California: Greg Norman`s participation at this week`s Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California is one of several signs that the 2012 makeover of the pro-am celebrity event has already achieved success.
Previously known as the Bob Hope Classic, the USD 5.6 million tournament had lost much its luster in recent years and struggled to attract a quality field with many players unhappy with its 90-hole format and some of its venues.
This year`s edition, the first held in partnership with the William J. Clinton Foundation established by the former US president, has been cut to 72 holes and boasts world number eight Dustin Johnson and twice champion Phil Mickelson among its entrants.
Also competing is former world number one Norman, who has not played in the event since 1986 and had no plans to return until he received a timely phone call from Bill Clinton.
"He asked me if I would come and play and I said yes," Australian Norman, popularly known as the `Great White Shark`, told reporters at La Quinta while preparing for Thursday`s opening round. "Simple as that.”
"We had a very frank conversation about the opportunities and the format and how can the tournament be resurrected and he was obviously leaning towards doing what he`s done.”
"The Bob Hope was such an iconic event ... from the celebrities, from the sponsorship stand point, from the people in Palm Springs and this area. We hate to see events like that disappear."
First held in 1960 when golfing great Arnold Palmer clinched the inaugural title, the Bob Hope Classic was a pro-am celebrity event played over five rounds and four different venues.
Its list of winners includes heavyweights such as Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper and Johnny Miller while Bing Crosby, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas have lit up its glittering cast of celebrities over the years.
Much has changed, though, since then.