The PGA Tour heads to the desert terrain of the Californian valleys this week. The Humana Challenge pro-am takes centre stage across three courses - La Quinta, Palmer Private and Niclaus Private at PGA West. Expect birdies to be flying with pin positions set up to be amateur-friendly and with little trouble awaiting from the tees.(Follow me on Twitter: @Nicspicks for more insight throughout the week)
Nicspicks' Humana Challenge man to beat: Webb Simpson 14/1
Humana Challenge market #negatives: H. English 20/1, R.Fowler 25/1, R.Palmer 40/1 (underpriced IMO)
Likely to be tipped / backed: R.Palmer 40/1, C Hoffman 66/1, J. Kokrak 80/1, K. Na 80/1
The courses - La Quinta, Palmer Private, Niclaus Private
All three courses play around the 7,000 yard mark to a par of 72.
Key features: Framed by Santa Rosa mountains. Elevated tees in places. Benign conditions. Accessible pins.
Premium on: Pitching and putting. Players aggressive from approaches and / or who excel with the flat stick will come to the fore
Notes: Players (amateurs and pros) will rotate over the three courses before pros finish up at the Palmer Private on Sunday
Humana Challenge shortlist (made the final cut)
Tip #1: Kevin Na 66/80 to 1
Course form: mc-30-5-8; Current form: 8-36-mc-mc-3
Key stats: strokes gained putting - 17th; 1st in putting from 10-15'
Other: Hit a weekend 64-64 to finish T3 at Cordevalle, California. Closed with a 65 in Mayakoba and hit progressive rounds for a -10 (T8) last week to show injury problems are behind him. Resides in Nevada and used to desert terrain. Hot head will enjoy more relaxed atmosphere of a pro-am.
Tip #2: Jason Kokrak 80/1
Course form: 8-mc Current form: 20-10-mc-12
Key stats: Scoring av. 3rd; Par 4 performance - 14th
Other: Is a combined -27 under par in 2014 (season) with 10/14 rounds in the sixties. Impressed while in contention in Houston last year. 6/8 rounds sub 70 at Humana.
Tip #3: John Peterson 80/1
Course form: n/a Current form: 20-mc-mc-21
Key stats: 1st in GIR%, ball striking and scoring av. on Webdotcom in 2013
Other: a look at Peterson's stats and finishes on the webdotcom last year combined with his attitude (see below) say he is a real one to watch in 2014.
He said: (on Sunday) "Hit it the best I did all week....shot the worst score....whatever....on to the next one"
Tip #4: Patrick Reed 135/1
Course form: mc-22 Current form: 16-40 #simmering
Key stats: (2013) Strokes gained putting - 34th; Total Birdies - 33rd
Other: Looked to be bubbling under the surface at Kapalua and hit a 3rd round -6. Birdie machine who Monday qualified 6 times in 2012 for main tour, meaning he can go low. Often. Proved as much on our screens in 2013 most notably in his maiden win at Wyndham.
#Nappyfactor Famous for having his wife on the bag. She's now taking a break until the birth of their girl but performances of new dads or dads-to-be have been giving credence to this theory of late.
Tip #5: B. Harman 175/150 to 1
Course form: mc-54 Current form: 32-mc-10-48-7 #simmering
Key stats: 18th in strokes gained putting; 12th in par 4 birdie or better
Other: 4 rounds in the sixties at Sony and rounding into form
Tip #6: J. Leonard 150/1
Course form: 37-54-13 Current form: 32-6-65
Key stats: (2013) 18th in approaches fron 50-125yds; 32nd in SGP
Other: 4 top tens at the Humana (including a win) since 2002
Best of the rest (from shortlist): R. Goosen, A. Baddeley, G. Ogilvy. B. Davis
Finalised staking plan (prices from time of spreadsheet entry)
0.75u ew Kevin Na @ 66/1(PP 1-6)
0.5u ew J. Kokrak @ 80/1 (general)
0.5u ew J. Peterson @ 80/1 (PP 1-6)
0.75u ew Patrick Reed @ 135/1 (Stans)
0.75u ew B. Harman @ 150/1 (PP 1-6)
1.25u J. Leonard top ten finish @ 14/1(Betfred)
#Backtolay pointer: See the Humana Challenge market here
I've dutched five of the above at combined odds of around 25/1 with lay targets of 11.0 (to cover outlay) and 5.0 (to green up) if things go well.
Potential Pre tournament Steamer: Kevin Na
Long odds eye catchers:
Geoff Ogilvy (280.0); Patrick Reed (130.0); Brian Harman (180.0) - Lay targets 12.0-16.0