The 2nd PGA tournament of 2014 takes place in California this week where the weather looks like continuing on from some wonderful sunshine in Hawaii.
Formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, the Humana Challenge is played over 3 courses – The PGA West (Palmer’s course), La Qunita Country Club and PGA West (Nicklaus’ course).
Only La Quinta is over 7,000 yards and barely at that, so it gives the chance for every sorts of player to flex their arms. There are plenty of par 5s however, so the advantage will come for bigger hitters in a way, because scoring low is going to be absolutely everything to do well.
You can expect the winner to be well over –20 come Sunday and with expansive fairways and relatively large greens on all 3 courses, it is one of the easier tournaments of the year.
You are going to need to look at someone who loves to attack; one of those players who can frustrate you when you want him to just consolidate, rather than attack the pin, one of those players who goes on a birdie streak like a madman. There are plenty of those sorts of golfers in this weeks field, it is just a matter of working out who could be the best option.
Keegan Bradley (20/1 StanJames)
This may seem like an obvious pick, but lets be honest, it is. When you think of this ‘madman’ who can go on ridiculous streaks, you think of Keegan Bradley. He is a fiery performer who thrives on his own confidence and once he gets going, he is incredibly difficult to stop – 6th in scoring average and 6th going for the green last season.
We have had some tough times with Keegan in the past, coming so close to decent payouts before he lets us down with a stupid decision, but this is a new year and we have every faith that the charismatic American has all the tools to potentially destroy these courses.
He is a long hitter, averaging over 300 yards last year and loves every par 5 he plays – 2nd for par 5 birdie or better in 2013. There can be questions over the short stick at times, but again it all seems to be about confidence, when he holes one or two, he is irresistible with every club in the bag.
He has only played at this tournament once, back in 2011, when he finished T7, which shows he had some sort of liking for the layout of 3 different courses.
In all honesty, we snapped at 20s because it is a fair price on a player of his quality and we do believe this is finally the time for Keegan to walk downthe18th victorious.
Ryan Palmer (35/1 StanJames)
Another player who loves getting on a roll is Ryan Palmer. His ability to score low will stand him in great stead this week – 25th for scoring average in 2013 and 35th in 2014.
He has been inside the top 26 for driving distance every year since 2009, but what often lets him down is his erratic accuracy off the tee. However, with wide enough fairways, Palmer will be able to unleash his power and that is always a dangerous proposition.
He is never afraid of attacking pins and making bold shot selections – 25th proximity to the hole and 10th going for the green in 2013. In a way he is like Bradley, in that his confidence has to be bubbling if he is to perform with the putter, but his form last week should give him that extra edge he needs.
He played very well on the opening day, carding a 65, before a 70 on the Friday cost him dearly. The 67 and 68 that followed were impressive displays and if he had reduced his score on the 2nd day it could have been a different story rather than his eventual T8 finish.
He will also be coming into a tournament he has enjoyed in the past. 3 top 10s, including a T4 in 2011 proves he has the ability here; it is just whether he decides to turn it on or not. We have the faith.
Gary Woodland (40/1 various)
At the back end of last year Gary Woodland impressed us hugely with some quite marvellous displays. He won the Reno Tahoe open, assaulting the course with unerring quality, before showing the world his attacking ability at the Barclays where he finished T2 after a disappointing final day.
Decisions to continuously attack were both lauded and disparaged, but he certainly caught our eye. Therefore, when we looked at this tournament, instantly we thought of Woodland and how exciting it would be to see him in full flow this week.
We then remembered he finished 2nd in 2011, losing in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas, scoring a remarkable –27. (All be it over 5 days!) His form coming into this season didn’t stop either and a T13 two weeks ago and another playoff defeat to Ryan Moore at the CIMB Classic a few weeks ago, prove how fluidly he is hitting the ball at the moment.
He is gigantic off the tee – 4th in distance last year, whilst his knack for attacking greens is evident every time he plays as well as nouse with the putter – 36th GIR, 24th going for the geen and 56th total putting last season.
This could be an interesting one for sure.
Nicolas Colsaerts (80/1 various)
What an incredibly disappointing year Nicolas Colsaerts had in 2013. It was so disheartening to see such a talent struggle throughout the year as he made the switch from Europe to the U.S and we were not alone in thinking it was going to be a big year for the Belgian.
So, now 2014 is a new chapter and a fresh challenge for Colsaerts, who will hopefully look back at 2013 as a starter year and relish the courses that should suit him down to the ground Stateside.
He is a bomber off the – 3rd in distance last year and can go on incredible streaks when his game is on song. He showed the world at the Ryder Cup how remarkable his temperament and scoring ability can be and this week we just felt a big statement could be made.
He will be able to completely loosen his arms and attack everything and anything the courses throw at him and being inside the top 60 in going for the green and proximity to the hole proves his capabilities.
If his putter decides to follow suit with his woods and irons, then he could be a surprise package come Sunday.
Kevin Chappell (75/1 StanJames)
Kevin Chappell will be making his first appearance for quite a while this week and we certainly feel he could give a good account of himself, because the bookies often forget about someone with his sort of quality.
He is another fiery individual who is a solid tee to green player and someone who doesn’t mind attacking greens – 6th proximity to the hole this year and 35th last year.
He finished T8 at this tournament in 2013 and has the ability to perform well on all 3 courses without the casting shadows of horrendous tree-lined fairways.
There were too many missed cuts for Chappell last year and when you think of his performance the memorial, you realise this is a real talent.
We do admit this is a big hit, or a complete miss!