Free Fallin'

Mike Glasscott
Webb Simpson is back to defend his title at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas

Humana Challenge

Arnold Palmer Private at PGA West (Host Course)

La Quinta, Calif.

Arnold Palmer Private at PGA West

Yards: 6,950

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Bermudagrass (6,260 square feet on average)

Rough: Bermudagrass at 2.5”

Stimpmeter: 11’

Bunkers: 100

Water Hazards: 5

Course Architect: Arnold Palmer (1986)

Purse: $5,700,000

Winner’s Share: $1,026,000

FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner

Defending Champion: Brian Gay held off Charles Howell III and David Lingmerth in a playoff after all three posted 25-under par over the four rounds. It was Gay’s fourth win on TOUR and first since 2009.

Dates:  January 16-19

Format: Thursday through Saturday, two amateurs will be paired with two PGA professionals in foursomes. Each player will play all three courses over those three days. After conclusion of play on Saturday, the field will be cut to the top 70 and ties for championship play on Sunday. Amateurs will not be on the course Sunday. In the past, this used to have a celebrity element (George Lopez, anyone?) but that’s no longer the case as well.

Notes: Gamers, Sunday’s final round will be played on the second-easiest course on TOUR in 2013, Arnold Palmer Private at PGA West.

Jack Nicklaus Private at PGA West

Yards: 6,924

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Bermudagrass (5,660 square feet on average)

Rough: Bermudagrass at 1”

Stimpmeter: 10’

Bunkers: 66

Water Hazards: 4

Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus (1986)

Notes: In the last five seasons the Nicklaus course has ranked in the top three easiest courses on TOUR. Last year, it played FOUR shots under par. Gamers, you need to find a line up where you can have players on this course as much as possible.

La Quinta Country Club

Yards: 7,060

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Bermudagrass (5,000 square feet on average)

Rough: Bermudagrass at 1”

Stimpmeter: 10.5”

Bunkers: 102

Water Hazards: 5

Course Architect: Lawrence Hughes (1959)

Notes: La Quinta, historically, is the toughest of the three courses but that is all relative. La Quinta historically ranks inside the top 10 easiest courses on TOUR as well. The order of hardest-to-easiest is: La Quinta-Palmer-Nicklaus. Remember that when fixing your lineups!

Recent History Lessons

The Stars and Stripes, in a Ryder Cup year, have started strongly again as they have claimed the first eight titles of 2013-14’s wraparound schedule. The list of winners has been impressive as well as Jimmy Walker has won twice and is joined by Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Harris English and Zach Johnson. Simpson and English are both in the field this week and will be the favorites.

After racking up 12 first-time winners in 2013, only Jimmy Walker has broken his maiden in the first seven events of 2013-14. Don’t worry; there are still 37 more events to go!

The Young Guns are led by Johnson, 29, who has more wins than anyone under 30 on TOUR, Simpson, 28, Kirk, 28 and English 24. The Prime Timers have two wins from Jimmy Walker, 34, plus Ryan Moore, 30, and Zach Johnson, 37, waving their flag. The Old Folks, the 40-and-over crew, are waiting for their first trip to the winner’s circle this season and were close last week at Sony as Jerry Kelly was strong with a solo third finish.

Pay Attention: It’s FREE

The Humana Challenged became a 72-hole event in 2012 but the average winning score around these parts is 25-under. That’s exactly what got Gay, Howell III and Lingmerth into a playoff last year.

The only rookie to win this event in 54 years of action was Jhonattan Vegas in 2011. He held off fellow rookie Gary Woodland in a playoff.

If gamers are excited about Brian Gay this week, which I believe should be the case, remember Johnny Miller is the only player to defend his title in 54 years.

The only multiple winners of this event are Miller, Palmer, Corey Pavin and Phil Mickelson. That’s quite a group to be a part of!

Only nine players of the OWGR top 50 (as of Sunday) are entered this week.

Last year, Brian Gay was the first player in SIX YEARS to win after MAKING the cut at the Sony. The five previous winners were cut at Waialae. Ok.

Only three foreign-born players have won this event since 2000.

