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Humana Golf Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 01/17/2012

The PGA Tour leaves the island of Hawaii and heads to the mainland this week for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Yes, that is the full name of this tournament, formally known plain and simple as the Bob Hope Classic. The legendary entertainer had his name added to this event back in 1965 and it remained there until last year. Golf purists are sickened with the name change but there was no sponsor for three years which nearly made the event fold so there really was no choice.

Not only is the name changed but there are numerous changes to the tournament itself. What used to be a five-day event has been scaled back to the customary four days and the Pro-Am portion of it has been scaled back to just three days with Sunday being played by professionals only. Because of the reduced schedule, four courses were no longer needed and the Arnold Palmer Classic Course at SilverRock Golf Club got the ax. Palmer Private at PGA West, Nicklaus Private at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club remain.

If you like birdies, you have come to the right place. This is where Joe Durant’s -36 in 2001, the lowest score in PGA Tour history and David Duval’s 59 in 1999, took place. Since this is a Pro-Am event, patience is key as the rounds are not quick and there are tons of distractions along the way. Players who hit the ball straight, hit a lot of greens and putt well have the best chances here. Scores will not be as low as usual because the event has been reduced by a day but the weather will make scoring plentiful.

This used to be one of the biggest stops on tour but it slowly started going downhill as the big name players were not coming. Part of the reason was the European Tour hosted the Abu Dhabi Championship which coincided with the Hope and even now that they don't fall on the same weekend, it is a still low profile field. Three big names will be making their 2012 debuts as Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson will be teeing it up this week which is good news for this tournament as they are all big draws.

The defending champion is Jhonattan Vegas (+5,000), who won in a playoff over Bill Haas and Gary Woodland. The trio all posted a -27 and Vegas was one of 10 players to shoot in the 60's all five rounds. The rookie followed that up with a T3 at the Farmers but he hit a wall after that, missing the cut in seven of his next 12 events and he did not post another top ten until September.

Phil Mickelson (+1,500) opens the season here for the first time four years and it will be interesting to see how he does. He won here in 2002 and 2004 and has not missed the cut in his last seven starts but he may show some signs of early season rust as he has not played in a tournament since November. He is the co-favorite with Matt Kuchar but comes in ranked only 15th in the world.

How can you not like Bill Haas (+2,000) at this price? He lost in the playoff last year and it was no fluke as he won this event in 2010 with a -30, one shot clear of Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark and Bubba Watson. He has five top 25 finishes in this event in seven career starts so he will once again be in the hunt. He finished 20th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to open the season.

After a very solid, albeit winless, 2011 season, Charles Howell III (+2,500) got this year off to a great start with a T2 last week at the Sony. Many are predicting a breakout year and this could be the start following a T13 and a T26 the last two years at the Hope. While he has not won since 2007, he had six top tens in 2010 and followed that up with seven top tens last year.

Anthony Kim (+3,000) is making his season debut and being from La Quinta, this is the perfect spot to begin his 2012 season after a disappointing year a season ago. He played very well overseas though at the end of 2011 so he could be ready for his breakout. Kim has made two starts here, most recent coming in 2008 where he finished T3, three shots behind winner D.J. Trahan.

Kevin Na (+4,000) will forever be known for his 16 on the par four ninth in the Valero Texas Open last year but he can really play. He won the Justin Timberlake tournament last year which got him into the Hyundai Tournament of Champions where he finished T12. He missed the cut last week at the Sony but he had a T5 and a T8 the last two years at the Hope so a bounce back is expected.

Harrison Frazer (+5,000) is getting a great price with his recent work. Frazier won the FedEx St. Jude Classic last year and he made the cut in all three Majors he played in and the former got him the invite to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions where he finished T5. He followed that up with a T2 last week at Waialae and while it may be too much to ask to make it three strong weeks, he has three career top tens here.

For a longshot this week, we will take a chance on Kyle Stanley (+6,000). Stanley is coming off a good week with a T23 at Waialae thanks to hitting a lot of green and bombing it off the tee. He had a pretty solid rookie season as he had four top tens with all four of those coming in his last eight events. That earned him a trip to the playoffs where he made it all the way to the BMW Championship.

Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the Humana Challenge

Bill Haas (+2,000)

Charles Howell III (+2,500)

Anthony Kim (+3,000)

Kevin Na (+4,000)

Harrison Frazer (+5,000)

Kyle Stanley (+6,000)

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