Humana Challenge. Just doesn’t have much ring to it. While it’s certainly understandable that the organizers wanted to inject some new life (and funding) into this event, for many it will always be the Bob Hope Classic. In the years since his passing this tournament has struggled to find it’s footing, so it made sense on a lot of levels to bring Bill Clinton into the fold a few years ago and add some cache to the event. Clinton actually played the event as a SITTING PRESIDENT in 1995 along with Gerald Ford and George Bush version 1.0. (Holy Secret Service nightmare!)
After altering the format from five rounds to four a few years ago (and euthanizing George Lopez in the process), the Tour is FINALLY abandoning the celebrity format (if you could even call them that). It was one thing when you had legends like Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Ike Eisenhower teeing it up on a yearly basis, but these days one annual celebrity pro-am is more than enough (no thanks on the six hour rounds and cloying television coverage). However, instead of doing away with the Pro-Am format altogether, Finchy opted to keep the corporate money flowing and allow wealthy white dudes to still buy their way in. We see you working, Boss Man!
It’s really not necessary to do a deep-dive on the courses this week; they’re hilarious resort courses and are the equivalent of setting up a sporting clay’s course in an Audubon sanctuary (which, ironically, these tracks are). Picture the exact opposite of The Open Championship rota and that’s what the Coachella Valley offers – a variety of perfectly manicured tracks in the birthplace of target golf and water-management lunacy. This year’s trio features two PGA West courses (Palmer Private and Nicklaus Private) and La Quinta Country Club. All three courses are short, have nothing resembling rough, and perfect greens. Birdie bonanza.
Guarantees: perfect weather; a smattering of cougars in the gallery; some uber-bro’s who made the trip over from L.A.; Golf Channel force-feeding health tips down viewer’s throats (as a condition of the Humana sponsorship) and talking incessantly about how fit Bill Clinton looks. Overall, this is an event caught between a glorious past and a cloudy future. If the tour ever rigs an event, this might be the one.
- Brace yourself: Johnny Miller shot a final round 63 to win this event in ’76. He’ll mention it at a time that is completely unnecessary.
- Corey Pavin won this event twice, and as was the case at the Hawaiian Open, attempted to rename it the “Rat Family Open.” Come to think of it, Pavin won the same event twice five different times (Honolulu, Los Angeles, Houston, Colonial, and Milwaukee (RIP)). Pretty remarkable. And he lost Hartford in a playoff twice. Shit, he went to a playoff nine times in his career, going 5-4 with all four losses coming at the hands of an opponent’s birdie. Hat’s off to Corey Pavin (seriously).
- Arnold Palmer won this event five times.
- David Duval shot a final round 59 in 1999 to win by one stroke. Take a minute or two today to appreciate that feat. Who’d he beat? The ‘Volcano,’ Steve Pate!
- Finally, it’s great to see former champ Peter Jacobsen playing this week. He’ll bring some good mojo.
Brief this week. Not keen on betting on these events with multiple courses, as they’re just too many variables, but here are 3 guys that stuck out to me:
Justin Thomas (60/1) – T6 last week at the Sony, and could feast on these easy tracks.
Tony Finau (85/1) – Bomber that I’ve been waiting to start betting on. Web.com Tour success could pay off in a birdie fest.
Scott Langley (170/1) – I’ve got a Langley itch that needs scratched. He’s going to get bet on short courses all year long.
(Tracker: +10 units in 2015)
- I find it curious there are six courses at PGA West and they don’t even play the tourney on the best one. Here’s why. Would be interesting to see a return to the Stadium course one of these years. I say you replace the Nicklaus Private course with this one and keep Palmer Private and LaQuinta so the players get totally mind-fucked the one round they play on Stadium. Guys are shooting 63’s over at the other two and 73’s at Stadium.
- FYI on our previews: A lot of the stuff that applies to multiple years (course, vibe, etc.), you’re going to see some stuff that we’ve just rolled forward from last year’s preview (mostly Tron Carter’s work). Is this poor journalism? Absolutely. That’s why we aren’t actually journalists. Of course the picks section, and recent events will always be updated, but previews are hard to do, and there is no point in trying to recreate some of the stuff that we’ve already covered.
Check in with the NLU Gang all week on twitter whilst we do our usual hood-rat act: @NoLayingUp.