LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Jeff Maggert, who turns 49 next month, has stolen a page from the young guns and is now tied for the lead at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Maggert has made seven birdies through 15 holes on the Nicklaus Private Course and he's tied with Jerry Kelly, Bobby Gates and Ricky Barnes. Kelly and Gates are through 16 and 15 holes, respectively. on the Nicklaus while Barnes has played 10 holes at La Quinta.
Patrick Cantlay, the former UCLA standout who is playing on a sponsor's exemption, heads a group of seven players at 6 under. Also at that number are Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro, James Hahn, Kevin Stadler, Aaron Baddley and Stephen Ames.
Phil Mickelson, who is making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut, is having a difficul time at La Quinta. The two-time champion, who has battled flu-like symptoms for the last 10 days, is 1 over through 14 holes.
President Bill Clinton (l) and PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem meet with the media
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- First, the consummate politician worked the practice range as pros and amateurs alike prepared for the first round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
After everyone had teed off in the $5.6 million PGA TOUR event, former President Bill Clinton met with a much less contentious gathering of the media than he was used to in the White House and talked about his vision to improve the world's health as well as his love of the game. Here are some highlights (scroll down to watch the interview):
>>> Clinton called a tip he received from Tom Watson "practically the best political lesson I ever got from anybody ... He said, golf is the way politics is. If your grip is too far to the right, you're going to get in trouble on the left. But if your grip is too far to the left, you're going to get in big trouble on the right. The trick is for your grip to be just right. Worth remembering in these days."
>>> Clinton, who played with former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and Bob Hope in the 1995 event, said he would like to bring President Barack Obama with him to next year's Humana Challenge. "I came once as President for Bob Hope. And I think it would really mean a lot to him and I think that he would be able to, he and Michelle Obama, could look at some of this (wellness) stuff that's part of what they're trying to do."
>>> Clinton called Obama a "total golf nut" and talked about a recent round at Andrews Air Force Base before inaugural business intervened. "And he had the lowest score by far he had every shot at Andrews, he was five shots ahead of me after nine holes. But I'm older, I start slow and pick up. So I picked up four of those strokes in the first three holes of the back nine and after, so I'm only 1 down, and he leaves at 13 he says, got to go. I said, hey, you're talking to somebody that's had this job and made that excuse. But I said, as it happened, we were playing partners, so I wanted him to shoot well."
>>> Clinton also joked that he had no opinion on long putter because "I've never been able to figure out how to use one of those things." He recalled when Sam Snead putted between his legs. "And once I got over 40 and my vision started to warp, and my lens started to flatten out, I got it. I mean, if you let me putt that way now, I would make three times as many putts of 10 or 12 feet. ... It's stunning the difference it makes."
>>> On whether the amateurs and pros were intimidated by him: "They might have been last year, but when they saw how lousy I was on the golf course, I think they got over it in a hurry."
>>> On his thoughts about Tuesday's wellness conference. "I rarely have seen this much improvement (over the 2011 event), but I think what it reflects is the, besides the fact that we have all been working hard on this, what it really reflects is everyone knows this is a big deal. They know we can't keep spending more of our income on health care. They know that the baby boomer retirement alone could make us do that. ... Maybe we just met at a moment in time when we all needed each other and we're going to wind up doing a lot of good because of it."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Russell Henley, who won last week's Sony Open in Hawaii in his first start as a PGA TOUR member, didn't hesitate when asked who are the other young players he finds impressive.
The 23-year-old's first choice was Rory McIlroy. Tell us someone we don't know, a reporter suggested. So Henley picked his former Georgia teammate, Harris English.
And English, who tied for ninth last week at Waialae, is lending credence to his friend's words during the first round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. He was briefly tied for the lead and now sits in a big group at 4 under, one stroke behind Bobby Gates.
Also tied at 4 under are Jeff Maggert, Jesper Parnevik, Martin Laird, Joey Snyder III, Jason Kokrak, Stephen Ames, Jerry Kelly, Fabian Gomez and Patrick Cantlay. English has played 10 holes on the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West.
Henley is from Macon, Ga. while English grew up in Valdosta. Both graduated from Georgia in 2011 with a degree in consumer economics. Henley won twice on the Web.com Tour last year while English picked up one victory in 2011.
"I've been playing golf against him since I was 11," Henley said. "And he's just very, very impressive physically, obviously hits the ball a long way, and he can shoot low scores. He shot 62 last week on Saturday, finished top 10. He's playing great. Been playing great for a long time now.
"And physically what he can do with the golf ball is probably the most impressive I've seen. And mentally he's always impressed me. His perspective and his competitiveness and his toughness is just very impressive to me. I think that you're going to be seeing a lot of him for a long time.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
The secret to success at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation is, well, no secret. Birdies are bountiful in the Coachella Valley. Last year, the event was changed to a 72-hole format, down from 90 holes, and only three courses were utilized. They're among the easiest on the PGA TOUR. The 54-hole cut at 6-under 210 proved it.