Past Champions in the Field

1990: Peter Jacobsen

1996: Mark Brooks

2000: Jesper Parnevik--Sweden

2001: Joe Durant

2003: Mike Weir--Canada

2005: Justin Leonard

2006: Chad Campbell

2007: Charley Hoffman

2008: D.J. Trahan

2009: Pat Perez

2010: Bill Haas

2011: Jhonattan Vegas --Venezuela

2012: Mark Wilson (264)

2013: Brian Gay (263)

Hawaiian Double Duty

These studs are grinding out three consecutive weeks:

Ed. Zach Johnson was left off of this list because the writer is an idiot 

Harris English (T11; 4th)

Brian Gay (T13; T32)

Ken Duke (T16; T72)

Sang-Moon Bae (T21; T32)

Scott Brown (T24; T64)

Boo Weekley (26th; T29)

Russell Henley (27th; T51)

D.A. Points (T28; T51)

Derek Ernst (30th; MC)

Inside the Ropes

The hit and giggle once known as the Bob Hope Celebrity Desert Classic has morphed into the Humana Challenge. The days of celebrities are over as they have been replaced by fitness and healthy living. The great escape in the Coachella Valley is now a three day Pro-Am and a Sunday shootout for pros only. Using three of the easier courses on TOUR, gamers should expect super-low scores, tons of birdies/eagles and the unexpected to happen. Last year, Brian Gay entered the final round SIX shots behind 54-hole leader Scott Stallings but his Sunday 63 got him in the playoff that he eventually won. 63. On Sunday. Nobody is ever out of this event!

With minimal rough and the absence of weather, the players who can keep their balls out of the water and bogeys off their cards will be successful this week.  Course knowledge helps as well but so does an excellent short game evidenced by the recent winners.  As with most Palmer and Nicklaus courses, there is plenty of room to drive the golf ball but Wilson and Gay have proven that driving distance hardly matters around here. As with most Palmer and Nicklaus designs, the shots become more difficult as the greens are approached.  Players who are patient and don’t fire at EVERY pin and don’t challenge every tee shot will be the ones who will be challenging on Sunday. So will the players who don’t mind the Pro-Am format. Watching a couple of chops hack it around while playing for a million or so bucks can be annoying so find players in the proper state of mind!

Last season, these three courses were the three easiest on TOUR. The Nicklaus course played a full, four shots under par. The Palmer course played just over three shots under. La Quinta Country Club played at 2.5 shots to the good. These courses saw extensive winds in 2012 and yet the winning score for 72-holes was 24-under (Mark Wilson). The job this week is to find players who are birdie machines as bogeys are taboo. Brian Gay made TWO last year en route to victory. Scott Stallings made three for the week, all on Sunday, and missed the playoff by a shot. Pars don’t hurt; bogeys do. To put this all in perspective, 20-under was T16 at the conclusion of play on Sunday. That’s insane!

The Chalk

The players that should be on your fantasy rosters and should be making the most noise come the weekend. Yahoo! gamers, each player’s Yahoo! group is in ( ).

Webb Simpson (B): Anytime making a boatload of birdies is on the cards, I tend to look in Simpson’s direction. He’s already shown in the early season that he has no problem getting low as he won in Las Vegas at 24-under and was T3 at Kapalua on 17-under. He leads the TOUR in scoring and is sixth in birdie-or-better conversion percentage. I lost the notation but saw 10% of his rounds last year were bogey-free. The TOUR average was around 3.5%. Simpson’s wife is due in the spring so I won’t be surprised if he tries and bag as much cash as possible before kid No. 3 arrives. #golow

Zach Johnson (B): He’s played this event the last two seasons and has posted 19-under both times so he’s just a couple shots here or there from winning. Those 19-unders have only garnered T23 in 2013 and T8 in 2012. He has the temperament, the wedge and the putter for this layout and his current form is just a shade above decent. I also like the fact that he’s scheduled this event for the third time in a row.

Brandt Snedeker (A): Does this sound familiar? Like Johnson, Snedeker has also finished on 19-under the last two seasons. He was also T10 in 2010 and MC on nine-under in 2011 so this will be the fifth year on the trot for Sneds as he works his game back into shape after another early season injury. After walking four rounds at Kapalua, I bet he enjoyed his rest last week. With his short game, it’s also impossible to count him out this week unless he finds a Segway.

