PGA Tour Picks: Humana Challenge Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/15/2014
Only in golf -- OK maybe bowling and darts too -- can a player potentially find his prime in his mid-30s. Reason No. 47 why golf isn't a true sport, but I digress. American Jimmy Walker was a stellar amateur player, and great things were expected from him on the PGA Tour, but he mostly flopped. He just needed to hit his mid-30s, apparently.
The American didn't win in his first 187 starts on Tour but took the 2013-14 season-opening Frys.com Open back in mid-October. And on Sunday he became the first multiple winner of the new season by winning the Sony Open of Hawaii. Walker shot a final-round 7-under 63 -- one of just two bogey-free rounds on Sunday -- to finish at 17-under 263 and edge Chris Kirk by a shot. Walker, who led the field in driving distance, was the sixth straight winner of the tournament to not shoot a round in the 70s. Walker will play in the Masters for the first time in his career in 2014 as well as WGC events for the first time.
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I would like to tell you I chose Walker last week, but he had just one previous Top-10 in seven visits to the Sony Open, so he was off my radar. My pick was South African Tim Clark (20/1) but he never had a chance, pulling out of the tournament with an elbow injury after a first-round 73, and he also won't play this week. I also liked Marc Leishman at 40/1 to win, and he finished a solid fifth, the best of any non-American.
On the Top-10 props, I hit on Charles Howell III at +160 but missed on Clark and Jason Dufner (T29). I also hit on Howell III at +135 head-to-head over Jordan Spieth, I had Kirk (-130) head-to-head over Walker (even), and obviously Kirk would have beaten anyone else. But really that tournament was ruined for me with Clark pulling out.
So the PGA Tour leaves glorious Hawaii for the start of the West Coast Swing and the Humana Challenge -- formerly the Bob Hope Classic -- at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. You may remember David Duval shot a 59 here in 1999. It's the ninth event of the season and is played over three courses, with a cut coming after 54 holes. There's not a great field with only five players ranked in the Top 30, led by Zach Johnson, winner of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson (who also has already won this season). This tournament is still a pro-am, which sad to say, keeps many top players away. They don't like playing with amateurs any more than they have to.
Brian Gay is the defending champion. He won a three-man playoff against Howell III and rookie David Lingmerth in 2013, with all four finishing 72 holes at 25-under 263. That set the 72-hole record at the Humana/Hope. Scott Stallings led the tournament by five shots heading into Sunday but shot a final-round 70 to miss the playoff by a shot.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Humana Challenge Favorites
The three biggest names are all 14/1 at Bovada: Johnson, Snedeker and Simpson. Johnson finished T23 last season despite just one round worst than 67. He was eighth the year before and also eighth last week at Waialae. Snedeker also finished T23 here last year and eighth the year before. The former FedEx Cup champion didn't play last week after a T11 at the Hyundai. Simpson has yet to finish outside the Top 10 in the new season, topped by a win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He was T3 at the Hyundai before taking last week off. Simpson, who currently leads the Tour in scoring average, missed the cut at the Humana last year.
The favorites are rounded out by red-hot Harris English (18/1) and Keegan Bradley (20/1). English has been one of the busier players already in the new season and hasn't finished outside the Top 11 in the past three events. He won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in October and was fourth last week. English was T65 here last year. Bradley might be a bit rusty as he tees it up for the first time since Tiger Woods' World Challenge in early December. Bradley was seventh here in 2011, his only appearance
PGA Tour Picks: Humana Challenge Predictions
On the Top-10 finishes, I like Simpson (even), Johnson (even), Bill Haas (+200) and Rickie Fowler (+235). Head-to-head, take Bradley (-110) over Snedeker (-120), Gary Woodland (-115) over Ryan Palmer (-115), Gay (-125) over Charley Hoffman (-105) and Kevin Na (-130) over Pat Perez (even). I like Jonas Blixt at 15/4 as the top European and another playoff finish at +250.
Na is interesting at 66/1 to win. He has two Top-10 finishes this season after a rough 2013. He has a solid stroke average of 68.06 in the past four years at this tournament. Robert Garrigus (50/1) has the best stroke average of any player here the past four years at 66.75. He was runner-up two years ago.
But I'm going with former FedEx Cup winner Haas at 25/1. He hasn't played very well overall the past two years but usually does on the West Coast Swing. He won here in 2010 and was runner-up the next year. Haas did miss the cut in 2013.
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