Opportunities Abound in the Desert


2005 Chrysler Classic at TucsonThe list of past champions at this week's Chrysler Classic of Tucson is quiet impressive: Palmer, Trevino, Stadler, Mickelson and Duval. Unfortunately, that was then and this is now.
The champions list over the past five years, however, reads like this: Carter, Willis, Leggatt, Lickliter and Slocum. Not exactly top draws in the game of golf, but sometimes Off-Broadway can get you headed in the right direction.
Part of the reason the names aren't all glitz and glamour is that for the past few years the tournament has taken a backseat to the prestigious WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship. While 64 of the worlds best players battle for a $1.3 million first-place prize at La Costa, some of the tour's not-so-famous names come to Arizona in what for them could be just as rewarding. A $3 million purse is nothing to shake a stick at.
A victory in the desert brings not only a hefty $540,000 first-place check, but also a two year PGA Tour exemption.
Last year's champion, Heath Slocum, will be back to defend the title he won 2004. Slocum's 7-under 65 final round earned him his first career victory on the PGA Tour. He edged Australia's Aaron Baddeley, who bogeyed the 72nd hole to miss out of a playoff.
Baddeley is also scheduled to tee it up, as he is still in search of his first tour victory. The young Australian also lost to Ernie Els in a playoff the previous year at the Sony Open.
Some big names that will be joining Slocum in Tucson and that aren't in the WGC event are Rich Beem, Corey Pavin, Jose Maria Olazabal and Steve Elkington, all former major winners.
Up-and-coming Nationwide Tour grads Kevin Stadler, D.A. Points and Jimmy Walker are also in the field hoping to make this event their coming out party.
It was at this tournament 14 years ago that then amateur and Arizona State golfer Phil Mickelson shocked the tour and won the event. Mickelson would then go on to win the tournament two more times. His second title came four years later in 1995; he then properly defended his title in 1996.
The Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa will play host to the event, as it has for many years.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Chrysler Classic of Tucson