The PGA Tour makes another stop in my beautiful sunny state with the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. However, the shine will be coming from the sun as most of the PGA Tour and international golf stars are in Carlsbad, California for the Accenture Match Play Championship. With top players like Tiger, Vijay and Phil out of Tucson, it leaves the event ripe for the picking by a player looking to get his first win on the PGA Tour and secure his card. In fact, five of the last six winners in Tucson were first time winners and some guy named Phil Mickelson won his first PGA Tour event in Tucson as an amateur and then went on to win it two more times. So there is still a lot of love for the event or is there?
The ninth oldest tournament on the PGA tour features a highlight reel of 55 years of classic action, which includes first-time victories for Phil Mickelson, Lee Janzen, Jim Carter, Garrett Willis and the 2005 winner Geoff Ogilvy. Golf legends such as Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have tested their skills at the event once called the Tucson Open. Previous winner include Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson, while tour professionals Bruce Lietzke and Craig Stadler both jump-started their careers with victories at this unpredictable tournament.
Arizona has gone 120+ days without rain however you may not notice that by looking at Tucson National. The traditional style course boasts beautifully manicured fairways and greens and a maturity which is evident by the large trees that line most fairways. Combine these features with more lakes than most courses in the Southwest, as well as an 18th hole that is considered one of the most challenging finishing holes on the tour. The course was lengthened 104 yards from 7,109 in 2005 to 7,213 in 2006 by redesigning the seventh and eighth holes.
Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy earned his first PGA Tour title and trip to Kapalua with a playoff victory over Kevin Na and Mark Calcavecchia at last year’s Chrysler Classic of Tucson. However, Geoff won’t be defending his title this year, instead he’ll be facing Michael Campbell in the first round of the WGC Match Play. This should make Kevin happy, as his best finishes on the PGA Tour were both events in Arizona last year, a second place behind Phil at the 2005 FBR Open and T-2 at the 2005 Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
Since the event is kind to first time winners and Kevin does well in Arizona, I think it was smart of him to try again this year or maybe just superstitious. Kevin will still have some good competition to face with players like 2004 champion Heath Slocum, Justin Rose, Bill Haas and Bubba Watson. Even the 1998 winner David Duval would like to re-start his career here and has made the cut in three of the four events he has played in 2006.
The Chrysler Classic of Tucson is the ninth and final event in the 2006 West Coast Swing presented by Allianz. Rory Sabbatini now has a comfortable lead in the standings and only second place, Chad Campbell is within striking distance of the title. Rory is having a fantastic start in ’06 with his T-2 at the Sony Open, second place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a win at last week’s Nissan Open.
This year’s purse is $3 million with $540,000 going to the winner. The Chrysler Classic of Tucson will be held at the Omni Tucson National Golf & Spa in Tucson, Arizona for the fifth time. From February 19 – 26, 2006 it can be seen on USA at the following times:
Thu, 2/23 11pm-1am ET USA Fri, 2/24 11pm-1am ET USA Sat, 2/25 11pm-1am ET USA Sun, 2/26 11pm-1am ET USA
Photo Credit: © AP Photo/John Miller