The PGA Tour goliath rolls on again this week. Having left Hawaii behind the next stop is La Quinta, California and the Palmer Private course at PGA West for the Humana Open.
As is the norm at this early stage in the season the biggest stars on tour are picking and choosing their events with one eye already on April and the Masters but the Humana Open boasts a genuinely impressive field.
Defending champion Patrick Reed is back at the course where he carded three consecutive rounds of 63 last year. He is joined by players such as FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel, the enigmatic Jason Duffner and Mr. Consistent, Matt Kuchar. Perhaps the biggest draw of the week though, is California-born Phil Mickelson. The big lefty has said he will play fewer tournaments than ever this year so fans will be delighted to see him compete this week.
Heading the market going into this week is Reed. His two-stroke victory over Ryan Palmer was then his second victory on the PGA tour. His game has since gone from strength-to-strength and he has already won this season. At just 24, Reed is perhaps best known for some of his more uncouth moments but behind the bluster is a serious talent who is completely capable of defending his title at PGA West. Sky Bet have Reed at 12/1 and are paying five each-way places.
The Palmer Private course at PGA West is one at which the pros can really have a field day with their scoring. In the past three years the average winning score was -26. To that end, we should be on the lookout for somebody who is capable of piecing together a seriously solid round for our first round leader pick. Last year Reed’s 63 was unbeaten but just one shot off was Palmer and he is our pick to side with. Palmer was fairly hit-and-miss in Hawaii but he likes this course and is likely to start strongly.
One player who comes into the Humana Open on the back of some fine form is Russell Know. The Scot finished in tied 13th, the same position that he finished the 2014 Humana Open. Were it not for a slightly disappointing second round 70, Knox could well have recorded a top-10 finish last year and he is looking increasingly comfortable on the PGA Tour. We fancy that he will have another good week and squeeze into the top 10. If you do too, Bet365 are offering the best odds at 11/2.
So, what of Big Phil? He has twice won this tournament and is regarded as one of the very best players on Californian courses. He recently announced that he will not be playing either the AT&T at Pebble Beach or the Northern Trust at Riviera, both two of his favourite events, leading some to wonder why he is playing in La Quinta. Could it be that he really fancies his chances? At this stage of his career, Mickleson has earned the right to play at whatever tournaments he chooses and is most likely planning his season around the Majors. It would be a change in recent fortunes for Phil to win this week so begrudgingly he has to be left alone.
With the PGA Tour returning to the mainland of the USA for another season on a 6,950 yard par 72, which is likely to yield some very low scores, the Humana is always an exciting week. Hopefully the players mentioned above will perform and turn it into a profitable week as well.