The Humana Challenge is getting closer by the minute, and here is a power ranking and some additional fantasy information to aid in your research. Please refer back to Sunday’s preview for additional information on this tournament.
If you enjoy numbers deep into the red and tons of birdies, this tournament is for you. If you are a fan of carnage events like the U.S. Open annually produce, you’re going to hate this tournament. Shield your eyes. You've been warned.
So who are we hitching our wagon too? Here we go.
- Patrick Reed – Look no further than what Jimmy Walker did at the Sony Open last week as to why Reed is ranked first. Walker (who was first on last week’s Power Ranking / shameless plug) lost to Reed in a playoff at Kapalua before successfully defending his title at the Sony Open six days later. Like Walker, Reed has been playing on a much higher level than almost anyone not named Rory over the last 18 months, so the question becomes “why can’t he” defend? The biggest reason is that this is a birdie binge for 72 holes, and a player can’t have an off round, so there is some degree of luck involved this week.
- Bill Haas – Returns to the site of his first PGA TOUR win (2010), and he also had a P2 in 2011 and a T6 last year. He’s played 46 rounds in this tournament, with 43 being under par (31 consecutive) and only one being over par. While Haas traditionally plays tough courses well, this oasis is a proven hot spot.
- Webb Simpson – Tough call in regards of who to slot into third place this week, but Simpson edges out three other worthy candidates. The story last week was his switch to a standard putter for the first time in PGA TOUR action. He lit up Waialae CC for 36 holes before fading to a T13 on the weekend. He should be able to learn quickly from that fade. He also took the top spot in my statistical analysis of this tournament by a comfortable margin.
- Matt Kuchar – While catching Jimmy Walker would have been nearly impossible in the Sony finale, the man that entered the week in second place should have easily coasted to a solo second. Instead, he shot a 1-over-par 71 with ZERO birdies and fell into a tie for third. Did eight rounds of competitive golf in 10 days cause him to run out of gas? Can’t take the foot off the accelerator at PGA West or the field will slingshot by quickly.
- Ryan Palmer - His T17 at the Sony Open last week was a little below expectations, but he wasn’t exactly chopped liver. His course history in this event is among the best, with a T6 in 2013 serving as a warning for his runner-up finish in 2014. Odds are he regresses from 2014, but a top 10 for him is as likely as it is for any player.
- Scott Piercy – Coming off a solo second in the Sony Open, I was surprised to see that Piercy did not possess very good course history at the PGA West rota. His three missed cuts are only interrupted by a T19. This is one of those situations to where I’m not going to let course history talk me out of what his current form and skills as they relate to a layout argue.
- Justin Thomas – If guys like Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka are teaching us anything, it is to realize when a prodigy is growing up before our eyes and don’t be afraid to invest. Thomas scuffed around his first few PGA TOUR starts in 2014-15, but rebounded with a T4 in the Sanderson Farms Championship, a T23 in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and contended deep into the weekend before settling for a T6 at the Sony Open. I expect him to be a quick study in terms of learning from his disappointment of not converting the 36-hole co-lead. With his power and ability to hole putts, I would not be at all surprised if he won this week. He missed the cut here in his first trip, but so did Patrick Reed, who won in his second trip.
- Jason Dufner – Looked good overseas late in 2014, and has the game to produce a nice finish in his first start of 2015 if the putter cooperates at all. He’s 5/5 here with two top 20s.
- Keegan Bradley – He’s beginning to be overshadowed by some of the new blood on TOUR, so he should be motivated to make a splash early in the year. He’s played here twice before, tying for seventh in 2011 and sharing 18th last year.
- Chris Kirk – Admitted on Twitter following his hot finale in the Sony Open that he has been nothing if not inconsistent to start the year. Really struggled badly with the putter in Round 3 last week. He can’t afford an off round at PGA West if he is to contend for a top 10, or maybe even a top 25. Conversely, if he puts together three of the hot rounds like he did in three of his last five, he could win the tournament if his bad round is a 69.
- Phil Mickelson – Two-time winner here. It will come down to his putter. We’ve seen it plenty of times over the last few seasons on the West Coast Swing. The putter can be a mystery, both good and bad, early in the season.
- Zach Johnson – His course history here is excellent, but his T64 at Waialae CC last week is a pause for concern.
- Harris English
- Brandt Snedeker
- Charley Hoffman
- Jerry Kelly
- Brendon Todd
- Jason Kokrak
- Tim Clark – (Concerned about his elbow after flinching a few times in Sunday’s finale, or would be higher.)
- Rory Sabbatini
As always, I urge you to check Playing the Tips at Rotoworld for my Yahoo! and Golf Channel selections, as well as those of Rob Bolton, Ned Brown, Josh Culp, Mike Glasscott, and Dave Tindall. I will update my Yahoo! lineup on Twitter (@RyanGolfBlogger)
I’ll be first to admit that I’m snake bit in this format right now. In fact, the best advice I can give you is to take the last guy I cut. Since The Barclays, I believe I’m correct in saying that the last guy I’ve publically cut on my blog has won three times. Tim Clark threatened to do the same last week before a poor finish.
There are four guys I’m considering for this week’s one and done. They are Patrick Reed, Bill Haas, Scott Piercy and Justin Thomas.
Reed did a respectable job in his first title defense in the 2014 Wyndham Championship, posting a T24 with his last three rounds in the 60s. The knock on Reed is that he hasn’t been quite as solid on his first start following a win. He backed up his 2013 Wyndham win with a missed cut in The Barclays. His 2014 Humana win was followed up with a T19 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and his 2014 WGC-Cadillac win was followed by a T52 two weeks later at Bay Hill. Worth noting, he didn’t take a week off between the Wyndham and The Barclays, but did take a week off following his other two wins. He did not play the Sony Open last week. I do really like Reed this week, but this tournament is a bit of a crapshoot to try and follow up a win by another big finish, while coming off a win.
Haas nearly did what Reed is trying to do. Haas’ 2010 win was followed by a playoff loss to Jhonny Vegas in 2011. I mentioned above his 43 of 46 rounds being par or better. I can’t think of any reason not to take Haas this week, unless there is someone you love more.
Piercy’s history (1/4 with a T19) is probably enough of a reason not to burn him in a OAD format. Maybe it isn’t the course that messes with him, but the pro-am format? As nice as it is to take a guy coming off a solo second, he’s too big of a reach when Haas is available.
I’m trying to fall in love with Thomas this week, and I’m doing a pretty good job of it. He’s confident. He’s figuring it out. He’s trending well. He reminds me a lot of Reed at this point last year. Remember that Thomas won a Web.com Tour Finals event in the Fall, much like Reed won the Wyndham in the Fall before his win last year. Reed can make a lot of birdies and eagles, and so can Thomas.
Now for the strategy. I’m pretty far down the standings in my OAD league (started at the Frys) at this point. That said, it’s still waaaayyyyy too early for me to take a guy just to go against the grain. My pick comes down to Thomas and Haas. As much as I really want to take Thomas, I can’t ignore 31 consecutive rounds under par in a tournament and 43 of 46. I’m taking Bill Haas. With that, let’s all congratulate Justin Thomas on his breakthrough PGA TOUR win!