Power Rankings: Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton FoundationJanuary 14, 2013
It would be difficult to argue that no tournament turned a corner last year more than the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Inside the ropes, the competition was reduced to 72 holes for the first time in history; only three courses were employed, also an event-low; and the amateur component was refined, including a professionals-only finale.
All the while, there existed a front-and-center platform consisting of the importance of health and wellness thanks to the new eight-year relationship between the title sponsor and the William J. Clinton Foundation.
The touring pros have long enjoyed a connection with low scores in La Quinta, Calif. One need not look further for proof than David Duval's closing 59 in the 1999 edition. PGA West's Palmer Course, site of Duval's PGA TOUR record-tying feat and host of the tournament, is joined for the fifth consecutive year by the Nicklaus Private Course. La Quinta Country Club rounds out the rotation for the 42nd time in the event's 54-year history.
All three tracks are par 72s that average among the easiest courses played all year. Flighting the ball in the dome of the desert has helped (although last year's third round was suspended due to high winds), but none of the three is overwhelming off the tee. La Quinta can play the longest but at just 7,060 yards. This sets up for an annual assault of birdie opportunities.
After some energy abates early in the week, tremendous weather is forecast throughout the tournament. Temperatures will rise into the mid-70s and winds are expected to be moderate at worst.
Power Rankings: Humana Challenge Rank Player Comment Brandt SNEDEKER Took a week off after a solo third at Kapalua. Two top 10s in his last three appearances at the Humana, including a T8 last year, his first of seven top 10s en route to the FedExCup title. Ranked second in the all-around at this event in 2012. Matt KUCHAR Strong short game at Waialae allowed for a T5. Although he missed 26 GIR, he carded only three bogeys. Ranked second in scrambling and eighth in strokes gained-putting. Four straight top 25s at the Humana, including a T2 in 2010. Robert GARRIGUS Making his 2013 debut. First start since a T2 at Disney to close out 2012. En route to a T2 here last year, led the field with 30 birdies and added an eagle. Also finished first in the all-around despite ranking 72nd in strokes gained-putting. Bo VAN PELT While it's been four years since he finished T5 here (and hasn't cracked the top 25 since), he deserves inclusion on firepower alone. The birdie machine also wrapped up 2012 with five consecutive top 10, including a win, a T2 and a solo third. Webb SIMPSON Tied for 20th at Waialae despite ranking outside the top 35 in fairways hit (T51), greens in regulation (T38) and strokes gained-putting (44th). Returns to the Humana after a one-year break. Placed T13 in 2011; also T5 in his debut in 2009. Phil MICKELSON Two-time champion (2002, 2004) and all-time money leader at this event. Sandwiched a four-year hiatus with a T45 in 2007 and T49 last year. However, he concluded 2012 with five straight top 15s, including a pair of co-runner-up finishes. Chris KIRK Hit the ground running in 2013 with a T5 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Led the field with three eagles and ranked ninth in strokes gained-putting. Tied for seventh at the 2011 Humana. Sat three strokes off the lead at the midpoint last year; faded to T42. Tim CLARK Gave everything he had at Waialae on Sunday, including four straight birdies to close with a 63, and just got beat. Now migrates from one site where he's had success to another. In four starts at the Humana, he's logged two T2s and a T5. Harris ENGLISH Making just his second appearance but placed T19 last year and carded a 62 in the second round. After making the cut on the number last week at Waialae with a birdie on his 36th hole, he carded a 62 in his third round and would finish T9. Pat PEREZ Back at the site of his lone victory (2009). Carded a field-low 63 in the finale last year to finish T14. Tied for ninth at Waialae last week; missed 18 GIR but carded only five bogeys. Logged a 46-hole stretch of bogey-free 14-under. Josh TEATER Rode a pair of 65s on the weekend at Waialae to a T15, his seventh top 25 in his last 10 starts. Ranked inside the top 25 in fairways hit, GIR and strokes gained-putting; placed fourth in the all-around. Shared 22nd place at last year's Humana. John SENDEN Coming off a T26 at Waialae where he was under par in every round. Converted only 15 par breakers despite hitting 54 greens in regulation. Ranked 28th in strokes gained-putting. He's 10-for-11 at the Humana with four top 10s; T6 in 2012. Brendon DE JONGE Settled for a T54 at the Sony where he ranked T7 in GIR (54) but recorded only 11 par breakers. Making fifth appearance at the Humana where he's posted progressively improving results, capped by a T12 last year. Russell HENLEY Unflappable during his record-setting win at Waialae last week. Hit 60 greens in regulation and led the field in both strokes gained-putting and total birdies. A letdown is expected but his aggressive style caters to the trio of tracks in the desert. Zach JOHNSON Missed the cut on the number at the Sony Open in Hawaii to snap his consecutive cuts made streak at 12. Perhaps the desert will offer a soft landing. He placed T8 last year, ranking T5 in greens hit and T11 in par breakers (24).