Harris English (C): There’s no reason to hop off this Bulldog train this week. If he would have made anything on Sunday at the Sony, we might be talking about him as they only two-time winner on TOUR this year instead of Jimmy Walker. He fired 16-under as a rookie to T19 and was T65 last year. He’s made the second-most birdies on TOUR this year. That will come in handy this week. Plus his form is quite solid.

Charles Howell III (A): He’s the Winter Mayor of this column as he just keeps churning out top 10s during the coldest months. His worst finish in his last six events is T33. During those six events, he’s racked up four top 10s, including T8 last week at Sony. He’s second on TOUR in scoring average and fourth in birdies made. He’s long off the tee, accurate into the greens and can really putt it. No wonder he was P2 here last year. Charlie Three Sticks is looking for win number III.

Ryan Palmer (C):  With a fourth in 2011 and T6 last year, Palmer has been in the conversation two of the last three years. He’s coming off a very solid T8 at the Sony and he didn’t make anything. He only made three bogeys here last year (one double) and only made six bogeys last week. I also like this is 10th time he’s in this event.

Billy Horschel (B): This will be his fourth tournament in the desert and last year he finally looked more comfortable as he finished T10 at 21-under. In his first two events in the desert, young Horschel opened with 77 each time, eliminating himself from contention. After 72-72 to open last time out at Kapalua, Horschel again rebounded for 68-66 to finish T6 with 23 birdies so he should be ready to make even more birdies this week in the desert on a course he’s seen before!

Keegan Bradley (B):  Gamers welcome Bradley back to the fray for the first time since his solo 10th and T11 in Asia. He did pop back up at Tiger Wood’s tournament in December but looked rusty. Bradley is tabbed by most, including me, to fire in 2014 and to get back into the winner’s circle. His only other appearance in this event was his rookie year of 2011 where he was 23-under in five rounds. He’s a superb driver of the golf ball and eats five pars for breakfast.

Bill Haas (B): The 2010 champ has not finished outside the top 28 since last March at Doral when he’s made the cut. This is a recording. He backed up his win in 2010 with T2 in 2011 but he was T64 in 2012 and MC in 2013. The question for Haas is will his putter get hot enough to keep up with his excellent ball-striking.

Charley Hoffman (C): After winning in his maiden voyage, Hoffman returned to the top 10 last year as he was 21-under. That was his third top 10 in seven starts so #horseforcourse is in play. Hoffman’s last top 10 was solo fourth in another desert, Las Vegas, back in October. I like that he was 11th in birdie average and 12th in the all-around in 2013.

Jeff Overton (C): His excellent beginning to 2013-14 continued to motor on last week in Hawaii as the newlywed finished in the top 10 for the second straight season at the Sony. Overton was in the thick of the action on the back nine before three bogeys coming home knocked him off the podium. Overton has never MC in four attempts in the desert and closed 66-64 last year to finish -18. In six starts this season JO has T7, T9 and a pair of 16s to show for his effort. #hot

Gary Woodland (A): He finished second to Ryan Moore in Malaysia and also participated in the Nedbank Challenge is South Africa so it’s no wonder why he might have ran out of gas Sunday at Kapalua to finish T11. He was 12th on TOUR in 2013 in total birdies and lost here in a playoff to Mr. Vegas in 2011. He’s been under par in 11 of 12 rounds in three trips over the years.

Horses-for-Courses/Form Players/Long Shots

Yahoo! group in ( )

Brian Gay (A): In four of his last five starts he’ been T19 or better and that includes last year’s victory. That means plenty of fancy pants! His other finish in that stretch was T42. He’s now played the weekend in eight straight Humana Challenges. He fired 63 last year on Sunday to force a playoff. #horseforcourse

Brendon de Jonge (B): I’m going to ride the three year trend of whenever birdies are required; de Jonge is usually in the mix. Last week, he only found 12 of them at the Sony. He finished T70 in putts per GIR. There were 70 players in the field. He made a a ton of pars and only eight bogeys so all he needs is the flat stick to cooperate.

Brendon Todd (C): If you’re looking for a top 25 there are worst places to look than Todd. After an awful start on Sunday he finished birdie-birdie-eagle to finish T20. He hasn’t had a finish outside of the top 30 on either TOUR since late April of last year. It’s been quite a run of form from a consistency standpoint. Next stop: Top 10.

John Senden (C): In 12 starts he’s found the top 10 four times including T6 in 2012. He’ll hit most of the greens, if not all of them, but his putter will be the key, as usual, this week. I like the experience angle here.

Robert Garrigus (B): In five starts Garrigus has played the weekend four times and his worst finish is T19. He’s 42-under in his last eight rounds here and that includes a round OVER par! He hasn’t teed it up since October but I have no problem putting a saddle on this guy in later rounds this week. Bomb and gouge will be on display and he has 61 under his belt here from 2012.

Kevin Chappell (C): He closed last year with 62 to almost sneak in the playoff but I like the way he’s trending here. In his second start, he closed 72-70; last year, in start No. 3, he closed 67-62. Somebody tell him that it’s the U.S. Open and we’ll all be happy!

Jason Kokrak (B): His 2013-14 has seen him hit the top 10 twice and claim T20 last week at Sony in four starts. I’m high Kokrak and Chappell if you are looking for big hittin’ ball-strikers this week. Kokrak is looking to follow up on his T8 (-22) here last year.

Brian Stuard (B): Another week last week, another top 10 as he backed up his solo second at Mayakoba with solo sixth in Hawaii. In his last eight rounds he’s posted four rounds of 65. All the places Brian Gay plays well, Brian Stuard plays well. He was T10 (-21) here last year.

Pat Perez (C): The 2009 champ missed the cut by a shot last year but had made four on the trot before 2013. Perez got loosened up last week at Waialae with four rounds in the 60s for T8 while making only three bogeys (one double). He was T16 his previous outing at Mayakoba so he’s moving in the right direction.

Sang-Moon Bae (C): His first two trips to the Coachella Valley have seen Bae fire 17-under in 2012 and 18-under last year. Both years had a round of 64 and Bae proved he can get low as he was the first round leader last week at Waialae with 63, which equaled the lowest round of the week. He can really putt it so I won’t be shocked if he makes the leap into the top 10 this year.

James Hahn (B): He opened with 63 and closed with 62 in his maiden voyage at Humana last year to finish T4. He had three rounds in the 60s last week and a double eagle to boot but only has one top 25 in his last 25 events. If you need high risk for possible high reward I’d look here!

Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week

The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.

Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.


SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.


CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!


WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.


McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek


OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.


HTOC:  Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.


Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.

One-and-Done

SEASON TOTAL: $493,474

Frys.com: Gary Woodland, MC. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about when I’m using GARY WOODLAND again!

SHFC Open: Hideki Matsuyama. Time to break through, son. Matsuyama WD with injury so he was replaced with Nick Watney. He finished T48 for $15,264

CIMB Classic: Let’s try this again: Hideki Matsuyama. There’s no cut. This pleases me. His T25 after 74 on Sunday does not please me. Oh well. Here’s $53,433 into the piggy bank.

WGC-HSBC: Martin Kaymer. There’s no other place I would consider using him and he’s the defending champ on this track. #hangsonfordearlife. Kaymer’s third round 62 dared me to dream but his T8 and $161,667 is a nice deposit.

The McGladrey Classic: David Toms. He’s finished T3 in 2010 and second last year. His recent form suggests he’s playing well and I don’t see another chance to burn him down the road. It was him or CH III. Well, BOTH of my selections finished T27. I should have listened to O…T27 was good for $39,050.

OHL Mayakoba: Brian Gay. When form meets course history…  Well, that was a nice theory but it resulted in T45 and $18,060. I’m glad 2013 is now over.

HTOC: Martin Laird. Since I’m off to a woeful start I see no reason to burn a premium player. Chris Kirk was my second choice but nobody wins in back-to-back starts plus he’s just had another child. Laird is the horse-for-course. The Scot finished T20 in a 30-man field for $87,000.

Sony: Charles Howell III. He plays great in the early part of the season and his record at Waialae has everything BUT a win. If you notice, I saved most of my heavy hitters for the latter part of 2013 last year and that strategy worked out. Hey, a top 10 and $119,000! Feels like a winner!

Humana: Webb Simpson has been on fire to get 2013-14 started and going low has never been a problem. It’s time to start firing at ‘em.

GolfChannel.com Fantasy Golf

Humana Challenge – Event I

Glass ($768,000; Rank: 15,703)

Group 1: Webb Simpson

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Jeff Overton

Group 4: Spencer Levin

Rob Bolton ($822,750; Rank: 13,451)

Group 1: Webb Simpson

Group 2: Gary Woodland

Group 3: Jason Kokrak

Group 4: Hudson Swafford

Ryan O’ Sullivan ($747,083; Rank: 16,364)

Group 1: Webb Simpson

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Jason Kokrak

Group 4: Spencer Levin

Ned Brown ($822,750; Rank: 13,397)

Group 1: Brandt Snedeker

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Brian Stuard

Group 4: Robert Allenby

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – Event II

Glass ($768,000; Rank: 15,703)

Group 1: Rory McIlroy

Group 2: Matteo Manassero

Group 3: Rafael Jacquelin

Group 4: Jorge Campillo

Rob Bolton ($822,750; Rank: 13,451)

Group 1: Sergio Garcia

Group 2: Joost Luiten

Group 3: Darren Clarke

Group 4: Robert Karlsson

Ryan O’ Sullivan ($747,083; Rank: 16,364)

Group 1: Rory McIlroy

Group 2: Matteo Manassero

Group 3: Rafael Jacquelin

Group 4: Alvaro Quiros

Ned Brown ($822,750; Rank: 13,397)

Group 1: Rory McIlroy

Group 2: Jamie Donaldson

Group 3: Padraig Harrington

Group 4: Robert Karlsson

Ned said, “…

Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf.  He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years.  Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. 

Group A

Charles Howell III- Last week's T8 at the Sony Open makes it now four top 10 results in his last five official PGA Tour events. His record at the Humana is solid with two top 10s in eight starts, including a P2 last year.

Brandt Snedeker-- Going into the Tournament of Champions I thought that Snedeker would be challenged by the hilly terrain and would have a tough time. Instead he handled it well and I thought he played great considering how long he has had to rest his injured left leg in the off season. His record at the Humana is solid with a pair of top 10s (T10 in '10, T8 in '12) in his last four starts.

SUPER SUBS

Brian Gay, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland

Group B

Zach Johnson-- He is one of the hottest players on the TOUR right now with a championship at the HTOC and a T8 at the Sony Open. Johnson has one top 10 (T8 in '12) in three career starts at the Humana.

Webb Simpson-- Simpson's great play from the fall has carried over into 2014 with T3 at the HTOC. His record at the Humana is good with made cuts in all four starts and his best finish here came in '09 when he tied for fifth place.

Billy Horschel-- He played well in the off-season events and I was impressed how well he played at the HTOC where tied for sixth place. He missed the cut his first two starts at the Humana, but he seemed to solve the courses last year when he tied for 10th place.

Brian Stuard-- His hot play from the fall continued into the 2014 when last week he was the 36-hole leader and ended up in sixth place. His first Humana was last year and he played well to a T10 finish.

SUPER SUBS

Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Robert Garrigus, Martin Laird

Group C

Harris English-- Another player that was hot in the fall and has played well in the new year with a T11 at the TOC and he led at the Sony Open in the final round. He has made the cut in both of his starts at the Humana, but he really is about playing the current hot hand.

Ryan Palmer-- I was impressed with his T8 finish last week at the SONY Open and he has a nice recent record at the Humana of a fourth place in '11 and a T6 in last year.

SUPER SUBS

Kevin Na, Charley Hoffman, Jeff Overton

“Pure Spin”

Points this week:

Points this season: 399

Percentile: 80th

 

Coming Wednesday

 

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Humana Challenge and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.