Humana Challenge experts' picks

January, 15, 2013

Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, which will be contested on three courses: the PGA West Palmer Course, La Quinta CC and the PGA West Nicklaus Course in La Quinta, Calif.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Pat Perez

He hasn't missed a cut here since 2004. (He didn't play the event in 2007 and 2008). Last year, Perez dropped a Sunday-best 63, so he'll have great vibes coming back in 2013.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Brandt Snedeker

At the Humana Challenge, the 2012 FedEx Cup champion has two top-10s in his past three starts. We know what he can do with his putter at a birdiefest like Humana. Last year, he ranked first in strokes gained-putting and second in total putting.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Bill Haas
This is his 10th straight year playing what used to be the Hope, and he has a win and a tie for second in the past three years.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Ben Crane
You need to go low to win the Humana Challenge (the average winning score the past five years has been 28 under), and Crane ranked 12th on the PGA Tour in birdie average in 2012. A T-8 here last year doesn't hurt his chances, either.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Phil Mickelson

Last year was the first time in four years Mickelson had played this event. He loves the pro-am format now and, playing on a course with very little rough, expect Lefty to be in contention come the weekend.

Farrell Evans: Matt Kuchar

The 2012 Players champion notched two top-10s in Hawaii. But top-10s are easy pickings for him. It's one of the surest bets in golf.

Bob Harig: Russell Henley
It's a big ask for Henley to win his first PGA Tour event in his first start as a member, then fly from Hawaii to Palm Springs and do it again. But he's hot, having led the field in birdies and one-putts at the Sony Open.

Kevin Maguire: Jeff Overton

Apparently healthy and ready to return to his Ryder Cup-playing form, the Indiana product posted a pair of 65s last week at the Sony Open, good enough for an eighth-place finish.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Colt Knost

He has played in the event only twice (2009 and 2011), but he's a guy who is very comfortable playing with amateurs. Not known as one of the longer drivers on tour, playing in the desert will help him move it off the tee. Being ranked 46th in strokes gained-putting will help him to a strong finish.

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson

The Hall of Fame left-hander is making his first start of the year at the Humana. This is Phil's favorite time of the year as he hunkers down for Augusta. Come Thursday in the desert, there might be some rust on his game, but by Sunday he should be sharp enough to contend for his third win at the event made famous by Bob Hope.

Bob Harig: Phil Mickelson

Lefty makes his 2013 season debut, and it's always interesting to see how his game is at this point in the season. He usually uses the West Coast to gear up, and it's unlikely he'll be in top form. Last year, he tied for 49th.

Kevin Maguire: Dicky Pride
He hasn't played this event since 1999 and even then he missed the cut in all three appearances. But Pride has a new lease on his golfing life, and, after a T-9 finish last week at the Sony Open, don't be surprised if he cracks the top 10 again.


Michael Collins: Bill Haas

Sounds funny to write, but last year must've felt like a slump to Haas coming off the $12 million FedEx Cup-winning 2011 season. He didn't even make the Tour Championship in 2012, which he won't duplicate in 2013 after starting with this win.

Farrell Evans: Russell Henley

The 23-year-old rookie made 26 birdies last week at the Sony Open. The Humana Challenge will be another birdiefest for him as he tries to win his first two PGA Tour starts as a member.

Bob Harig: Brandt Snedeker

He's at a career high in the world rankings and coming off being in contention two weeks ago at Kapalua. Another early victory puts him on track for another big year.

Kevin Maguire: Harris English
Make it two weeks in a row for University of Georgia standouts as the man who is averaging 5 1/2 birdies per round so far in 2013 will need at least that many to claim his first PGA Tour victory.





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