Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation
PGA West (Palmer Course-Host)
La Quinta, CA
PGA West-Palmer Private
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass (6,260 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Arnold Palmer (1986)
Winner’s Share: $1,080,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Mark Wilson defeated Johnson Wagner, Robert Garrigus and John Mallinger by two shots.
Dates: January 17-20
Notes: The Palmer Private course was the 4th easiest on TOUR in 2012.
PGA WEST-Nicklaus Course
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass (5,660 square feet on average)
Water Hazards: 4
Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus (1986)
Notes: The Nicklaus course was the easiest on TOUR in 2012.
La Quinta Country Club
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass (5,000 square feet on average)
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architect: Lawrence Hughes (1959)
Notes: LQCC was the ninth easiest course on TOUR in 2012.
Format: Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be played as a Pro-Am. Each player will play all three courses. The Palmer Private course will host Sunday’s final round. There will be no amateurs on the course on Sunday.
After last week’s rookie rebellion, plenty of you will probably want to jump in grab you one.
Please remember, in the 53 years of this tournament, Jhonattan Vegas (2011) is the only rookie to win this event.
Johnny Miller, yes that Johnny Miller is the only person to defend his championship in the Coachella Valley.
Miller, Arnold Palmer, Corey Pavin and Phil Mickelson are the only multiple winners of this event.
When looking at history, please remember that this used to be a 90-hole event before 2012.
The two winners in 2013 have both been in their 20’s.
Rank and File
There are 12 of the top 50 OWGR in this week’s event.
There are also nine of the 30 from the TOUR Championship on display.
PGA TOUR players and resort courses make for very exciting weekends on TOUR. These three courses rank in the nine easiest on TOUR in 2012 so expect the unexpected and tons of birdies and eagles. Heck, the host course, Palmer Private, has five par-fives and five par-threes so we should expect fireworks on Sunday afternoon. Resort courses usually provide plenty of wide landing areas and greens that aren’t running at a blinding speed on the Stimpmeter. Sure, there are plenty of water and sand hazards, but the winning score has averaged just below 25-under-par so birdies makers will be on display this week.
This week, guys who hit the most greens will have the most chances to make birdies so we’ll be looking at premium putters and GIR machines that make tons of birdies/eagles without falling trap to risk-reward plays. Since everyone will be carding birdies, bogeys are even worse this week. The weather, I have read, should be a non-factor this week so the guys hitting it and putting it the purest should not be bothered by any conditions. Last year, third round play was suspended because of gusting winds so there’s always a chance.
Top 10, Plus One
Tim Clark: In four starts in the California desert, Clark has two T2s and a T5. You saw how well he played last week in Hawaii and he had a great history on that course as well. He actually was better on the weekend (66-63) than Henley (67-63).
Matt Kuchar: His finishes of T9 and T5 on the Hawaii swing shows me that he’s dialed in early in 2013. He’ll have no problem making birdies this week with his iron play and putting.
Brandt Snedeker: The best putter on TOUR weathered Kapalua in the opening week to post a solo third. He has two top 10s in three starts here and his birdie stats are off the charts!
Chris Kirk: I was going to just do a UGA section in this preview. The ‘Dawgs are barking. Kirk fired a second round 62 last week so he’s primed to get low again, which he’ll need to do this week to contend.
Brendon de Jonge: The rust is off and he should be in his environment when birdies are the order of the day. He led the TOUR in birdies in 2012 and he’s trended in the right direction in the last four years at Humana (74th, T33, T25 and T12 last year).
Zach Johnson: Last year, he opened quietly in Hawaii and played well here. He’s done the first part the same way in 2013. Only a final round 71 kept him from a top five last year.
Webb Simpson: He had bookend rounds of 66 last weekend and is a birdie-making machine. This will be his fourth time around and already has T5 and T13 finishes.
Robert Garrigus: The 2012 runner up (one of 3 in the field) destroys par fives and has three top 19s in four starts. He hits plenty of GIR which will give him plenty of chances to get low this weekend.
Jeff Overton: If you read this column regularly, you know Overton plays well in bunches and you need to ride him while he’s hot. He’s engaged, he has a new sponsor, Adams golf, and his college coach suggested on Twitter that he’s going to have a big year. He’s off to a flying start finishing eighth last week. Hop on.
Pat Perez: Perez, the 2009 champ here, was T14 here last year and T9 last week in Hawaii. He was 19th on TOUR last year on par five birdie-or-better percentage.
Russell Henley: Respect. To win on your first start PGA TOUR start as a professional is tight. Go ahead and give it another run this week as he’s playing with house’s money. How do you leave a guy off that played THAT well last week? I’m not!
These guys just missed out:
Phil Mickelson: I always like to let Mickelson get warmed up this time of year before I start to back him. He opened with 74 here last year and that’s closer to 84 on these courses. He has too much history and game to dismiss completely.
John Senden: All four rounds in the 60’s (T26) last week shows me that the Aussie is enjoying his summer. He has four top 10s in 11 starts at Humana including T6 in 2012.
Bo Van Pelt: I would have had him higher but he hasn’t been double-digits under par in his last two trips and it’s his first round of the year. If he’s playing like he did at the end of 2012, he’ll be a factor this week.
Harris English: The third UGA Bulldog in the top 10 last week, English fired 62-66 on the weekend to prove that his solid rookie season last year wasn’t a fluke. He was T19 here last year so he’s aware of what it takes to score in the desert.
Bill Haas: Last year was his worst finish in eight starts in the desert. The 2011 champ had never finished worse than T34 in those other seven. He’ll need to improve on his 2012 birdie numbers to be a factor this week but he’s quite comfortable on this course.
Kevin Na: He MC last week (71-68) at the Sony but he’s finished T5, T8 and T30 last year in his last three starts at the Humana.
Excuse Me Sir, Where’s the First Tee and What’s the Course Record?
“Rookie Watch”: If any of them are going to make noise, I would suggest these few.
Editor’s Note: This category is retired after one week due to Russell Henley’s performance at the Sony Open.
Five from Off the Beaten Path
Brian Harman: He loves to make birdies and is fearless.
Josh Teater: He was warm in the Fall Series, T15 last week and T22 here last year. He destroys par 5 and is an excellent ball striker.
Martin Laird: He was T22 in 2011 and T14 last year here. He’s moving in the right direction.
Brian Stuard: Yep, T5 last week. If you’re in a deep draft, it’s hard to ignore what he did last week.
Dicky Pride: The veteran started 2012 on a hot streak. He was T9 last week.
John Rollins: In seven starts, he finished second in 2007 and his best other finish is T53.
Greg Chalmers: One top 25 finish in 11 starts.
Charley Hoffman: He’s played this event six straight years. His first three starts: Win, T8 and T19. His last three starts: MC, MC and MC.
Ken Duke: Four career starts and his best finish is T39.
Robert Allenby: His last two starts here he was T8 in 2007 and T12 in 2008. He missed 15 of 27 cuts last year and he’s 0-1 this year.