Clinton Still the Man: Norman and Phil to Play Humana Challenge (AKA Bob Hope)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Old pals Norman and Clinton to reunite in the desert

There has never been a question that President Bill Clinton’s involvement would have tremendous impact on the PGA Tour’s Humana Challenge (formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic). It was announced Friday that International Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson will play in the event held January 16-22 in La Quinta, California. (Which makes me even more excited I’m covering the tournament, but I’m really going for Clinton. Obviously!) Both stars attribute their interest to their respect for Clinton and his philanthropic efforts.

News broke of Norman’s commitment just hours before we learned another big name, Mickelson, was to join him. The last official PGA Tour event Norman, the world former No. 1 and two-time International Presidents Cup captain, played was the Shell Houston Open in April 2009. Here’s a snippet from the press release regarding the Shark:

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Two-time British Open champion, former World No. 1 and World Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Norman will play in this month’s Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, adding further appeal and intrigue to the tournament.

Captain of the International Team at the last two Presidents Cups, Norman has amassed 70 international titles to go along with his 20 PGA TOUR wins throughout his stellar career. Between 1995 and ’97, he spent a then-record 96 consecutive weeks atop the Official World Golf Rankings, and his 331 weeks all-time as World No. 1 are second only to Tiger Woods.

“We’re thrilled to be able to add Greg Norman to our tournament field,” said Humana Challenge Tournament Chairman Larry Thiel. “Greg continues to be one of the great names in golf. Because he plays a limited schedule, we know golf fans in Southern California and our national and international TV audiences will enjoy having the rare opportunity to see him compete.”

The Humana Challenge is scheduled for Jan. 16-22. For the third consecutive year, the $5.6 million tournament will take place entirely within La Quinta, where players will compete for a $1.008 million winner’s check, the largest in event history, and the new Bob Hope Memorial Trophy, at La Quinta Country Club and the Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses at PGA WEST. Tickets, beginning at $25, can be secured online at www.humanachallenge.com, by calling 1-888-672-4673, or by visiting Lumpy’s, the “Official Golf Retail Partner” for the Humana Challenge, in La Quinta and Rancho Mirage.

“After a conversation with President Clinton, and also with my good friend Scott McCarron’s encouragement, I’m all too happy to support President Clinton’s commitment to the Humana Challenge and his Foundation,” Norman said. “I’m confident with the recent changes to the tournament’s sponsorship and format, and with the support President Clinton will give, this event, which has been one of the most iconic tournaments for decades, will once again establish itself as one of `the’ tournaments to play in.”

Now, here’s the blast on Phil, who captured the title in a playoff in 2002 and 2004 — the last start he made at the event was in 2007:

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Humana Challenge and the leading all-time money winner in the event, has committed to play in an event where he has enjoyed immense success — the 2012 Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

Set to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May, Mickelson is the second Hall of Fame selection to enter the Humana Challenge field. Greg Norman, winner of two British Opens and captain of the International Team at the last two Presidents Cups, also committed to his first Humana Challenge since 1986.

“I’m honored to join President Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for the Humana Challenge,” Mickelson said. “I admire President Clinton and the charitable work of his Foundation, which helps millions of people around the world, and I applaud him for joining Humana in using the tournament to help promote health and wellness. Some of my best seasons have come after starting at this event and I’m really excited about coming back again.”

“Phil is one of the iconic names in golf and we couldn’t be more pleased to have him back playing an event in which he has enjoyed much success,” said Humana Challenge Tournament Chairman Larry Thiel. “Everyone who has the privilege of watching Phil play sees a true master at his craft and we are thrilled our fans will have that opportunity in a venue that Phil is comfortable playing in.”

In a statement via the Desert Sun Clinton added:

“Phil’s commitment to compete in the Humana Challenge exemplifies his passion for golf and wellness,” said President Clinton. “He’s one of the finest golfers of our time, and one of golf’s finest philanthropists through his work with the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation. I’m grateful for Phil’s involvement in the tournament, which will advance our efforts to promote personal health and well-being.”

President Clinton remains the biggest star of the week, but as for the golfers, Norman and Phil will likely be the most popular attractions. Other notables in the field include defending champ  Jhonattan Vegas, 2011 FedExCup champ and 2010 Bob Hope winner Bill Haas, 2001 PGA Championship winner David Toms and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson.