Our tips for the 2013 edition of this event will be published on this page on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon! Other Jan 2013 events: Hyundai Tournament Of Champions, Sony Open In Hawaii, Farmers Insurance Open & Waste Management Phoenix Open. In the meantime you can check out our stats pages for the Humana Challenge in our stats section.
After Carl Pettersson delivered my second consecutive runners-up spot of 2012 at 66/1 E/W last week, it's great to be back on the American mainland for the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Palm Springs, California. This is effectively the old Bob Hope Challenge tournament which continually suffered with a poor quality field, but the introduction of Bill Clinton's Foundation as title sponsor, in combination with some well overdue changes in the format of the tournament, has been rewarded with a quality line-up. The tournament remains a Pro-Am but will run across 4 days and 72 holes on 3 courses rather than the crazy 5 day / 4 course format of old. Palmer Private remains the host course and will see 36 holes of action including Sunday's pros-only closing round, with Nicklaus Private and La Quinta making up the other 36 holes. The format may have changed but expect more of the same in the Californian desert. All 3 courses are sub 7,000 yard, Par 72s which feature wide unguarded tee-shot landing areas and the Pro-Am nature of the event dictates pin positions that are extremely accessible to professional golfers. In this tipster's language it will be a 'turkey–shoot.' A combination of Bill Clinton, the new format and a number of players struggling in the World Rankings with no Masters invite to boot has led to a field that rightly features Kuchar, Mickelson, Haas, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Van Pelt, Snedeker, Toms and Martin Laird. Add to those notable players who still have to earn their Masters invites i.e. Kim, Villegas, Crane and Moore.
Now I make no excuses for a scattergun approach this week with a range of Each Way and Top 10 bets. It's fact that this tournament is one of the hardest to predict on the PGA Tour and last year's Jonny Vegas victory at 200/1 was the latest instalment of crazy winners. Short-price backers need to be extremely wary this week and a Champions list that features the aforementioned Venezuelan with Haas, Perez, Hoffman (all 1st time PGA Tour winners) + Trahan (1 Win) and Campbell (2 Wins) shows that anything can happen here. So I've pulled together a mix of players with different backgrounds and motivations all of whom share a common theme i.e. on their day they can take apart resort courses and are comfortable on Bermuda Poa Trivialis mix greens.
Motivation is absolutely key for me this week. Now ideally I'd have liked to have seen Anthony Kim play Waialae last week to get back into competitive action, but let's be totally brutal here. Kim has absolutely no choice but to hit the ground running hard in 2012. His current World Ranking of 86 means that he WON'T be in the World Matchplay next month, the WGC Cadillac in March or Augusta in April. Don't play these and the Ryder Cup looks a long way off. So local lad Kim, who went to La Quinta High School, will want to perform on his home turf and contend for victory. Mentally he can't pick and choose tournaments and he also knows that the 3 courses this week suit his game perfectly – Kim was 45th here on debut in 2007 and 3rd in 2008. There is no doubt that Kim fell back in love with golf at the end of last season and his Autumn form-line of 23(Indonesia)-3(Singapore)-3(K.J. Choi Open) was impressive. It's also worthy to note that when Kim is hot he stays hot for a number of tournaments and his wins at the Par 72 tests of Quail Hollow (08) and Houston (10) show his liking for courses where there is a little width off the tee. Agreed he's never won on Bermuda greens but 3rd in Singapore allied to 2nd at Hilton Head(08), 2nd at PGA National(10), 3rd at La Quinta (08) and 3rd at East Lake (08) show me a World Class player that transcends green type. RESULT: MC
'Captain Kirk' ticks far too many boxes this week for a 60/1 shot. He's started 2012 extremely professionally and wasn't overawed at his first Champions tournament at Kapalua a fortnight ago where he delivered a great 7th position. I gauge the level of talent a player has by performances on courses that truly don't suit and the Par 72 resort loving Kirk backed up Kapalua with a steady 38th last week at Waialae, guaranteeing freshness for the Humana this week, where he finished 9th last year on debut. I'm a believer in player motivation and Kirk ticks that box too – after all, a win in La Quinta this week would earn berths at the World Matchplay, WGC Cadillac Championships and the daddy of them all, Augusta, and the truth is that all of these formats will suit Kirk's 'power bomb' game. Kirk already has a 2 year Tour exemption is his pocket after winning at Annandale (the same weekend as the Open Championship) last season, but rather than resting on his laurels I see Kirk as a talented player who will use that as a base to try and grab a place at 'Golf's Top Table.' After-all Kirk can use the same template used successfully by 2011 Fed Ex Cup champion Bill Haas who won at both La Quinta and Annandale in 2010. RESULT: T42
