What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Ryan Palmer: He should have been in your lineup this week based on his current form and his history in the desert. Palmer’s solo second was highlighted by an opening round 64 and a closing round 63. Playing in his 10th event here, he’s quite comfortable with the surroundings and hasn’t had an over-par round since 2009. In the last four years he’s finished second, T6, MC and fourth. He was third in birdies and first in strokes gained-putting. He only made 34 pars, one more than winner Patrick Reed as he finished two shots back. Palmer LOVES this event. He has a party Saturday night and still comes out and fires 63! #horseforcourse
Zach Johnson: If he’s in the field, he needs to be in your lineup. His last four tournaments have been WIN (Tiger’s tournament), WIN (HTOC), T8 and T3. He was second in birdies this week with 29 and was only 24th in strokes gained-putting. Oh, and he shot 10-under on Sunday with no bogeys. His last three trips to this event have seen him fire 19-under, 19-under and 25-under this week. No mirage here!
Justin Leonard: Here’s a guy that I am moving up my list when the TOUR heads to resort courses. His T6 at Mayakoba and his T3 this week show me that he loves big fairways and courses where he can get the putter really rolling. The 2005 champ hit the top 14 for the seventh time in 15 trips to Humana. This was also his third podium finish. Consider me educated!
Brian Stuard: Another wrap up column, another Stuard sighting! For the third time in his last three events, he’s cracked the Sunday wrap up. His solo fifth adds to his solo sixth in Hawaii and his solo second at Mayakoba. I have also learned that he’s greedy and NEVER chops prize money with ANYONE! The only T is the one he’s pegs in the ground! Heading into the week, four of his last eight rounds were 65s. Make that five of his last 12. The other three rounds this week were 66-66-67. He made 28 birdies (T3) and was second in GIR. If there is a shootout, he’s earned his way into consideration in the future. He’s now two-for-two at the Humana with T10 (-21) last year and solo fifth (-24) this year.
Bill Haas: The 2010 champ has hit the top 10 for the third time in his last five starts. Haas tried to join Johnny Miller in 2011 but finished T2. His T6 this week puts him back into the top 10, and this column, since the WGC-BI in August. Haas heads to the desert every January to play with his old man to get ready for the season. He’s here before everyone else and it has paid off. No point overthinking on Haas when 2014 rolls back around.
Brendon Todd: So close, yet still so far as the former Georgia Bulldog was looking to add his name to Chris Kirk and Harris English as winners here in 2014 but he couldn’t take advantage on Sunday when Reed was faltering. Todd saw a couple putts lip out for birdies that would have really put the pressure on and later in the round his wedge play gave out. Once that happened, the birdies dried up. Now, the good news: he made TWO bogeys on the week, both on Sunday sadly for him. He was third in strokes gained-putting. This was his best-ever finish on TOUR (T6), surpassing his T9 in 2012 at Pebble Beach. He’s been hugely consistent over the last six months when talking about top 25s; top 10s are much more fun and there should be more of these on his horizon! He’s no stranger to the preview columns!
Chad Collins: I had the wrong Indiana kid for a top 10 this week! The Cloverdale, Ind., resident has now hit the top 10 for the second time in four tries in the desert as he adds his solo eighth to his T10 in 2010. In 2013, Collins was on the Web.com Tour and finished 25th securing his place in 2014 on TOUR. His best season on TOUR was 2010 where he made the cut in 18 of 26 events and racked up three top 10s. His best finish on TOUR was T4 that season at Mayakoba. He missed most of 2012 with a rib injury.
Stuart Appleby: Hey look! Another old guy that can putt! The 42-year-old Aussie loves a putting contest and ranked 30th in strokes gained-putting in 2013. He made only two bogeys en route to T9 and his best finish on TOUR since the Travelers (T9) last June. His previous seven rounds in the desert only saw him post three rounds in the 60s and his best finish in 2013-14 was T23.
Charlie Beljan: After missing 16 of 24 cuts and having a WD, 2013 didn’t go as well as planned for Beljan after he lost in a playoff to John Merrick at Riviera in February. His early season has consisted of T46, MC, MC and T38 last week at Waialae so I wasn’t factoring him in this week. He cashed this week because his ball-striking was en fuego. He was second-last in strokes gained-putting and T54 in putts per GIR. This is his fourth top 25 in his last 29 events.
Ben Crane: Here’s another player, according to his Twitter feed, who showed up early in the desert and got some work in with his swing coach. It worked as he chalked up 25 birdies and only four bogeys in hitting the top 10 (T9) for the first time since T8 at THE PLAYERS last spring. Crane’s first three events of the 2014 season didn’t inspire as he finished T62, T62 and MC. His last five rounds at this event were in the 70s so that didn’t catch my attention either. Crane now has his third top 10 finish in 11 starts and his second in his last three. #horseforcourse
Charley Hoffman: No goldilocks, no problem as Hoffman, as per usual, played well in this event. The 2007 champ has now hit the top 10 in half of his eight consecutive starts at Humana with his T9 this week. Playing in the final group with Reed and Todd, Hoffman’s challenged ended with a water ball on No. 10 tee.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Webb Simpson: He dug himself too deep of a hole with 69-70 start that his excellent 67-64 weekend couldn’t bail him out and vault him into the top 10. His 64 on Sunday moved him up 31 spots to T23. That’s much better than the T54 where he began the day but not tight enough for the one-and-doners that were counting on him this week.
Zach Johnson: T3, see above
Brandt Snedeker: After his 64 on Friday, gamers were hoping he was going to fire and move up during the weekend. Nope. His putter was ice cold and his driving and iron play wasn’t much better. He had rallies on Saturday and Sunday snuffed out as he doubled No. 16 on the Palmer course BOTH days. T58.
Harris English: Speaking of doubles and cold putters, count Harris English as a part of that group. On Sunday, he was six-under through 14 holes before a double on No. 15 crushed his rally and a bogey on No. 18 knocked him to T33. English was 77th in strokes gained-putting this week but he still managed a way to card 16-under. Get a load of that: 16-under is T33. I have no worries about this kid moving forward. None. Gamers will have to monitor his starts where required but there should be no hesitation inserting him regardless of course.
Charles Howell III: Another favorite who was buried by a slow start, CH III opened with 73 and that’s suicide on these tracks. Making 10 bogeys on the week doesn’t help either. T58
Ryan Palmer: Second, see above.
Billy Horschel: His T25 give him back-to-back T25 or better (T10 last year) at the Humana. Horschel was all-or-nothing this week as he posted rounds of 72-65-70-64. The 64 moved him up 45 spots on Sunday. He was T4 GIR and sixth in strokes gained-putting. The problem was a quad on Thursday and three bogeys on Sunday. Horschel only made five bogeys on the week so he’s close folks.
Keegan Bradley: After finishing T7 (-23) in 2011, Bradley was back for the second time this week and fired a respectable 19-under that was good for T18. He’s making some swing changes with his spine alignment so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that he was 80th (of 84) players in GIR. He was in position, just four back of second, heading into Sunday but didn’t find enough birdies to make a move.
Bill Haas: T6, see above.
Charley Hoffman: T9, see above.
Jeff Overton: His putter’s mojo was left in Hawaii but another solid start for Overton who has been off to a very solid 2013-14. T38.
Gary Woodland: When he hit greens, he took advantage as he made 25 birdies but two doubles and eight other bogeys kept his tires spinning, T38. I’m not in love with him as much as others but he’ll remain on my radar as his game is still developing to that next level.
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