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Charley Hoffman set for Bob Hope Classic title defence

American Charley Hoffman knows he faces a totally different challenge when he defends his Bob Hope Classic title in Palm Desert, California this week.

Last year the San Diego native clinched his maiden PGA Tour win in a playoff with compatriot John Rollins without having to deal with the pressure of holding the lead.

Hoffman came from behind in strong, gusting winds at the Classic Club in spectacular style, finishing birdie-eagle in regulation before sealing victory at the first extra hole.

"It never crossed my mind of winning the tournament, besides walking to the 18th tee in the last round, because I really wasn't in contention," the 31-year-old told reporters as he prepared for the 90-hole pro-am celebrity event.

"Justin (Rose) started the day way ahead, then he struggled a little bit and I didn't really make anything happen. Then I birdied 17 and eagled 18.

"I've never had the lead by four shots going into the back nine so I don't know what kind of pressure that is."

The long-haired Hoffman is eager to win a second PGA Tour title to improve his chances of making his Ryder Cup debut.

"My main goal for 2008 is the Ryder Cup...so I'll try to win somewhere early and hopefully on the West Coast where I'm from, if not the Hope, in San Diego or Los Angeles or somewhere like that.

"That's usually where I play my best golf because I'm familiar with all the courses."

World number two Phil Mickelson is a notable absentee this week, having decided to skip the event for the first time in seven years after a busier-than-usual end to 2007.

"I've had a long break since I won in China in November and now I'm looking forward to beginning 2008 with the Buick Invitational (next week)," the American left-hander said.

"Taking more than two months off sounds like a long time but I'll have to be fresh and ready to go when the season starts. I'll still play five events on the West Coast but it'll be five straight starting at the Buick."

Mickelson, Bob Hope champion in 2002 and 2004, will launch his season at Torrey Pines along with world number one Tiger Woods.

Among those scheduled to tee off in Wednesday's opening round in the California desert are former major winners Mike Weir, Rich Beem, Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Couples, Todd Hamilton and David Duval, the 1999 champion.

The $5.1 million Bob Hope Classic will be played over the 7,305-yard Classic Course, the host venue, as well as La Quinta Country Club, the Palmer Course at PGA West and the new SilverRock Resort layout.


January 15, 2008

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