Power Rankings: Humana Challenge

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January 16, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist

After a 47-year run with Bob Hope's name attached to this week's PGA TOUR stop, the organizers of the annual shootout in the California desert inked an eight-year agreement with Humana and the William J. Clinton Foundation to emphasize wellness. While Hope's legendary contributions to the game and Coachella Valley will be honored all week, the event is now known as the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

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Two months after the deal was finalized last April, it was announced that what was a 90-hole tournament since its inception in 1960 will be reduced to a traditional 72-hole competition beginning on Thursday. The pro-am element was retained and retooled. The pros will be paired with just one amateur for each of the first three rounds and will not partner with the same amateur more than once. The final round will be limited to professionals only.

The set of courses employed for the tournament has also been reduced to three for the first time in tournament history. Palmer Private at PGA West will continue as host and is joined again by PGA West's Nicklaus Private and La Quinta Country Club. (SilverRock's Resort Course was included from 2008-2011 but has been removed from the rota.) All are par 72s and have ranked among the easiest tracks perennially on the PGA TOUR.

It's been 13 years since Palmer Private served up the third 59 in TOUR history courtesy of David Duval, and scoring has never ballooned. In the last four years alone, there have been four 61s (all in 2009) and 14 62s at this event. Therefore, while it's expected to be dry all week, it's going to rain eagles and birdies. A combination of guys that hit a high number of greens in regulation will share the final leaderboard with fearless putters.

MORE: Fantasy projections for all 246 players | Medical | Reshuffle | Major qualifiers

Power Rankings: Humana Challenge
Rank Player   Comment
Bill
HAAS
Clearly comfortable in La Quinta. He's made the cut in all seven appearances, five of which have resulted in top 25s. He won here in 2010 and lost in a playoff last year. Has an active streak of 20 consecutive rounds in the 60s with an average of 67.15.
Martin
LAIRD
Took a week off following his solo second at Kapalua where he led the field in putting and birdies. Started the final round here last year two strokes off the lead but faded to finish T22 with a closing 74. Ranked 19th on TOUR in birdie average in 2011.
Bo
VAN PELT
Making his 2012 debut. Ended last year with five top-11 finishes in seven starts, including a win in Malaysia where he led the field in birdies. Has ranked inside the top 10 on TOUR in total birdies in six of the last eight years. Placed T5 here in 2009.
Charles
HOWELL III
T2 at the Sony Open, his sixth top-5 at Waialae. Wielded a new putter albeit the same model (due to his gamer getting bent during travel) and still ranked eighth in Strokes Gained-Putting. Inside the top seven on TOUR in scrambling the last two years.
Kyle
STANLEY
En route to a T23 at Waialae, he feasted tee-to-green, leading the field in driving distance and finishing T10 in greens hit. That skill set will match up better in the desert this week. In 2011, he ranked 30th on TOUR in greens hit and sixth in total birdies.
Matt
KUCHAR
One of three runners-up here in 2010; also finished T7 last year. Arguably best known for his overall consistency and knack for avoiding bogeys, he also ranked 26th on TOUR in Strokes Gained-Putting and 15th in birdie average in 2011.
Kevin
NA
Struggled at Waialae where he hit 25 greens but still required 65 putts. Perhaps the mojo will return this week where he's posted top 10s the last two years and has a string of 10 consecutive rounds in the 60s.
Phil
MICKELSON
The two-time champ (2002, 2004) and all-time money leader here is back after a four-year hiatus. He's made the cut in each of his last seven appearances, the first six of which were top 20s. First start anywhere since the Singapore Open in November.
Brian
GAY
Carded four sub-par rounds en route to a T6 at Waialae. Ranked T10 in greens hit and had only five bogeys all week. Placed T5 here a year ago, led the field in fairways hit, ranked third in putting and T4 in birdies. Top 20s the previous two years, too.
Carl
PETTERSSON
His best finish in six appearances is a forgettable T35 in 2006 but he arrives on the coattails of a share of second place at Waialae where he ranked T3 in greens hit and T7 in birdies.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are Rob Bolton's six other players for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation:

Michael Thompson One of the TOUR's most underrated putters. Finished T6 at Waialae and ranked fifth in Strokes Gained-Putting and T2 in birdies. (Also had an eagle.) Three top-six finishes worldwide dating back to a solo third at The McGladrey Classic.

Spencer Levin Tumbled outside the top 10 at Waialae with a closing 72 after just two bogeys in his first 59 holes. Since joining the PGA TOUR in 2009, he's ranked inside the top 35 in greens hit every year. Also second and third in total birdies the last two.

Anthony Kim The La Quinta High School product returns for the first time since sharing third place here in 2008. Forever known as one of the most aggressive iron players, he's also ranked inside the top 60 in Strokes Gained-Putting in each of the last four years.

Brendon de Jonge Coming off a T10 at the Sony where he carded a field-low 62 in the second round. In four years as a PGA TOUR member, he's ranked no lower than 35th in birdie average, but continues to struggle shutting the door while in contention.

Harrison Frazar He's opened with consecutive top fives. It's the third time he's turned that trick; the last occurring in October 2005. He's not happy with his putting but he led the Sony in putts per GIR and birdies. Three top 10s in 12 starts at the Humana.

Johnson Wagner The Sony Open champ is coming off consecutive top 10s for the first time in his career. Ranked T10 at Waialae in greens hit and third in Strokes Gained-Putting. He's 2-for-4 at the Humana with a T13 in 2007.

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