Champion Mark Wilson held a three-stroke lead entering the final round. His score in relation to par at the time -- 21 under -- was the season's lowest at the same juncture.
When a shootout is expected, some will label it a putting contest. I'm not completely sold on that, however, since shootouts require birdie opportunities before putting enters the formula. Therefore, greens in regulation weighs heavier.
Since La Quinta Country Club was reintroduced as part of the rotation in 2010, two of the three champions ranked inside the top three in GIR. Bill Haas led the field in 2010, hitting 75 of 90; Wilson 58 of 72 to tie for third in the stat last year. (Jhonattan Vegas ranked 19th in greens hit in 2011.)
By comparison, looking at the strokes gained-putting splits of all three winners, only Wilson made noise, ranking fourth, and that included no credit for the bunker shot he jarred on the 12th hole in the final round. Haas finished 18th in strokes gained-putting in 2010; Vegas checked in at 20th a year later.
Returning to the theme of the week -- converting on birdie opportunities -- it then comes as no surprise that, in par breakers, Haas ranked second, Vegas first and Wilson fourth during their victories.
No one carded higher than a 67 on PGA West's Nicklaus Private, which ranked as the easiest track on TOUR in 2010 and 2012. Haas' 68 on La Quinta was the highest of the threesome on that course. And since PGA West's Palmer Private is host, everyone that makes the cut plays it twice. Of those six rounds among the champions, both Vegas and Wilson closed with 69s but the trio averaged 65.67 overall. Haas carded a 64 in his fifth round, while Vegas opened with a 64 in 2011 and Wilson crafted a career-low 62 in his second round.
Here's a quick look at the celebrities who are playing in this week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation:
ANTHONY ANDERSON (Actor) -- Currently starting in the NBC sitcom, "Guys with Kids"
RONDE BARBER (Athlete) -- Played 15 seasons as a defensive back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MICHAEL BOLTON (Musician) -- Has sold more than 53 million albums and singles
ALICE COOPER (Musician) -- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011
CARSON DALY (TV/Radio) -- For the last two years he has been the host of "The Voice"
ERIC DICKERSON (Athlete) -- Holds NFL single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards set in 1984
MARSHALL FAULK (Athlete) -- Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011
DON FELDER (Musician) -- Member of the Eagles and wrote the music for "Hotel California"
GRANT FUHR (Athlete) -- NHL goaltender who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003
JAY FEELY (Athlete) -- Has kicked more than 270 field goals in the NFL
PETER GALLAGHER (Actor) -- Currently appears in a recurring role in "Covert Affairs"
MICHAEL PENA (Actor) -- Has the title role in the upcoming movie, "Chavez"
CRAIG T. NELSON (Actor) -- Currently starts in the TV series, "Parenthood"
ALFONSO RIBEIRO (Actor) -- One of the stars of the TV series, "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"
OZZIE SMITH (Athlete) -- Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002
RON WHITE (Comedian) -- Original member of Blue Collar Comedy
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- When Bo Van Pelt was a student at Oklahoma State, he hit the gym with regularity. Mike Holder, who led the Cowboys to nine NCAA titles, wouldn't have it any other way.
Once he graduated, though, and played his way onto the PGA TOUR, Van Pelt admits he wasn't always so diligent. That is, until about three years ago, when the Indiana native, who is now 37, realized he'd been pretty darn lucky not to have had any serious physical problems interrupt his career.
"I was smart enough to realize that as you get older if you just keep doing the same stuff it's probably just going to regress," Van Pelt said. "So I got together with a group of guys that train some guys out here and just kind of made a plan and I've stuck to it and my results have been better."
Better, indeed. Van Pelt picked up his first PGA TOUR title in 2009 and he has earned $8.7 million in the last three years. The veteran had a career-high top-10 finishes in 2013, as well.
The key for Van Pelt has been accountability -- just like he had with Holder. If his trainers say he's going to do a 25-minute warm up before he plays, Van Pelt is there. Ditto for the workout after a round. Another trainer when he's back in Tulsa makes sure there is no back-sliding too.
"He's on me like, hey, are you home yet? I'm going to see you tomorrow," Van Pelt said, grinning. "If I have that appointment, I'm not going to slip out on it. We're just setting up the framework for me to be accountable to them."
Van Pelt is one of several players on TOUR who represents Humana, which sponsors this week's PGA TOUR event in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. He was joined at a press conference Wednesday by the company's newest ambassador, Gary Player, and it was clear Van Pelt was in awe of the 77-year-old.
"I always think of the good old line about Mickey Mantle (that) if he'd have known he was going to live that long he would have taken better care of his body and I think Gary Player is the exact opposite of that," Van Pelt said. "He's done everything he could do to make sure he lived as healthy as he could for as long as he could.
"You look at the guy's lifestyle -- he's probably more active than most 30-year-olds in this country. it's a credit to him and the commitment he made a long time ago. he's reaping the benefits and it's an inspiration to all of us."
