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Preview and Predictions: Humana Challenge

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The PGA Tour heads back to the mainland this week for the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif. The event is known under its previous name, the Bob Hope Classic, but has recently gone through a sponsor change and gotten a face lift in the past few years with the help of Former President Bill Clinton.

The Humana Challenge is the first Pro-Am style event on the 2013 Tour schedule, with amateurs and celebrities alike going step for step with Tour stars. Much like the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am, the Humana is held at three different venues — The PGA West Palmer and Nicklaus courses and La Quinta Country Club. Sunday’s final round will be held at the host course, the Palmer Course.

Historically, the Humana is a very low scoring event with the winners carrying a 66.29 stroke average over the past 12 years. Mark Wilson is the defending champion, coming off a 2012 victory in which he fended off Johnson Wagner, Robert Garrigus and John Mallinger with a winning score of 24-under. It was the first Humana Challenge in over 50 years with a 72 hole format, which previously had been a 90-hole event.

This event has always been entertaining to watch, not only for the low scoring but also for the impressive celebrity draw it brings. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood, music and business will converge on the desert this week. As of Monday, notable committed names included Anthony Anderson, Michael Bolton, Alice Cooper and Palm Desert native Carson Daly.

Players to Watch

A good portion of the field is making their 2013 debut, including former champion Phil Mickeleson, as well as U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa and  PGA Champion David Toms. But with the low scoring nature of the tournament, it should favor the player who has one or two starts under his belt. Unless of course you are former champ Phil Mickelson, who has won this tournament twice and has had four top 10’s straight out of the winter hiatus.

Charles Howell is coming off a strong debut at the Sony Open where he made 16 birdies and two eagles against only three bogeys for a T3 finish. Former champion Pat Perez is also a name to watch this week, coming off a top-10 finish at the Sony. The often combustable Perez is armed with a new, calmer attitude going into 2013 that could put the 36-year-old’s name on more leader boards in 2013.

“I’m just trying to look at things in a positive way,” Perez said in a recent interview with Golf Digest’s Dave Shedloski. “Not a fake positive, but just not getting down, not getting negative.”

Fun Facts

Yardage: Palmer Course at PGA West — 6,950 yards (par 72)

  • Lowest score: David Duval blistered the Palmer Course for a 59 in the final round in 1999.

Yardage: Nicklaus Course at PGA West — 6,924 yards (par 72)

  • The course was built to host the 1987 Ryder Cup, but the event was moved to the East Coast to better accommodate television

Yardage: La Quinta Country Club — 7,060 yards (par 72)

  • La Quinta CC  has been part of the tournament’s rotation since 1964.

Keys to Victory

The Humana has always been a shoot out, favoring the player that is white hot with the putter and the wedges. It doesn’t necessarily favor a big hitter, as the longest course maxes out at just under 7100 yards. It’s a 72-hole free for all with the winner usually making in excess of 25 birdies.

Mark Wilson torched the desert last year hitting almost 90 percent of the greens and 76 percent of the fairways. That along with a hot putter resulted in a total score of 24-under and Wilson’s fifth career victory. The key to victory is simple — go as low as you possibly can and hope for the best. The only X Factor is the unpredictable desert wind that has blown the field around in past years. Charley Hoffman’s won in 2007 with a score of 17-under in the old five-round format.

My pick to win?

Winner: Charles Howell III

Score: 23-under

Coming off his T3 at Sony Open, I think it’s time that Charles Howell breaks out and wins for the third time on Tour. His putter has been his Achilles’ heel in past years, but if the Sony was any indication it seems that his confidence has been restored and I look for him to go really deep this week.

TV Times

Golf Channel — Thursday through Sunday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

 

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John Wunder was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. He moved to Southern California when he had the rare opportunity of working in the Anaheim Angels clubhouse and has been living in Cali. ever since. He has a severe passion/addiction for the game and has been a member of GolfWRX since 2005. He now works as the Director of Development and Production for The Coalition Group in Los Angeles, Calif.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Humana Challenge Betting Preview | AdamSarson.com

  2. Adam

    Jan 16, 2013 at 12:39 am

    I love Matt Kuchar this week. Nice start to the season, great short game and past history at PGA West…

  3. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Always tough to pick the winner of a US tour event.

    I like the chances of Brendon De Jonge and Harry English. Both these guys made solid starts to the year last week. This follows up from consistent seasons in 2012 and I expect 2013 will be no different for the pair.

    Keep an eye on them!

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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

Related

Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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