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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Humana Challenge - Preview

With the PGA TOUR turning it's attention to the Humana Challenge, the action has left the Hawaiian islands and returned to the mainland to continue the more traditional version of the West Coast swing. It also means the field better be ready to take it deep, as red numbers are typically the order of the week unless a cold snap or windy spell throw things off kilter.

For decades the former Bob Hope Classic was a five round, 90-hole affair spread across PGA West, but in 2012 it dropped back to a 72-hole tournament over three courses. The most likely reason was to try and attract a stronger field. Note that this is a Pro-Am, so for the first three days each pro will be paired with an amateur. Prepare for lengthy rounds.

Since it is a Pro-Am, that means the course set up usually isn't that difficult, further explaining the barrage of birdies. Don't be surprised to see several 62s thrown up this week. Also worth pointing out, rookies have to learn three courses instead of just one. Some, if not all, likely stopped off at PGA West before making the trip to Waialae for the Sony Open.

The stats on the courses are as follows:
  • PGA West - Palmer Private 6,930 yard par 72 will sever as the host course and final-round competition will take place here.
  • PGA West - Nicklaus Private 6,951 yard par 72 will be one of three courses utilized in the first three rounds.
  • La Quinta Country Club 7,060 par 72 will be the third course, and will host action during the first three rounds.
It doesn't take an expert to notice that these are three very short courses considering they are all par 72s. While you might be tempted to jump on bombers, consider that the length means the par 5s are reachable by many players in the field. Don't forget about moderate-length players with a penchant for holing putts and scrambling.

Here's a list of the winners since 2000. I will omit the scores with the exception of 2012 because the others were over 90 holes.
  • 2000 - Winner: Jesper Parnevik; Runner up: Rory Sabbatini
  • 2001 - Winner: Joe Durant; Runner up: Paul Stankowski
  • 2002 - Winner: Phil Mickelson; Runner up: David Berganio Jr.
  • 2003 - Winner: Mike Weir; Runner up: Jay Haas
  • 2004 - Winner: Phil Mickelson; Runner up: Skip Kendall
  • 2005 - Winner: Justin Leonard; Runner up: Tim Clark / Joe Ogilvie
  • 2006 - Winner: Chad Campbell; Runner up: Jesper Parnevik / Scott Verplank
  • 2007 - Winner: Charley Hoffman; Runner up; John Rollins
  • 2008 - Winner: D.J. Trahan; Runner up: Justin Leonard
  • 2009 - Winner: Pat Perez; Runner up: John Merrick
  • 2010 - Winner: Bill Haas; Runner up: Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark and Bubba Watson
  • 2011 - Winner: Jhonattan Vegas; Runner up: Bill Haas/Gary Woodland
  • 2012 - Winner: Mark Wilson (264/ 24-under); Runner up: John Mallinger, Robert Garrigus and Johnson Wagner (266)
An interesting note, Phil Mickelson is back in the field for the second time in as many years after a dry spell dating back until 2007. In 2002 and 2004 when he won, it was his first event of the season. That signals that he doesn't necessarily need to have played earlier in the year to pick off a win in the desert.

Perfect attendance: At a quick count, Tommy Gainey, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson will be the only one's making it three starts in as many weeks this week. Gainey is used to playing a ton, and I have to trust that Johnson, Kuchar and Simpson know themselves well enough to assume this is a good idea.

I'll be back tomorrow with power rankings and we will start to take a look at various gaming formats for the week.

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