LA QUINTA, Calif. – Patrick Reed didn’t work on his golf game last week.
“(I) worked on my forehead tan. Seemed like that got more attention than the actual golf game,” Reed joked in his pre-tournament press conference at this week’s Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
A picture of his pale forehead contrasted with his tan face made the rounds on social media during the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He won that event by beating Jimmy Walker in a playoff, then spent a week relaxing at Kapalua before defending the Humana title he won in 2014.
He estimated he played 13 holes last week with wife Justine at Kapalua. On Thursday, he picked up right where he left off, opening his defense with a 7-under 65 at La Quinta Country Club. He’s two shots behind leader Michael Putnam.
The Hyundai win was Reed’s fourth in his past 35 starts. That includes a record-setting performance at last year’s Humana, when he opened with three consecutive 63s. Reed is two shots off last year’s pace, but happy with the start.
“My confidence is as high as it could be, and the main thing is just not getting ahead of myself and not really being overconfident where I take too many unnecessary risks,” Reed said. "I feel like I did that really well today.”
Reed is 28 under par for his first five rounds of 2015. He made birdies on La Quinta’s fifth and sixth holes, then rolled off five in a row on Nos. 9-13.
“Any time you feel like you missed a few and shoot 7 under, you’re always going to feel pretty good,” he said.
Michael Putnam captures the early lead at Humana Challenge
HARD WORK PAYS OFF: Michael Putnam’s PGA TOUR career got off to a hot start. Putnam, the 2005 NCAA runner-up, finished fourth in his TOUR debut at the 2005 Travelers Championship. It’s still his best TOUR finish.
He’s off to a good start as he tries to best that mark.
He shot 9-under 63 on PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course to take the first-round lead at the Humana Challenge. He made par on his first six holes Thursday before making birdie on nine of the last 12.
Holding the first-round lead, especially this week, is of little significance. Three courses – La Quinta Country Club and PGA West’s Palmer Private and Nicklaus Private – are in use, and the winning score will likely fall around 25 under par.
“You have to … mentally throw this one away because you’re not going to play the Nicklaus (again),” Putnam said. “The focus for me is on the Palmer tomorrow and then La Quinta on Saturday. There’s a lot of birdies going to be made in 54 holes by a lot of guys. So I have to make a lot of birdies.”
Putnam, the 2013 Web.com Tour Player of the Year, said having his younger brother, Andrew, on TOUR this year has helped increase his motivation.
“I had the best offseason I’ve ever had as a professional golfer, working the hardest I ever worked, working on my game, working on my body, working on my nutrition,” Michael Putnam said. “It definitely is really pushing me, because I want to beat him pretty bad.”
CAN'T WAIT TO START AGAIN – Phil Mickelson’s 2015 got off to a strong start, matching the positive prognosis he gave during the offseason.
Then he made the turn.
Mickelson shot 3-under 33 on his first nine holes Thursday at La Quinta Country Club. He made birdie on three of his first six holes, but had just one on his final 12 holes, as well as three bogeys. It added up to a 1-under 71 on one of the easiest courses on the PGA TOUR. He is eight shots behind leader Michael Putnam.
“I got off to a pretty good start, and then I just stalled,” Mickelson said. “I’m excited about the year, excited about playing, and even though this is the worst score I’ve had in a long time, I’m excited about getting back out [Friday]. I can’t wait to get started again because I feel like I played a little tight [Thursday], kind of steered it a little bit.
“Hopefully the way I’m playing will show in the score, but [Thursday] it just didn’t.”
Mickelson is a two-time Humana champion (2002, ’04), but has finished outside the top 35 in his past two appearances in the California Desert. Poor starts at La Quinta CC were the culprit each time. Both years he failed to break par there – shooting 72 in 2013 and 74 the prior year – before closing with three consecutive rounds in the 60s at PGA West’s two courses. He’s 29 under par in six rounds at PGA West in his past two Humana appearances.
Mickelson will play PGA West's Nicklaus Private course Friday, followed by the Palmer Private. The Palmer Private will host the final round, as well.
La Quinta Country Club was the fourth-easiest course on TOUR last season.
Shot of the Day
Phil Mickelson's bunker hole out is the Shot of the Day
2012 CHAMP GOES LOW: Leaderboards at the Humana Challenge mistakenly said Mark Wilson made the turn in 8-under 28. That was incorrect, but the 2012 Humana champion still went low, shooting 8-under 64 in the first round to sit in second place. He’s tied with Francesco Molinari, Blake Adams, John Peterson and Scott Pinckney.
Wilson made seven birdies and an eagle against a lone bogey.
“I came in feeling OK, nothing great about the game, but it was ideal [Thursday],” he said. “I made some saves when I needed it and capitalized on my good shots.”
Wilson had just one top-25 in 25 starts last season and finished 183rd in the FedExCup. He already has two top-10s this season after finishing T8 at The McGladrey Classic and T9 at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
The last of Wilson’s five wins on TOUR came at the 2012 Humana Challenge. All five of Wilson’s PGA TOUR wins have come in the first quarter of the year. He missed the cut both his Humana appearances since his victory. This was his low round on TOUR since a 64 in the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2012.
CALL OF THE DAY
Will Haskett calls Michael Putnam's birdie at No. 17 on his way to a 9-under 63 on Thursday during Round 1 at the Humana Challenge.
Live play-by-play coverage of Round 2 streams from 1-7 p.m. ET Friday on PGATOUR.COM.
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
ROUND 1 STATISTICAL LEADERS
Category Leader Statistic Strokes gained: tee-to-green Francesco Molinari 4.453 Driving distance James Hahn 327 Driving accuracy Jason Bohn, John Peterson 100.00 percent Greens in regulation Billy Hurley, Mark Wilson 94.44 percent Strokes gained: putting Blake Adams 4.47 Total birdies Blake Adams, Michael Putnam
LOW ROUND FOR EACH COURSE
Course Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Rd. 3 Palmer Private Francesco Molinari (64) Nicklaus Private Michael Putnam (63) La Quinta Scott Pinckney (64)
ROUND 1 PHOTO GALLERY
Click on the image below to check out the best photos from Thursday at the Humana Challenge.
Michael Putnam has the lead and a favor to ask...