The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation is the first of three tournaments played over multiple courses. All are on the West Coast Swing.
Proper preparation as it concerns burning guys on the right course often lays the foundation for frontrunners in fantasy leagues. For example, since La Quinta Country Club was reinstated into the rotation, it's ranked a relatively distant third in scoring average as compared to the other two courses in play. Formats that allow for mid-tournament adjustment encourage working around starts on that track. Remember that all three layouts are par 72s.
At 69.19, PGA West's Nicklaus Private was the easiest course on the PGA TOUR in 2012. It was also the easiest par 72 in both 2009 (66.98) and 2010 (68.99). However, in 2011, PGA West's Palmer Private clipped it, 69.09-69.21. Palmer averaged 69.88 last year, 69.23 in 2010 and 68.81 in 2009, so the lesson here is that if you can't play the Nicklaus, the Palmer is a suitable backup. (La Quinta's average in the last three years are as follows: 69.97 in 2010; 70.02 in 2011; 70.68 in 2012.)
The field of 156 is split evenly on the three courses and the cut of low 70 and ties will fall after 54 holes. Those starting on Nicklaus will play the Palmer in the second round and La Quinta in the third. Guys opening on Palmer will follow with La Quinta and the Nicklaus in that order. Finally, once the third of the field logs their openers on La Quinta, the Nicklaus and Palmer, respectively, will chase it.
For those of you angling at using results from qualifying school to help find value this week, it's important to note that none of the three courses used for the Humana were included in the two-track rotation for q-school.
My one-and-done selections and season totals appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesdays.
On a Roll
Scott Langley ... While he closed with a 70 at the Sony Open to finish T3, the left-handed rookie departed Hawaii with considerable fantasy value. He ranked T49 in greens hit but second in strokes gained-putting thanks to that clinic on the greens. He sank 488 feet, 8 inches worth of putts, 69 feet more than runner-up, Russell Henley, who of course finished first in the category that matters more -- scoring. We can't expect Langley to continue to bury it from everywhere, but this week's dynamic allows for him to give it a try.
Charles Howell III ... He's posted only one top 25 in his last four appearances here (T13, 2011), but he hasn't finished worse than T15 in his last four starts dating back to the Fall Series. Consider him a safe investment in formats that reward cuts made.
Jeff Overton ... Life as an engaged man agrees with him. In his first start since popping the question to his now-fiancée, Christina Zimmer, Overton bookended a solo eighth at Waialae with 65s. He doesn't qualify as a sleeper but a lackluster record at the Humana -- no top 45s among three cuts made in as many starts -- might turn off some gamers. However, he's setting up to post a personal best. Finished 17th on TOUR last year in par breakers.
Jimmy Walker ... He's survived 10 consecutive cuts, including last week's T26 at Waialae where he closed with a bogey-free 64. Ranked T24 in par breakers last year.
Seung-yul Noh ... Here we go! After polishing off 2012 with 20 consecutive cuts made worldwide, his value has skyrocketed across the board. He capped that streak with five straight top 15s, but hasn't played since a T14 at the CIMB Classic.
Horses for Courses
Bill Haas ... Hasn't missed a cut in eight appearances that include his breakthrough PGA TOUR victory (2010) and a T2 in his title defense. If you missed his offseason record last fall, he tied for 16th at the CIMB Classic, finished alone in 10th at the WGC-HSBC Champions and solo third at the 12-man Nedbank Challenge. That momentum (even with a T23 at Kapalua two weeks ago) is reason enough for course history buffs to invest this week.
Ben Crane ... Making his season debut. The late entry is 9-for-9 at this event with three top-15 finishes, including a T8 last year when he co-led at the midpoint.
Kevin Na ... Was hoping for a little more mojo entering this week since he posted top 10s here in 2010 and 2011, but he tailed off at the end of 2012 after a solo second in an event in South Korea. It seemed to have slammed the door on any residual concern in the wake of his shoulder injury, but we're left wondering again. However, even though he missed the cut by one at Waialae, he's maintained a busy schedule and he's earned the benefit of our doubt.
Brian Gay ... He should have been included in this category last week, but he lost a step in 2012, failing to crack seven figures for the first time in seven seasons. Nevertheless, he rejoins the conversation thanks to seven straight cuts made at the Humana, including three top 20s (2009-2011).
John Mallinger ... Recorded the second and most recent runner-up finish here last year to go with a T25 in 2009.
Mark Wilson ... The defending champ recorded an early candidate for 2012 Shot of the Year when he holed out from a greenside bunker at the par-3 12th in his final round. He'd convert two late birdies to win by two. Since that impressive day, he's managed only one top 10 in a stroke-play event (T10, McGladrey).
Kevin Stadler ... Since opening the 2012 FedExCup Playoffs with back-to-back T10s, he's failed to crack the top 25 in five consecutive starts. This is nothing new for his long-term trend, and he's 5-for-5 at the Humana, but he's recorded only one top 50 (T18, 2010).
Johnson Wagner ... One of last year's trio of co-runners-up here had already won (Sony Open) earlier in the month. However, his only top 25 in his last 22 starts was a T13 at the 30-man season-opener at Kapalua two weeks ago. He'd go on to miss the cut by one stroke in his title defense at Waialae.
Brian Davis ... Survived only three of his last 12 cuts with one top 25 (T15, RBC Canadian Open). Missed the cut on the number last week at Waialae.
Robert Allenby ... He's missed 13 of his last 18 cuts worldwide. Zero top 25s during that stretch.
Not So Fast
Carl Pettersson ... Although he's coming off a huge year (and a forgettable T59 at the Sony Open) when he ranked 39th in par breakers, the Swede is just 4-for-7 at the Humana with nothing better than a T35 in 2006.
Tommy Gainey ... He's 0-for-3 at this event with only one sub-70 in 11 rounds (67 on the Palmer Course in 2008).
Charley Hoffman ... Posted top 20s in his first two visits here after breaking through for his first PGA TOUR victory in 2007, but has since missed the cut in each of the last three years. Ranked 36th overall last year in par breakers but failed to record a top 25 in his last nine starts. Battled a back injury during that stretch.
Daniel Summerhays ... He finished T11 in his only start here in 2011, but we should leave him alone until he gets comfy with his new putter. While he owns dynamic value, he misses too many cuts to warrant short-term ownership.
Tom Gillis ... For a veteran that fantasy gamers associate with birdies, he's a disappointing 1-for-2 at this event. Also turned in a pair of 75s last week on what was a highly scorable track in Waialae.
Back in the Saddle
Lucas Glover ... Great news for his early investors. Returns from surgery on his right knee that he injured in Hawaii at the beginning of 2012, and does so at a tournament where he's 4-for-4 with three top 20s. Fully exempt through 2013-14 and into four majors and THE PLAYERS this season.
Richard H. Lee ... Had to withdraw from last week's Sony Open during his second round due to an illness. He was 4-over through 22 holes; the cut fell at 2-under 138. The PGA TOUR sophomore missed the cut at the Humana in his debut a year ago.
Scott McCarron ... Making his first start since March of last year. Had surgery on his left thumb. Given 19 starts on a Non-exempt Medical Extension for 2013.