Mickelson has Big Hopes for the Bob Hope

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2006 Bob Hope Chrysler ClassicAs they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
 
If so, then everyones heart should be jumping for joy this week as Phil Mickelson makes his return to the PGA Tour at this weeks Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hopes he can shake off any rust that may of formed during his long layoff.
Lefty, as it has been well documented, has not teed it up in an event ' official, silly, or otherwise ' since mid-November. And thank goodness he's finally showing up when he is, as he represents the only player in the top-15 in the world rankings to make into the desert for the event in Palm Springs, Calif.
 
The absence of many of the top players is mainly due to a three-week run of European Tour events in and around the shores of the Persian Gulf, with those tournament fields including the likes of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els.
 
That will open up the field and makes Mickelson the prohibitive favorite for the 47th edition of the Hope. Heres a list of the top-5 contenders for the title:
 
Phil Mickelson
Despite his long lay off, Mickelson has no problem with quickly shaking off the rust and getting off to a fast start as shown by his two wins in this event in the last four years. In fact, five times in his career Lefty has won a title in his very first appearance of the season. Second only to Tiger in birdie average last year, Mickelson will have plenty of opportunities to score as the Hope is a 90-hole event played out over five days.
 
J.B. Holmes
In his meteoric rise to the PGA Tour, the obvious next step for this rookie would be a breakout victory. Having been only the second player ever to go directly from college and on to win the PGA Tour's Q-School, Holmes quickly showed it was no fluke by his solid top-10 performance at the Sony Open. A former All-American from the University of Kentucky, Holmes was on the winning United States Walker Cup team in 2005.
 
Mike Weir
Despite coming off one of his worst seasons in 2005 and a missed cut at the Sony, former Hope champion Weir is a grinder who might just need familiar surroundings to give him a boost of confidence to get things turned around. He has had good results during the West Coast Swing with his victory at the 2003 Hope, a pair of wins at the Nissan Open, and three straight top-4 finishes at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
 
Justin Leonard
The defending champion shook off a disappointing 2004 season with two wins last year, including his victory in Palm Springs. Leonard rose from 42nd in earnings in 2004 all the way up to 12th in 2005. He started out 2006 with an eighth place finish at the Mercedes Championship and has enjoyed a good amount of success at the Hope with three top-10s in his last four starts.
 
David Duval
A longshot for sure, but Duval already has matched his total cuts made from last year after making it to the weekend at the Sony Open. More importantly, he fired his lowest round in three years with a splendid 7-under 63 in the final round in Hawaii. Remember too, that it was at the Hope seven years ago when Duval joined the rare company of Chip Beck and Al Geiberger as the only players to shoot a 59 in the history of the PGA Tour. With his off-course life settling down and his back problems slowly going away, Duval might begin to follow in the steps of Lee Westwood - his European counterpart in the golfer-who-fell-off-the-face-of-the-earth department - who has once again regained his old form.
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Bob Hope Chrysler Classic