Defending Champ: Patrick Reed
To the mainland we go! After the brief two-tournament Hawaii detour kicking off the 2015 season, the PGA Tour begins its west coast swing in La Quinta for the Humana Challenge. Well technically, its official name is the “Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.” This falls under the Dr. Strangelove sub-title umbrella, though. I’d love to blurt out Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb every time I make a poorly timed Jack D. Ripper references (I too have issues with Commies tampering with my precious bodily fluids), but that would become problematic, since A) I bring it up a lot B) I have a difficult time retaining peoples’ attention as is, an additional 11 words tacked on to my monologues essentially renders my point inert. Much like these last few sentences, really. So, the Humana Challenge, here’s what you need to know, because it features some unique elements.
Humana Challenge: DraftKings Strategy & Betting Guide
Unlike any other event on Tour, the Humana is split between three courses: PGA West (Palmer), PGA West (Nicklaus) and La Quinta. With the three-venue structure of the tournament, each player will tee off on each course before cut line is established. So, conflicting with standard PGA norms, the Humana sports a 54-hole cut instead of the regular 36-hole field slash. While this may seem like a minor detail, it creates complications for Fantasy golfers every year as most people simply don’t pay enough attention – THE MORE YOU KNOW!!!
Humana Challenge Key Stats
- Driving Accuracy
- GIR% (From Rough)
- Ball Striking
- Par 5 Birdies or Better + Par 3 Scoring Average
Although there are three different courses to navigate, don’t get it twisted, this going to be a birdie fest. Last year, the Nicklaus and Palmer layouts were the easiest on Tour in relation to par; La Quinta was fourth. In 2013, they were the three lowest scoring courses on the circuit. That’s why “Par 5 Birdies or Better + Par 3 Scoring Average” is so critical, especially at PGA West Palmer, owner of five Par 5s and five Par 3s.
PGA West Nicklaus: 36-36–72 | 6,924 | -3.18 avg | 4 P5/4 P3
PGA West Palmer: 36-36–72 | 6,950 | -3.04 avg | 5 P5/5 P3
La Quinta CC: 36-36–72 | 7,060 | -2.23 avg | 4 P5/4 P3
With the winning score likely falling in the -25 and -28 range, scoring on Par 5s is a necessity to contend. However not bleeding those strokes away on Par 3s is equally as important. Beyond converting on scoring opportunities, be aware accuracy is a better indicator of success than driving distance. Looking back at the previous champions: Patrick Reed, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, Jhonattan Vegas, Bill Haas, Pat Perez; only Vegas ranked inside the Top 40 of driving distance the year they hoisted golf’s only trophy with its own orbit. It’s not that bombers can’t compete – in fact, I’m quite fond of Ryan Palmer this week – it’s that a lack of accuracy from the tee box mitigates the distance advantage since most Par 5s are reachable for shorter hitters in two strokes if they keep it in the short grass.
Humana Challenge Picks
Ryan Palmer & Bill Haas – When you’re siding with a bomber, finding out if their other positive skills mesh with the course layout is the next step. Ryan Palmer’s? His check out. Palmer’s been the fifth best player with a flat stick in his hand on the young season, but there are other numbers that will ensure his success: Proximity from 125-200 yards out of the rough and scrambling inside 30 yards. Based on the length of holes and his average driving distance, these will be the two situations Palmer is going to be required to navigate most often. In 2014, he was eighth in rough approaches from more than 100 yards and seventh in scrambling from 30 yards and in. It’s been the reason he has a 2nd, T4 and T6 three of the last four years on this site. There are a few bigger name players making their 2015 debut this week: Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker; yet none entice me like Bill Haas. The 2010 winner is basically the template check list of perfect traits for this event. Haas keeps the ball in the fairway, is an above average putter, hits an absurd amount of greens in regulation and is the world’s best player from the sand. The rust worries me, slightly, but with nine cuts made in 10 Humana starts, Haas’ course cognizance shall conquer.
Zach Johnson & Chris Kirk – With depleted Yahoo! “A” & “C” Lists, simply stock up on the favorites in the “B” List. Chris Kirk has been submarined by one awful round each of the last two weeks, but now’s the time to get him on the roster while others may have soured. He’s on the cusp of a breakthrough. Similar to Kirk in most ways, right down to the one poor round each of the last two events, Zach Johnson should be able to parlay his course-suited skill set and event history into a quality finish. ZJ’s made the cut in La Quinta in all four of his starts with a pair of T10s to his credit, including a T3 in 2014.
Billy Horschel & Matt Kuchar – Again, it’s “B” for basic on the “B” List with so many fringe options lurking elsewhere. Matt Kuchar has missed only two cuts in the past 24 months and provides a level of lineup security matched only by Jim Furyk. Billy Horschel is more of a wildcard based on his recent play, but he’s been trending in the right direction at the Humana over the years. After missing the cut in his first two appearances, Billy Ho’s T25 and T10 in his last two tries. Plus, his issues in 2015 are easily identifiable, putting; Horschel’s still keeping the ball in the fairway and generating beaucoup birdie tries. Retuning to a trio of courses in which he’s vastly experienced should provide temporary relief with his struggles on the green.
Charley Hoffman & Keegan Bradley – Yes, I know passing on the defending champion and MY FAVORITE PLAYER Patrick Reed is probably foolish, but there are equally as good, contrarian picks just milling about, waiting to post Fantasy points on the “C” List. Not only does Charley Hoffman already have a win this season, he’s won this event before. Shout out 2007! OK, his track record at the Humana/Bob Hope is a little spotty – 5/8 cuts made – yet he tends to deliver if he can make it to Sunday. Hoffman owns four T10s in his eight lifetime starts, with a pair coming the last two years. OH YAAAAAA, Keegan Bradley. I knew I forget to mention one of those big names earlier. Bradley is hitting the links for the first time since a T3 at Tiger’s Tournament in December and sports a limited, yet successful track record on this site. Keegan’s played the last two years, cashing checks for T18 and T9 finishes. Good enough for me.