American Brian Gay defeated his fellow countryman Charles Howell III and Sweden’s David Lingmerth in a playoff to win the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California. Gay entered the final round trailing 54-hole leader Scott Stallings by six shots but his final round 63 (-25, 263) forced his way into the playoff and his birdie on the second hole eliminated Charley Three Sticks. Lingmerth was eliminated with a bogey on the first playoff hole. Stallings made bogey on the 72nd hole and missed the playoff by one shot. Gay receives a two year exemption, an invitation to the Masters, $1,008,000 and 500 FedExCup points for his fourth career victory on TOUR.
2012 was a nightmare for Gay as he struggled mightily with swing changes. Those changes led to finishing 110th on the money list and saw his world ranking check in at No. 296 (heading into this week’s tournament). Now, he’ll be exempt for two years and will have a chance to tee it up at the Masters for just the second time in his career. This was his first victory on TOUR since the St. Jude FedEx Classic in 2009.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
This is the first time in five years that the winner of the Humana MADE the cut the previous week at the Sony. That was a weird stat.
For the first time in three events in 2013, the 54-hole leader failed to convert. Last year, this was the norm, not the exception.
In the last 13 TOUR events, nine have been won by twenty-somethings. Last year, only three players in their 40s won (Mickelson, Stricker and Els) in 47 TOUR events. Brian Gay (41) is waving the banner for the 40-something crowd early in 2013!
Gay shot a final round 62 here in 2011 to crack the top 5 so his 63 this year confirms his “horse-for-course” status in the desert.
Here’s who hit the top 10
Charles Howell III: Nobody should have been surprised that he played this well in the desert. In his first two events of 2013 he’s finished T3 and P2. He’ll be live next week at Torrey Pines as well.
David Lingmerth: The rookie who finished 10th on the Web.com Tour money list last year announced his presence with a final round 62 to secure his best start in two events on TOUR. He was T31 at Sony last week. Another week, another big rookie finish!
James Hahn: Another rookie, another Sunday 62. These guys are fearless. Hahn opened with a bogey-free 63 on Thursday and closed with a bogey-free 62 on Sunday to finish T4. The 31-year old rookie was selling shoes at Nordstrom a few years ago. Now, he’s made the cut in his first two events on TOUR after finishing No. 5 on the Web.com Tour last year.
Scott Stallings: He began the day with five shot lead and finished the day one shot out of the playoff. Costly bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18 saw his lead evaporate and his chance for his third career win. He went 60 holes before making his first bogey of the week but it was the final two bogeys that knocked him back to T4. Gamers: He announced that his wife is due the week of the Northern Trust so be aware of that moving forward.
Nicholas Thompson: He was No. 22 on the Web.com money list in 2012 earning his promotion to the TOUR. His 66-66-64 finish saw him land at T6. This was Thompson’s best finish on TOUR since a T2 in his best year on TOUR, 2008.
Ryan Palmer: He’s off to an excellent start in 2013 after making the cut at Sony and making only three bogeys and one double this week in the desert. Palmer now adds this T6 to his solo fourth in 2011 to confirm his current hot-ness in the desert.
Kevin Chappell: The first player on Sunday to go low, Chappell, who’s known for his top 10 finishes at the last two U.S. Opens, posted 62 on Sunday to finish T8. He made 29 birdies for the week.
Jason Kokrak: The second year player finished T8 this week to get his season off to an excellent start. He was cut here last year and only had two top 10s in 27 events in his rookie season. He finished No. 119 on the money list last year thanks to his T2 at the Frys.com in the Fall Series. Whew.
Richard H. Lee: Almost had two hole-in-ones on Sunday but his rock-to-water ball on No. 17 ruined his chances of a higher finish. An excellent ball-striker who came on late in 2012, Lee’s WD from the Sony looks to be old news after his T10 finish this week.
Billy Horschel: Horschel joins Lee and Kokrak as second year players who went low this week. Horschel, an excellent ball striker, finished T10 after a quiet start last week at the Sony. He hits many greens and he should be in the mix if his putter is behaving.
Kevin Streelman: His T10 was his best finish since his T8 at the John Deere Classic last July. Streelman has a solid game but hasn’t been able to finish better than No. 71 on the money list in five years on TOUR. He’s off to a flying start though this year with a T26 last week and T10 this week.
Brian Stuard: Shhhhhhhhhhhh. Two weeks, two top 10s. He was T5 at Sony and T10 this week as his third-round 62 rocked him up the leaderboard.
Charley Hoffman: He went WIN, T8, and T19 before missing the cut the last three years. This year, he’s back to his normal tricks in the desert as the San Diego native banked a top 10 in his first start of the year.
Stewart Cink: This was the Stewart Cink we remember from early 2011. This is his first top 10 since May of that year. He’s back to his old swing and is hoping for “old” results. His chance for victory or a spot in the playoff went down the tubes when his ball on No. 17 found the rocks and the water for a double bogey. Still, this was progress that I will be following as Cink is only 39.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I recap what happened to the chalk
Brandt Snedeker: He finished T23 as he fired a trio of 67s and a 68 this week. There was nothing spectacular, which is what you need here to contend, but he was awfully steady.
Tim Clark: After his wonderful duel with Russell Henley last Sunday at the Sony, Clark ran out of birdies this week. He needed just one over his last four holes to make the cut and responded with four straight pars to miss the cut by a shot.
Matt Kuchar: His 2013 has begun T9, T5 and T16 after his 65 on Sunday. He’s essentially automatic.
Phil Mickelson: Same stuff, different year. He started out with 72 but rallied for 67-66-66 to give him confidence heading home to Torrey Pines next week. He’s kicked his cold and should be getting stronger by the day. T37.
Bo Van Pelt: His T27 finish wasn’t what we’re used to from BVP but we’ll cut him some slack as it was his first event of the year.
Webb Simpson: Another birdie machine who fired too late this week, Simpson’s 65 on Saturday wasn’t enough to offset his 73-70 start. He’s been steady yet unspectacular in three events in 2013. I’ll mark him down for his home course, Quail Hollow in May.
Robert Garrigus: He finished T16 (-20) as he opened his 2013 season. Plenty of birdies as expected, but never had the super-low round that his necessary to contend here. His two 66s were his best efforts this week. Solid start.
Russell Henley: After winning in just his third ever TOUR event, as first as a pro, Henley FINALLY fired a round in the 70’s (71). That was his first of the year in seven rounds. He backed it up with a 69 to finish T56.
Mark Wilson: The defending champion opened with 77 so his pair of 66s in rounds two and three didn’t help too much.
Coming Wednesday: Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Farmers Insurance Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.