By Paul Myers
Golf, in many ways, is unpredictable. Trying to guess who is going to win a given tournament from week to week is nearly impossible, as there are countless great players in the professional game. However, some things in golf are rather predictable, and one of them is low scores in the California Desert each January. The annual PGA Tour stop in the Palm Springs area – the CareerBuilder Challenge – provides players to get their new year off to a great start with plenty of birdies and a relaxed atmosphere.
There were plenty of compelling storylines throughout the week in the Coachella Valley, but in the end it was Hudson Swafford making headlines by taking home his first career PGA Tour title. In keeping with the theme of low scores, it took a four-day total of 20-under-par to secure the win by a single stroke. Swafford has played some good golf early in his pro career, and this win will certainly go a long way toward advancing that career. And, of course, for a player native to Georgia, the invitation to the Masters is particularly exciting.
Staying Out of the 60s
In addition to Swafford winning his first title, the other main storyline of the weekend in the desert was the performance of Adam Hadwin. For an event with low scores across the board, Hadwin did something incredible – he managed to finish in solo 2nd despite not shooting a round in the 60s over the weekend. How did he do it? Well, he posted a 59 in the third round, followed by a final round 70. Obviously the 59 generated plenty of headlines, but in the end Hadwin came up just one stroke short of Swafford. He did manage an impressive finish to grab second, however, as he managed to birdie two of the final three holes on the difficult PGA West Stadium Course.
There were plenty of notable names on hand for this event as well. Patrick Reed finished his week strong with a 65 on Sunday to tie for 12th, while Bill Haas was a stroke further back in a tie for 17th. Phil Mickelson made his first appearance on Tour for the calendar year, and he posted an 11-under-par total which placed him 21st in the field. Defending champion Jason Dufner was unable to recapture the magic from 2016, although he did finish with a 68 to come in T25. Among the top names to miss the cut at the CareerBuilder Challenge were Hunter Mahan, Bob Estes, Nick Watney, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, and Jerry Kelly.
A Short Drive
Looking ahead at the tournament to come, the PGA Tour doesn’t go far. From the California desert it heads out to the coast for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Brandt Snedeker is the defending champion of this popular event, but much of the focus is sure to be on Tiger Woods as he returns to his first full-field event in more than a year. Paired for the first two rounds with Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, the marquee group is sure to draw plenty of cameras and fans on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.