The Sony Open is behind us and the PGA Tour has returned to the mainland for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. It is a unique event played on three courses over four days. Patrick Reed will be back to defend his title along with a strong group that includes Phil Mickelson, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar and more.
Dates: January 22 – 25 2015
Course: PGA West (Palmer), PGA West (Nicklaus), La Quinta CC
PGA West (Palmer) – Par 72, 6,950 yards
PGA West (Nicklaus) – Par 72, 6,924 yards
La Quinta CC – Par 72, 7,060 yards
Television Coverage (Times):
Thursday: Golf Channel 3 – 7 PM EST
Friday: Golf Channel 3 – 7 PM EST
Saturday: Golf Channel 3 – 7 PM EST
Sunday: Golf Channel 3 – 7 PM EST
Purse: $5.7 million total purse, $1.026 million winner share
Normally the swing holes section of this piece breaks down three to five holes that will decide a tournament. But the Humana Challenge is an entirely different animal. With three courses in play over the 72 hole event, we will look at the closing hole at all three venues and focus the rest on the Arnold Palmer Private course at PGA West, where 36 holes will be played including the final round.
The 18th hole of Nicklaus Private at PGA West is not cake walk. It is a Par-4, 455 yard finishing hole that will make the players flinch. Tee shots at the “Runaway” can expect to find a large and generous landing area. After a false sense of calm, players will stare down a second shot that must avoid a deep, troubling collection area on the left and the lake to the right. A large green will help the players assuming they do not get greedy and attempt to push their luck with certain pin positions.
The 18th hole of La Quinta Country Club is a Par-4, 412 yard finisher. It is a picturesque hole, which has lulled players into a false sense of security in the past. Tee shots must pay proper attention to avoiding the water to the left and the solo fairway bunker to the right. Assuming that navigation is successful the green has water in play again with a group of greenside bunkers guarding the left.
The fifth hole of Palmer Private is where the challenge can begin. The “Intimidator” is a 233 yard, Par-3 and even the best players in the world will take an extra second on the tee. This hole is 233 yards of carry over water to a large and challenging green. Just make par here is what each player should be thinking.
The 10th hole is a 453 yard, Par-4 called the “Monster.” It gets the name for good reason. A plethora of water and sand will trouble the players on each and every shot. A middle to long iron will be needed to play the approach into a rolling green. Getting one tight at the 10th is highly unlikely but if successful players will be rewarded.
The finishing hole here at Palmer Private is one that will provide an opportunity for great success or great failure. The 543 yard, Par-5 is nicknamed “Temptation” for just that reason. Three safe shots can leave players with a birdie choice but many in the field will attempt to cut off portions of the hole increasing the chance to get home in two. Finishing with an eagle here just might win the Humana Challenge.
Humana Challenge Top Picks
The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation is always a great event that draws a solid field. Let’s take a look at three players that I would predict to be right in the hunt coming down the stretch on Sunday at the Humana Challenge.
|Patrick Reed||Reed is a deadly combination this week at the Humana Challenge. First, he already has a third place finish at the Hero World Challenge and a win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Secondly, he set the PGA Tour 54-hole record with three 63s that led to the 2014 Humana Challenge title. His 260 total last year was also the 72-hole record for the Humana Challenge. What you have here is a player that is hot who has also tasted immense success at the venue of this week’s event. Reed is a huge threat this week.|
|Billy Horschel||Billy finished 10th at this event in 2013 and 25th last year. That was before he found his confidence boost that propelled him to the Fed Ex Cup title. Over the past couple of years Billy has improved his wedge play and been able to put a lasso around his emotions allowing him to find a more consistent game. One key stat that jumps out about him is his improvement in strokes gained putting. Horschel has a shot this week.|
|Phil Mickelson||Call this a flier of all fliers. Mickelson is making his return to tournament golf for the first time since last year’s Ryder Cup. Last year, Mickelson went winless for the first time in 11 years and only scrounged one top-10. But, he is a two-time winner here at the Humana Challenge and has been taking his health seriously this off-season. If you believe the comments, he is lighter, stronger and more at ease with his body and game than he has been in years. A flier? Yes, but a 43-time tour winner will get a shot with me to open his 2015 campaign.|