Bob Hope Classic Preview and Picks

Bob Hope Classic
Wednesday, Jan. 20 Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010
Silver Rock Resort (Multiple Courses) La Quinta, CA
The Golf Channel

By Evergreen of

One of the more unique events on the PGA Tour is on tap this week as pros and amateurs alike tee it up for the Bob Hope Classic. The Hope is likely the most fan friendly event of the year, with celebrities hamming it up with spectators on every hole, especially since many of their shots land smack dab in the middle of the gallery. While some players shy away from the circus-like atmosphere, the ones that do play truly enjoy the casual environment and really like the liberal scoring conditions.

The Hope will never be confused for a Major-style test of golf with all four courses offering up a ton of birdie opportunities. Pat Perez will defend his 2009 Hope victory after setting a scoring record of 33-under par. Perez also held the two day scoring mark after starting with rounds of 61 and 63 last year only to have Steve Stricker fire a 61 and 62 two days later and set a new record. We may not get to that level again, but expect a lot of rounds in the low to mid 60s and the eventual winner in the 24 to 27-under range.

There are several courses at the Silver Rock Resort and this years rotation will consist of the Palmer and Nicklaus courses at PGA West as well as La Quinta Country Club and the Silver Rock course itself. All play at par-72 with the Palmer/Nicklaus measuring the shortest at about 6,950 yards and Silver Rock the longest at 7,578. La Quinta is in the middle at 7,060 yards and all the courses will be set up to score. Given the pro-am aspect of the event, the roughs are kept playable and the pins are seldom put in severe locations so the PGA players routinely eat the courses up. Scores will jump higher on Sunday when the amateur part of the event is over and the race to the finish will resemble a more typical Tour Sunday.

You wont see some of your favorite players this week as some will favor the Euro PGA Tour over a quirky event like the Hope, but the field is highlighted by several former champs, including Mike Weir and Justin Leonard, winners in 2003 and 2005.

Each week, we pick three golfers that we like to win it all. We take a look at the golf sportsbooks and give you a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a few head to head matches as well. Here are our picks for the 2010 Bob Hope Classic.

Short Favorite: Tim Clark (20 to 1)
With an average strength of field, Clark is one of five players listed as the favorite at 20 to 1. Tim finished at 27-under at the Hope last year and finished off 2009 with a T2 at the Shark Shootout. You have to starts quick in shootouts, and Clark ranks 3rd in pre-cut scoring average. Why he could win: 2nd in fairways hit and 48th in greens in regulation are a great combo and a 9th ranked putter brought the 5th best scoring average in 2009. Clark is a very strong player with the irons, and can knock down the flagstick when he is on a hot streak so look for some tap-in birds this week.

Middle of the Road: Justin Leonard (25 to 1)
As one of the bigger names in the field, Justin will have a strong crowd following and should use that to jump-start his season. Leonard scuffled at the Sony and missed the cut, but the 2005 Hope champion has the game to win here and the good track record as proof. Why Leonard could potentially win: Justin has been one of the best over the years with the wedges and that is how you card the type of rounds you need to win the Hope. Leonard finished the 2009 season ranked in the top-10 in putting and birdie average and holed the 11th most birdies overall. Attitude and patience are also a big key to win this week and Justin is one of the more easy going players out there and unlikely to be bothered by the goofy atmosphere.

Longshot: Webb Simpson (66 to 1)
Simpson had one of his best finishes here last year, tying for 5th. Webb has been streaky in his young career, but streaky is good when you need to go 66 or better for at least four days. A good putter is key when trying to get on that hot run and Simpson finished 2009 ranked 7th in putts per round. Why he could win: Along with the solid putts per round stat, Simpson is in the top-25 in putts per green in regulation and was in the top-30 in total birdies last year. When he does misfire, Webb limits the damage with a top-20 scrambling mark.

Other golfers to watch:

Every board differs a bit, especially with respect to the favorites each week. Along with Clark, Ryan Moore, Justin Rose, Mike Weir and Chad Campbell are all listed as short odd favorites at one place or another. Weir and Campbell are both previous Bob Hope champions.

Head to Head Matches (our pick)
*featured matches are for entire eventcheck with your favorite bookie for single round matches, updated daily.

Ryan Moore (-115) v. Justin Rose (-115) (Moore)
You gotta like Moore in this match between players expected to contend. Ryan leads the Tour in fairways and greens hit in the early season and finished T5 at the 2008 Hope. Full season stats from 2009 lean Moores way as well with advantages in total driving, ballstriking and birdie average.

John Merrick (-115) v. D.J. Trahan (-115) (Trahan)
Take Trahan in this one as the 2008 Hope champ is the clearly better ballstriker. Merrick did run 2nd in 2009, but finished the year ranked outside the top-100 in greens hit with Trahan in the top-10. Merrick does have the edge with the putter, but it doesnt add up as Trahan has the better birdie and scoring averages.