The timing couldn't be better for Justin Rose, or for the Desert Classic.
Rose played so much golf toward the end of last year that he wasn't quite ready to fly from his home in the Bahamas to Hawaii to start 2019 against a winners-only field at Kapalua.
Instead, he decided to start at the Desert Classic, an event he has not played since 2010.
Because of the tight race at the top of the ranking, Rose returned to No. 1 in the world two weeks ago.
That gives the Desert Classic the No. 1 player in its field for the first time since the ranking began in 1986.
“My original plan was to play in Maui and keep the momentum going, and then maybe take a bit of a break in February,” Rose said.
RIGHT: Rose prepares for the Desert Classic in California under the watchful eye of coach Sean Foley. PHOTO: Jeff Gross/Getty Images.
“But it just came around too quick ... I also felt like it was important for me to play before getting to San Diego. So this fitted in perfectly.”
It's a fresh start indeed for Rose, who won last year at Colonial and captured the FedExCup at the end of the season.
Rod Pampling, Curtis Luck, Aaron Baddeley, Matt Jones, John Senden and Cameron Davis are the Australians in the field.
The defending champion is Jon Rahm, who last year went four extra holes before beating Andrew Landry in a playoff.
No one has successfully defended since Johnny Miller in 1976.
Phil Mickelson makes his 2019 debut at the tournament he has won twice, but not since 2004.
The Desert Classic dates to 1960 and with typically ideal conditions in the California desert, it is known for low scoring.
This is the only PGA Tour event that has produced two sub-60 rounds – Adam Hadwin shot 59 two years ago, and David Duval famously closed with a 59 when he won the tournament 20 years ago.
Rose, meanwhile, will have to play well to stay at No. 1.
The player he replaced, Brooks Koepka, is playing against a stronger field this week in Abu Dhabi.