Humana Challenge Betting Preview
The Humana Challenge, formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, used to carry a lot of weight on the PGA Tour. Hope attached his name to the event in the mid-60’s, and attracted not only the best professional golfers, but also the highest profile celebrities to come play at his event in the pro-am format. Back then, it was a big deal to see Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and former United States president Dwight Eisenhower tee it up with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper.
However, much of that has changed in recent years with many of the high profile golfers, such as Tiger Woods opting to avoid the pro-am format, which generally produces longer rounds and more crowd attention. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi event is also running this week, one of the events that has no problem with paying allegedly astronomical appearance fees for a player like Woods. With all that said, the field for this week’s Humana Challenge is better than it’s been in recent years, headlined by the 2013 season debut of Phil Mickelson.
2013 Humana Challenge Fact Sheet
- Course: PGA West (Palmer Course and Nicklaus Course) and La Quinta CC
- Location: La Quinta, California
- Yardage: 6,924 to 7,060 yards, par 72
- Defending Champion: Mark Wilson
- Thursday – 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Friday – 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Saturday – 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
- Sunday – 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
The Humana is played on three separate courses, with the Palmer Course getting the final round assignment this season. Typically, the players go insanely low here. In fact, there hasn’t been a score higher than 15-under par since Casper posted that number in 1969. As John Wunder noted in his preview for GolfWRX, the winners of the event over the past twelve seasons have posted an average of 66.29 strokes per round, which means that we’re looking for players who have the ability to go low, and get there fast. The forecast is calling for nothing but sunshine and very little wind, so in all likelihood, we’re going to see multiple players around the 20-under par number by the time the tournament ends on Sunday.
Key Storyline This Week
Phil Mickelson starts his 2013 campaign at the Humana, and all eyes will be on him. He turns 43 in June, and it’s tough to pinpoint what to expect from him this season. He had a win and seven other top-10’s last year, and he was arguably the best player for the Americans in the Ryder Cup, but he has fallen to 19th in the world rankings. It was over fifteen years ago when Mickelson was that low in the rankings. He’s got one win in each of the last three seasons, all at comfortable venues like Pebble, Augusta and Redstone. He’s still going to be a force on the PGA Tour, the question is how much of one.
Five favourites according to the books: Snedeker, Kuchar, Clark, Mickelson, Simpson
We had a good week at the Sony Open, with both Tim Clark and Charles Howell III coming in on each-way bets. We’ll try to keep it going with five suggested plays this week at the Humana.
Phil Mickelson (Best Odds 16-1 at Bet365)
I know I just wrote about how Mickelson could be on the downswing, but I still think he’s got the most talent of anyone in the field this week. He’s a two time winner of the event, and has been known to be a quick starter in the past. His ability to go low is well known, and he hasn’t had a bad event by his standards since August. This is one of the few places where I think you can still bet him with confidence, especially on an each-way.
Tim Clark (Best Odds 16-1 at Betfair)
I usually hate backing players in consecutive weeks, but everything sets up great for Clark this week. He’s played the Hope/Humana three times, and has two runner-ups and a fifth. Combine that with his second place finish last week, and you’ve got a guy who’s got the right form to pick up a win. His ability to hit tons of fairways was strangely absent last week, but I’d expect that to jump up a little this week. His second career PGA Tour win could come in California.
Robert Garrigus (Best Odds 26-1 at Betfair)
This is the perfect event for Garrigus, and he’s had success here in the past, finishing as the runner-up to Mark Wilson last year and having a 14th place finish in 2009. I say it’s the perfect event because of the less than stellar field, and when Garrigus is hot, he’s as good as anyone in the game. The one thing that gives me pause with picking Garrigus every week is that he’s an awful putter, ranking 146th last year in strokes gained putting. Still though, 26-1 is a nice price in a subpar field.
Pat Perez (Best Odds 50-1 at Bet365)
Much like Clark, Perez only has one career PGA Tour win, but it did come at this event in 2009. If you ask any player on the PGA Tour who has done the least with the most talent, Perez would be right at the top of the list, but the man who has struggled with injury and anger management issues had a nice finish last week at the Sony, tying for ninth. Of his 37 rounds at the Hope/Humana, only four of them have been over par, and if he’s serious about calming himself down on the course, he could be someone to watch in 2013. I like him as an each-way bet. Of course, if he does calm down, we’ll probably see less of this:
John Senden (Best Odds 61-1 at Betfair)
I thought the Australian-born Senden was going to have a breakout year in 2012, and while that didn’t happen, he still had six top-10’s, including one at the Humana. He’s got three top-10’s here in his career, and he was pretty good at Waialae last week, breaking par in every round. If he can keep putting like he did last week, he could be ready for that breakout in his age 41 season.
Other things to watch:
- How does Russell Henley respond after winning his first PGA Tour event last week? It’s been a few years since the golf world was that impressed with a rookie, and there’s going to be a lot of focus on the University of Georgia standout.
- Ryo Ishikawa played in an insane 39 events worldwide in 2012, and the young Japanese phenom recently got another invite to the Masters this season, despite limited success. When playing against lesser competition in Asia, he’s been solid but that hasn’t translated to North America. It was a little contentious when he got the invite this year, so a couple of good finishes in North America would go a long way to re-establishing him globally.
- Tournament organizers caused a bit of a fuss last week when David Duval was denied an exemption into the event, despite firing his legendary 59 at the 1999 event. Expect to hear more about this during the week.
- Speaking of former champions that people haven’t heard of in a while, Mike Weir and Jesper Parnevik are teeing it up this week. Weir was cut last week in Hawaii, but had a pair of decent rounds before the weekend, while Parnevik was recently announced as the latest athlete signed by Puma Golf.