Bob Hope Classic tees off without stars

January 16, 2008 1:35:25 PM PST
The stars are not out for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

None of the top 23 players in the world rankings are entered in the five-day tournament that begins Wednesday. No. 24 Stewart Cink is the highest in the field.

"It's probably going to be easier to win without those guys, but every time you play you want to try to beat the best in the world," said defending champion Charley Hoffman, who isn't ranked in the top 50.

"It's unfortunate that no one's here in the top 20 in the world, but obviously there's a tournament to win and a check to pick up and I'll give it my all."

Tiger Woods never plays in the tournament, and two-time Hope champion Phil Mickelson is among those skipping the desert event this time.

He had a miserable day during last year's wind-blown final round, hitting three balls into the water in a three-hole stretch on his way to a 78 that left him tied for 45th.

The event seems to be wide open again.

"This year, it may be another young guy (winning)," said actor-comedian George Lopez, who is hosting the event. "It may be a guy who is further on in his career.

"I think that's what's going to make it exciting. The weather is supposed to be fantastic."

It certainly wasn't last year, with Hoffman sort of the last man standing.

"Bad weather with gusts up to 35 miles and hour and it was tough," he said, recalling the final round. "I guess I withstood the wind. I don't think I beat it, the wind won.

"But I was able to battle it out and beat John (Rollins) in the playoff."

He survived not only the tricky wind that swirled around, kicked up grit and made club selection a guessing game, but also temperatures that dipped into the 40s at times during the 90-hole event.

All that didn't turn out to be his most significant memory of the tournament, however. He particularly remembers the final hole of regulation.

"I never led the golf tournament until I made the eagle on 18," he said. "The 8-iron I hit in there on the par-5, to about 12 feet and sunk that putt, I knew I had a chance."

Rollins, in a later group, tied him in regulation, but Hoffman won with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Hoffman, his long, blond hair dangling from his cap and down around his shoulders, said some things changed after he got his initial tour win in the Hope.

"Obviously people recognize who I am now on the PGA Tour, which is most probably because of the hair more than the golf," he said with a smile.