Humana Challenge Preview and Picks
Last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Russell Henley became the first rookie in 10 years to win in his debut as a PGA Tour member. The PGA Tour leaves the island of Hawaii and heads to the mainland this week for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, formally known as the Bob Hope Classic. The legendary entertainer had his name added to this event back in 1965 and it remained there until two years ago when a new sponsor was finally added after a three-year hiatus.
This will be the second consecutive year of a tournament change. What used to be a five-day event has been scaled back to the customary four days and the Pro-Am portion of it has been scaled back to just three days with Sunday being played by professionals only. Because of the reduced schedule, four courses were no longer needed and the Arnold Palmer Classic Course at SilverRock Golf Club got the ax. Palmer Private at PGA West, Nicklaus Private at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club remain.
If you like birdies, you have come to the right place. This is where Joe Durant’s -36 in 2001, the lowest score in PGA Tour history and David Duval’s 59 in 1999, took place. Since this is a Pro-Am event, patience is key as the rounds are not quick and there are tons of distractions along the way. Players who hit the ball straight, hit a lot of greens and putt well have the best chances here. Scores will not be as low as usual because the event has been reduced by a day but the weather will make scoring plentiful.
This used to be one of the biggest stops on tour but it slowly started going downhill as the big name players opted out. Part of the reason is that the European Tour has hosted the Abu Dhabi Championship on the same weekend many times which is the case again this year. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner and Justin Rose are just a few of the big names teeing it up in the United Arab Emirates but the Humana Challenge will feature the season debut of Phil Mickelson.
The defending champion is Mark Wilson (+6,000), who won by two shots over Johnson Wagner, John Mallinger and Robert Garrigus. Heading into the event, he played well at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions but then missed the cut at the Sony Open before winning in La Quinta. Going into this year's tournament, he has taken a similar path with a T11 in Kapalua before missing the cut last week.
Phil Mickelson (+1,500) opens the season here for the second consecutive year and is one of five co-favorites. He won here in 2002 and 2004 and has not missed the cut in his last eight starts but finished T49 last year as he opened with a 74. He won once last season at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am and after a mid-season slump, he finished strong with two top fives in his last three starts.
We had Tim Clark (+1,500) last week at the Sony and if not for the rookie Henley, he would have cashed. We could see a very big year out of him as long as he stays healthy. Clark should ride the momentum of last week into La Quinta where he has had a very solid career with a T2 in 2010, a T5 in 2009 and a T2 in 2005. He missed last year due to injury but is back in great form this year.
Bill Haas (+2,500) has had a lot of success in this event as he won here in 2010 with a -30, one shot clear of Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark and Bubba Watson. In 2011, he lost in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas and despite a T64 last year, he has five top 25 finishes in this event in eight career starts so he could very well return to the top. He finished 23rd in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to open the season.
With this being an event with plenty of birdie opportunities, Robert Garrigus (+2,500) is a natural fit. He finished 13th on tour last season with 353 birdies, 30 of which came at the Humana Challenge where he finished T2. He recorded the lowest round on Saturday with a 61 and it was not a fluke as he finished T14 in 2009 with three rounds of 65 or better. He closed last season with two top fives in his last four starts.
Harris English (+4,000) is another birdie machine as he finished just ahead of Garrigus last year with 355. He is coming off a T9 last week at Waialae as his Saturday 62 was low round of the day. He had a successful debut here last year with a T19 as his Friday 62 was tied with Wilson for the second lowest round of the day. He was unable to break through with a win last year but had nine top 20's including three top tens.
Johnson Wagner (+8,000) will be the longshot pick this week. He is coming off a missed cut last week at the Sony Open, the event he won last year and he rode that into a T2 at the Humana Challenge. While momentum may not be on his side this year, he did put up a solid T13 at the weather shortened Hyundai two weeks ago. He had 26 birdies here last year and that attack mode will help him out again.
Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the Humana Challenge - All for 1 Unit
Tim Clark (+1,500)
Bill Haas (+2,500)
Robert Garrigus (+2,500)
Harris English (+4,000)
Johnson Wagner (+8,000)
2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date after 2 events: -10 Units
Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
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