Not a week goes by that the tour doesnt find some place to play; they just werent sure if Las Vegas would once again fill that particular spot.
Lacking a title sponsor, the Las Vegas Invitational was in jeopardy of extinction, after 21 years of existence. However, in March, the Las Vegas Founders Club agreed to keep alive the tournament, and then Michelin stepped in, in early September, and announced that they would sponsor the tournament through 2006.
And so the tour will, for the 22nd time, travel to Sin City for the newly named Michelin Championship at Las Vegas.
Over the years, players like Fuzzy Zoeller, Curtis Strange, Greg Norman, Paul Azinger, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have been crowned champion in the desert.
More than 20,000 people followed Woods around when he won his maiden tour title at Vegas in 96. But Tiger hasnt been around since his title defense the following year. And neither have the fans.
Tournament organizers are hoping a few changes, along with a few notable names, will boost attendance this year.
For the first time in tournament history, with the exception of when it was weather-shortened in 1987 and 88, the event will be contested over 72 holes.
Since its inception in 1983, the event was scheduled to be played over 90 holes. It has also always been scheduled to be played over three courses. There are still three courses in use this year, but not the same three as in each of the last four editions.
The Bears Best course, a collection of 18 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus, will replace Southern Highlands in the rotation. The Tournament Players Club at Summerlin and the TPC at The Canyons will remain. The field will compete on each of the three courses over the first three days, before a cut is made. The low 70 and ties will then play the host Summerlin course on Sunday.
The tournament has retained its pro-am format, and amateurs will play the first three days, with the final round for professionals only.
It was reduced from 90 to 72 holes to attract and accommodate players competing in the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, which was held last week in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Eleven players are making the lengthy plane trip, including defending champion Stuart Appleby, three-time champion Furyk and local favorite Chris Riley. Phil Mickelson, the 2000 runner-up, is also scheduled to compete.
Mickelson skipped the AmEx due to personal reasons. This is just his second start since the WGC-NEC in late August. He tied for 57th at the Bell Canadian Open, where he used his Callaway equipment for the first time. He then went 1-3-0 in the Ryder Cup.
Appleby would dearly love to find the form he had a year ago at this time. He had two runner-up finishes leading up to his Vegas victory, and then won the season-opening Mercedes Championships. He also had a third-place finish at the Nissan Open in February and led through three rounds of the Bay Hill Invitational in March, before shooting 76 on Sunday to finish second.
Appleby has only two top-10s, however, in his 15 starts since his Bay Hill collapse.