 Nationwide Tour's money list.
On the celebrity front, Robinson, the music icon known as the "King of Motown" and a 1987 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and American actors Freeman, Crudup and Black are making their first appearances in the tournament. Cooper, the heavy metal rock legend who last year was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has played in the tournament each of the past 14 years, save 2005. Bolton also enjoys history with the event, debuting in 1999 and playing each year from 2001-09. Cheadle golfed in the event in 2003, '07 and '08. Nelson will play for the sixth time (all since 2004). Erving is playing for the second consecutive year and sixth time overall.
The Humana Challenge features 144 amateurs, including celebrities. The first three rounds (Jan. 19-21) of the four-day tournament will be played in a pro-am format, with each pro-am team consisting of one professional and one amateur and each group consisting of two professionals and two amateurs. In a twist from years past, the field of celebrity golfers will be divided among the three golf courses each day. Sunday's final round (Jan. 22) will feature professionals only.
Tournament week is designed to bring the idea of "participatory wellness" to life for people of all ages and will feature a first-ever national conference focused on health and well-being on Jan. 17, entitled Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation and highlighted by a keynote address from President William J. Clinton. The Palmer Private Course at PGA WEST will host The Bob Hope Legacy Pro-Am on Monday, Jan. 16 and The Couples Team Challenge Pro-Am on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
During the past 52 years, the event has generated more than $50 million in donations to the Eisenhower Medical Center and charities within the Coachella Valley.
The Humana Challenge is proud to offer the latest tournament information, stage contests and give away tickets and other prizes through its new Facebook page - www.facebook.com/HumanaChallenge - and Twitter page - www.twitter.com/HumanaChallenge (@HumanaChallenge). The Humana Challenge encourages the community, golf fans and tournament patrons to become fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter.