The Humana Challenge, the third event of the 2013 PGA Tour season and the first in mainland America, takes place this week.
The pro-am tournament is contested over three Californian courses: La Quinta Country Club, the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West and the Palmer Private Course at PGA West.
The event has attracted a number of big names, including 2012 US Open champion Webb Simpson, last season’s FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker and Phil Mickelson.
With none of the three golf courses playing longer than 7,100 yards, accuracy, positioning and strong wedge play are the secrets to success in this tournament.
Mark Wilson, one of the tour’s shortest hitters, proved that point last year, and the start-of-season expert will be confident of a repeat performance this time around.
Mickelson, at 16/1 with Ladbrokes, could be a bit rusty, but I’ve got a feeling he’ll hit the ground running this season. The former world number two has a very good record in California, and if his distance control with the wedges is good I’d expect him to contend this week.
Zach Johnson, at 25/1 with Ladbrokes, hasn’t made the best start to the season, but his game is well suited to these three courses. He is one of the best wedge players in the business, and he finished last season sixth in the PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained – Putting rankings. He also has a decent record at the Humana Challenge, finishing inside the top ten last year.
Chris Kirk, at 40/1 with Ladbrokes, has put in a string of impressive performances over the past few months, including a fourth place at the CIMB Classic and a tie for fifth in Hawaii last week. Kirk makes a lot of birdies, has a decent short iron game and could record his first PGA Tour victory if he finds his range on the greens.
Robert Karlsson, at 66/1 with Ladbrokes, is someone I expect to feature prominently on leaderboards this season. He suffered a well-documented case of the yips before the Open last year, but strolled through PGA Tour Q-School at the end of the season to signify his return to form. He is a class act and former European Tour Order of Merit winner, so look out for him to make a fast start to 2013.
David Hearn, at 125/1 with Ladbrokes, is a good outside bet this week. The Canadian started well last week before tailing away, but a tie for 31st represents a solid start to the season. He posted seven top-25 finishes last season and ranked 11th on approaches from 125 yards and less.
Humana Challenge advised bets:
2pts each way on Phil Mickelson at 16/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Zach Johnson at 25/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Chris Kirk at 40/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Robert Karlsson at 66/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on David Hearn at 125/1 with Ladbrokes