With a different format -- four days instead of five -- less celebrities and a presidential presence, this week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation in La Quinta, Calif., has drawn the star power it's been lacking in recent years.
Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim and World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman are among those on hand for the tournament formerly known as the Bob Hope, thanks in large part to the efforts of former President Bill Clinton, who will play in the event with Norman on Saturday.
The 42nd President of the United States established the William J. Clinton Foundation, according to a press release, "with the mission to alleviate poverty, improve global health, strengthen economies, and protect the environment, by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens — leveraging their expertise, resources, and passions -- to turn good intentions into measurable results."
It's no surprise that the people in La Quinta are more excited than they've been in a long time about the week ahead. We caught up with PGA Senior Director of Golf at La Quinta Resort & Club and PGA West Jerry Eye, who explained.
PGA.com: Thanks for checking in with us, Jerry. First off, I have to believe that the level of excitement for this year's Humana Challenge is as high as or higher than it's been in a long, long time. Huge names will be there, including former President Bill Clinton, Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim and Dustin Johnson amongst a host of others. What does their participation mean to the event?
Eye: Like you said... it increases the level of excitement. Having names like Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Dustin Johnson will give the Humana Challenge a new perspective.
PGA.com: Have you noticed a significant boost in security measures with a former U.S. President participating? If so, what's that like?
Eye: Absolutely... I think due to the big names in the tournament, and President Clinton, the security measures have been increased. We're expecting large galleries and anytime you have that the security is there for safety.
PGA: Previously, the Humana Challenge was a five-day event. While exciting and fun to watch all those birdies, I know it was grueling for everyone involved. Now that the tournament is a four-day, 72-hole event, how much has that decision helped to attract such a star-studded field?
Eye: I think the biggest part is President Clinton and the Humana sponsorship. Those two entities combined have really driven the field we have. As a four-day event the pros know they have to get a faster start on the leaderboard.
PGA.com: I know there must be a lot to look forward to for a PGA Director of Golf when the PGA Tour is in town and you're the host. What is it that you're most looking forward to this week?
Eye: All of the above. I'm excited for our membership to be hosting such a star-studded field on their courses. The Humana Challenge will bring a lot of publicity to PGA WEST and the membership will be proud of what is happening at their club.
PGA.com: Final question, Jerry. Of the three courses in the rotation -- PGA West Palmer Course, PGA West Nicklaus Course and La Quinta Country Club -- which is going to play the most difficult and why?
Eye: I'm hoping its one of our courses here at PGA WEST. However, I think La Quinta CC will play the most difficult. Its tree-lined fairways will make it difficult to recover from those errant tee shots. It's hard to say. I know birdies will still be present.