LA QUINTA, Calif. – Mark Wilson knew he wasn’t going to play the weekend at last week’s Sony Open, so as he walked down the 18th fairway at Waialae, his caddie tried to offer a positive spin.
“It’s OK,” said his looper, Chris Jones. “We missed the cut here last year and got to the desert early and things worked out OK.”
They certainly did. Last year, Wilson outlasted the field during a marathon final day at PGA West – the tournament was delayed by fierce winds Saturday – to win his fifth PGA Tour title (and third in the past two years).
Wilson also was the first winner under the Humana’s new format, which dropped its traditional fifth day of competition, boosted its purse and no longer allowed the celebrities slap it around with the pros on Sunday when a winner’s share of more than $1 million was at stake. Not surprisingly, the field improved – Phil Mickelson, for instance, returned to the desert for the first time since 2007 – and the tournament was one of the Tour’s pleasant surprises last year.
When Wilson met with Bill Clinton last month to discuss this year’s event, one of the things the former President stressed was that they had to “look out for the pros here. We can’t be asking them to play five days. We can’t be asking them to play with three amateurs.”
After all, for Tour types that scenario is almost as desirable as spending a week at the in-laws’ place . . . which brings us back to Wilson. The defending champion is indeed crashing with his wife’s parents at their home at Ironwood Country Club, in nearby Palm Desert, which still has pictures from Wilson’s victory last year tacked to a bulletin board.
When asked how it’s going so far, Wilson smiled and said, “Well, I will say the home-cooked meal (the first night) was so great,” before adding, “I guess the only thing is it’s 25 minutes away from here. If they could have just maybe resided at PGA West, then that might have been better. But no, it’s actually nice to get away.”