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Breathing Life Into A Desert Classic

LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA | There is an almost movie-set perfection to this piece of Southern California where the winter grass is Augusta green, the sky a brilliant blue and craggy mountains crowd fairways like a bulky guy in the middle seat. When it’s not broiling under 115-degree summer temperatures, this strip of gated palm-tree communities running through the Coachella Valley is a beautiful place for beautiful people, particularly those whose hair color matches their silver jewelry and gold cards. No wonder Bob Hope brought his friends here to play golf for all those years. What’s not to like, other than the price of a medium-rare filet? Now it’s former President Bill Clinton who is the star of stars at what is called the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. He has taken Hope’s old host role, added a small Secret Service squad and forums about wellness, and helped breathe new life into an event that’s been as much a part of the PGA Tour as Sunday afternoon finishes. Like the tournament at Hilton Head a couple of years ago, the prospect of losing a legacy event like what’s still fondly remembered as the Hope was untenable to the Tour.
“Having President Clinton and his foundation be a part of it just gives it a huge (lift),” Zach Johnson said. “A few years ago we had some negative publicity from Congress and now you’ve got a former president that’s backing the PGA Tour … that should shut them up a little bit.” In 2008, there was one player ranked among the top 40 in the world in the field here. This year, there were nine, led by No. 6 Johnson.


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