La Quinta is famous for delivering first time winners and Stanley, who was the best Tour rookie not to win in 2011, is close to getting his first win. The Gig Harbor, Washington State native who went to Clemson University in South Carolina continues to impress and although grainy Bermuda isn't his best putting surface Stanley's North West back-ground means he CAN play Poa mix well. Indeed on the 2 occasions he played on Bermuda Poa mix last season he finished 29th (-18) on debut here at La Quinta and an impressive 12th (which included a -6/66) at Bay Hill. Shooting low scores isn't a problem as -21 delivered a superb 2nd behind Stricker at TPC Deere Run last June. I tipped Stanley at 28/1 prior to TPC Summerlin and although he didn't deliver a return, rounds of 64 and 66 posted a -16 score and 10th place. A winter of inactivity won't be a problem this week either as in November he travelled down under for the Australia Open where at Melbourne's The Lakes Par 72 format he finished 11th beating Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Bill Haas and Dustin Johnson into the bargain. RESULT: MC
'Two Gloves' has played at La Quinta twice and missed the cut twice. Why the hell is Bamford tipping him up?! Well I can reason both of these performances on the basis that 2008 was his rookie season so Gainey was a 'rabbit in the headlights.' The same can be said for last year where after a successful Nationwide Tour campaign in 2010 which included 2 victories (-17 at University of Maryland and -27 at TPC Rivers Bend) Tommy was still re-establishing himself on the Tour and remember at 37 he's not a fearless youngster. The 2012 Gainey is a different animal and like Kirk a decent early season run or a victory could see him play the WGC events and Augusta. His decision to play this week must also relate to the fact that his game is perfect for resort golf courses where there is space off the tee and low scoring is essential. 2011 delivered 8th after leading into the back nine at TPC Scottsdale, followed by 3rd in New Orleans, 3rd at Hilton Head and 7th at Annandale with an aggregate score -57. The eagle eyed amongst followers will note a Bermuda / Bermuda Poa Trivialis green split across the 4 courses. Tommy also delivered a 100/1 EW return back in October when he finished 3rd behind Na and Watney at TPC Summerlin. Last week's Waialae M/C is immaterial in my view. RESULT: MC
La Quinta hasn't been overly kind to non American's over the years but international golfers can be successful here. Interestingly there have been 3 non-American winners since the turn of the century with Parnevik (00), Weir (03) and Vegas having Florida, Utah and Texas bases when they won in California. Now thinking that South Korean Sunghoon Kang will win this week maybe a stretch, but I have kept a close eye on the Irving, Texas-based player who after a super rookie season sit's within Asia's Top 10. Kang finished 2011 on a roll and stunningly grabbed full playing privileges by slipping into 120th on the Money List when he finished 3rd on Bermuda at the Disney Par 72 in October. Don't take that performance as a fluke either as 7th again on Bermuda at Annandale (Par 72), 12th at TPC Deere (shot -15 over the closing 56 holes) and 15th at Montreaux (Desert Poa Mix Par 72) highlight a player who thrives on low scoring tracks where a little width off the tee allows his power game to unwind. Naturally all of these performances were on course debut on an 'alien' tour. I'm certain that La Quinta on debut will fit his game and he could again muster a Top 10 performance against the odds. RESULT: MC
Trust me, we will be hearing lots about this 30 year old from San Diego, California in 2012. Killeen, who is now based in Fort Worth, Texas, could be unbelievable value at 50/1 for a Top 6 this week. J.J. won the Nationwide Tour Order of Merit last season racking up over $400,000 in the process. That's all fine and dandy but what really excites this week is Killeen's ability to shoot low scores via the rare combination of brute power and putting finesse. He averaged 305 yards off the tee last season plus headed up Putts per Round, Putting Average and Birdie Conversion categories. He was a lowly 6th for Birdie Average and Scoring Average! Okay the guy can score but what else Steve? Well J.J. isn't scared of winning and loves playing desert/altitude golf. Killeen joined an exclusive band of players who won back-to-back titles on the Nationwide Tour last year when he won the Utah Championship (beating Bud Cauley) and Cox Classic (beating Matt Every & Danny Lee) in Nebraska shooting -22 both times. Interestingly Jonny Vegas finished 2nd at the Utah Championship in 2010 before winning from nowhere last year. RESULT: MC
J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson better watch out as they will have competition in the Driving Distance category this season from Ohio's Jason Kokrak. Like Killeen, I'm covering the talented 26 year old off at 25/1 for a Top 10. This guy is in white-hot form at the moment as his last 5 outings of 2011 delivered a 5th on Bermuda greens at the Nationwide Tour Championship in South Carolina, 1st at the Miccosukee Championship again on Bermuda greens and 1st with a -18 total at the Boise Open in Idaho on Bent greens. Considering this guy averaged 318 yards off the tee last season I'm amazed he won the Miccosukee title on a tight Par 70 Florida track and just as shocked that he actually played 3 rounds at Waialae last week where he averaged 328 with the driver! The $10,000 he won at the Sony Open was his first ever PGA Tour pay cheque, but the wide-open spaces of the Nicklaus, Palmer and La Quinta courses this week will suit Jason's game down to the ground, especially when we see that he hit 72% of Greens in Regulation last year and was 2nd across the season long Birdie Average category. Don't say I didn't warn you! RESULT: MC. Odds and bookmaker offers correct 20:30GMT 17.1.12 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!