FIVE things to keep an eye on at this week’s Desert Classic in La Quinta, California.
Six Aussies are in the field this week, led by Matt Jones. The Sydneysider is coming off a respectable T29 at last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii and will be joined in the California desert event by Curtis Luck, Aaron Baddeley, Rod Pampling, John Senden and Cam Davis.
2. New clubs, new caddie for Rosey
World No.1 Justin Rose’s long-time caddie Mark ‘Fooch’ Fulcher is undergoing heart surgery in New York, so the Englishman will have Gareth Lord, who caddied for Henrik Stenson for several years, on the bag during the next few weeks. The reigning FedEx Cup champion is also playing luxury Japanese manufacturer Honma’s clubs, having recently inked a lucrative 10-club deal that includes a new driver, prototype irons and forged wedges.
3. Rahm primed for defence
Jon Rahm is playing some seriously solid golf. The fiery Spaniard won Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge event in the Bahamas in December prior to a tie for eighth at the elite Tournament of Champions on Maui two weeks ago. Rahm won last year’s Desert Classic in a playoff and recent results show no reason he can’t defend his title.
4. Big-hitting Trojan
Keep an eye on Charley Reiter, a Palm Desert local who is now a freshman at the University of Southern California and is playing this week on a sponsor’s invitation. Big-hitting Reiter left people stunned with a series of 350-yard drives at last year’s Desert Classic – which was his PGA Tour debut as a high school student. Now a 19-year-old Trojan, Reiter has a swing speed around 130 mph, ball speeds up to 192 mph and nearly 330 yards of carry.
5. More flags in?
Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley left the door open for the Masters to allow competitors to leave the flag in during the first major of 2019. Although it is legal under the 2019 rule changes, many suspected Augusta National would enact a local rule prohibiting the unfamiliar sight. Everything is clean and sharp at Augusta, and it was doubtful Augusta would want its green jacket winner holing a six-foot putt on 18 on Sunday with the flag in. However, speaking at the Latin America Amateur Championship,Ridley didn’t say no.
“We think it’s important that there be some consistency in top championship golf,” Ridley said. “And so you should expect that the Masters Tournament, from a rules perspective, will look very much, if not the same, as what you’re seeing in the major championships and the professional tours.” With golf’s most desirable tournament leaving the door open, could we see more competitors at the Desert Classic – and at tournaments going forward – give it a try? Maybe.