Van Pelt was among the players whose steps were calculated during last year's Humana Challenge. He says the 12,000 he took that week might have calculated into too many shots -- "but I made the cut so I was probably walking over to help my amateur partner some," he said with a wry smile. He's hoping for more birdies in the 2013 event.
All the players will be measured this week and their steps, combined with calories burned, shown in real-time on the Golf Channel and on HumanaChallenge.com. Van Pelt thinks it's a great way to demonstrate that you don't necessarily have to pump iron to reap the benefit of exercise.
"I think everybody, even me, you get intimidated, I don't want to go in the gym," Van Pelt said. "And you can do like Gary said and just get up and walk some. You'd be amazed just do that a little bit day after day what that can lead to."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Tuesday morning Gary Player did more than 1,000 sit-ups. Some weight training, too.
After all, fitness was a priority for the 77-year-old South African long before it became popular. Player learned early on as he traveled around the world to ply his trade how important staying healthy was.
"I've been into the villages of Africa, India, and around the world and have met very prominent people, people that have existed on longevity," Player said. "... And I've always asked them the secret. And the conclusion I've came to was, the less you eat, the longer you live.
"Everybody eats like it's their last supper. You got to make sure that you don't overeat and under-exercise."
Player appeared at a press conference on Wednesday to announce initiatives his newest sponsor Humana is undertaking this week at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. One is the Walkit Challenge that encourages fans to count their steps with pedometers at this event as well as at other TOUR stops.
A similar program called the Walkit Pro tracks the number of steps the players take, as well as the calories burned. The information will be available in real-time on the leaderboard, three LED InfoTowers and on the Golf Channel and HumanaChallenge.com.
"You don't have to go to the gym and work out like we do," Player explained. " ... So you've got to walk, you just got to eat less, cut out all the stuff you're eating, don't make it a habit. Don't eat all these fatty foods, eat more vegetables and more fruit and salad. And make sure you walk.
"Get off your butt and do some walking and I'll guarantee you you'll lose 30 pounds in one year."
Player speaks with the passion of a preacher at the pulpit when he discusses physical fitness. That's what he was so pleased to partner with Humana and so proud of the way this tournament allows the health insurance provider to showcase ways to wellness.
"What is the most cherished thing you have in your life? It's your life," Player said. "And to me this is the most, single most important tournament on the TOUR. ...
"The greatest country in the world, the United States, 30 percent of the youth are obese. 55 percent of the grownups are obese. Obesity is doing more harm than the wars of the world, because so many people, through obesity related diseases, are dying by the millions. Not by the thousands, by the millions. And so a tournament like this helps to build awareness."
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
Well, Tim Clark's performance at the Sony Open in Hawaii quieted the critics that disagreed with my advice that it was OK if you missed Dustin Johnson at Kapalua. Clark matched Russell Henley's 63 in the final round and still lost by three.
So, does this mean that those who invested elsewhere at Waialae should lean on Clark at this week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation? Perhaps.
His game is exactly where it needs to be and his track record at PGA West speaks for itself -- two runner-up finishes and a tie for fifth in four starts. However, he hasn't teed it up here since it was a 90-hole competition in 2010. Moreover, I still like him later, perhaps at Pebble Beach, Colonial or Sedgefield. Nevertheless, if you dig the hot hand, you're all set. Plug him in.
I'm going to burn Robert Garrigus. En route to a last year's tie for second --- his first of five worldwide in 2012 -- he led the field with 30 birdies and tacked on an eagle. He opened with a sloppy 73 on the Palmer Private before rebounding with a 64 at La Quinta and an absolutely incredible 61 at Nicklaus Private to tie the course record.
The Humana Challenge ranks third among tournaments in Garrigus' all-time earnings behind the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic (where he secured his only PGA TOUR victory) and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (which has already concluded and where he didn't play anyway). Next is the FedEx St. Jude Classic, where he lost in a playoff in 2010, but it was his only top 40 in five appearances; and then the RBC Canadian Open, where he tied for second last year at Hamilton Golf & Country Club. However, because Canada's national open is migratory -- Glen Abbey Golf Club hosts this season -- case closed.
Of the others in the field, Phil Mickelson, John Senden, Jesper Parnevik and Mike Weir co-lead with four top 10s apiece at the Humana Challenge. I've always advised saving Mickelson for either the Masters or the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Senden is a reasonable alternative coming off a tie for 26th at Waialae, but I'd still revert to Garrigus for the aforementioned reasons. Meanwhile, Weir and Parnevik haven't pinged our radar for some time.
Brandt Snedeker sits atop my Power Rankings, but shootouts can be dangerous. I'll wait for a week when his putter matters more than compiling birdie opportunities.
I'm not a believer in taking risks in one-and-dones, but if you are, consider making a run at Jeff Overton. Despite his forgettable record at PGA West, he's trending toward a special season, and he's already among the best never to have won a PGA TOUR event.
Last week: Tim Clark; 2nd place; $604,800.00
Overall Record: 2-for-2
Top 5s: 1
Top 10s: 2
Top 25s: 2
Missed Cuts: 0