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January 15 2013

10:25 AM

Turf Talk: Humana Challenge

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

Though frost delays bring no joy for anyone, they are generally accepted as part of desert golf -- as much a part of the winter landscape as the cactus and crisp afternoon air.

There does come a point of absurdity, though, and PGA West’s Dean Miller suggests this winter has been flirting with it. As the iconic resort gets ready for this week’s Humana Challenge, its director of agronomy estimates 25 of the past 30 days have been hit with frost delays.

“Usually we get a few stretches of three or four days where we see frost,” Miller said. “This one just kind of hit and stayed with us the whole time.”

And not just minor inconveniences, either. Some days, tee times have been delayed by as much as three hours. Imagine the backlog if the Humana’s 156 entrants and their amateur partners are left cooling their jets for that long.

And did we mention that most of California was hit with record lows last weekend?

“Obviously, you wish for sunnier days,” said Miller, who has been applying extra fertilizer to the Palmer Private and Nicklaus Private courses in hopes of kick-starting an overseeding of ryegrass that has been slow to grow in. La Quinta Country Club is the third course in this week’s pro-am rotation.

Miller acknowledges that the rough won’t be as thick as most years, and the courses may look a little browner to the TV viewer.

Even so, it’s a better alternative than last year’s Saturday high winds, when hospitality tents were knocked down and a huge scoreboard blown into a lake. The pro-am was called after 36 holes, halting former president Bill Clinton’s round with Greg Norman after nine holes, and pros faced a long Sunday.

“We had some real strong gusts that caught everyone off-guard,” Miller recalled. “We really weren’t prepared for that.”

Forecasts for the rest of the week call for highs in the low to mid-70s, with lows dipping down into the mid-40s. With any luck, that’ll keep the frost away for the Humana’s duration.

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