The first pro-am of the season kicks off on Thursday, and while it may not feature some of the Tour's biggest names, there will still be plenty of quality golf to keep an eye on.
After last week's big win at the Sony Open, perhaps rookie Russell Henley could make it two in a row, or maybe Phil Mickelson will get the first month of 2013 off to a good start. Or maybe Brandt Snedeker will reestablish himself as a threat on the Tour this year.
This tournament is unique because it also features a partnership with Humana Inc., one of the nation's leading health and wellness companies. According to PGATour.com, Gary Player will act as the tournament's spokesman, promoting its healthy living cause. He told the website:
"Over my 60-year golfing career, I placed great emphasis on fitness and a healthy diet and at this stage in my life, I really see the benefits of my lifelong commitment more than ever."
One thing is for sure: Even though Tiger and Rory may not be around for the action, this event will still be full of thrills.
Where: PGA West, La Quinta, Calif.
When: Thursday, Jan. 17 to Sunday, Jan. 20
Golfers to Watch
According to PGATour.com, Webb Simpson has played 15 rounds in his career at this event, and overall, he's 66 under, which could set the stage for a terrific performance this weekend. He hasn't been spectacular in 2013 to date—he finished tied for 11th at the Hyundai Tournament and tied for 20th at the Sony Open last weekend—but perhaps his career-long success here will play into his favor.
Simpson finished 2012 with one PGA Tour win—and it was a big one at the U.S. Open—to go along with seven top-10 finishes. However, the way he finished the year wasn't so encouraging: He missed the cut at The Barclays and then tied for 18th at the Deutsche Bank Championship before tying for 51st at the BMW Championship.
Perhaps his prior two events were just a warm-up to this.
Phil Mickelson has won this event twice before, and in eight starts at the Human Challenge, he's won $2.04 million, making him the leading money winner at the event. Can he pull it off again?
It would certainly get him off on the right track this season. He ended 2012 on somewhat of a high note, tying for fourth in the Deutsche Bank Championship, tying for second at the BMW Championship and tying for second at the World Golf Championships. There were times of struggle in 2012, particularly in the majors, but perhaps the confidence that stems from the success he has had here in the past will carry him to victory.
There are plenty of rookies in the mix for this year's Humana Challenge, and one of them is Russell Henley, who emerged victorious by three strokes in his first PGA Tour event last week. Beginner's luck, or a sign of bigger things to come?
Not only did he win in Honolulu, he set a record with a 24-under 256 over four rounds, breaking the tournament record by four shots, according to FoxSports.com. He ended the tournament with five consecutive birdies to finish with a seven-under 63 on the final round and became the first rookie to win in his first Tour event since 2001.
The rookie has been incredibly consistent dating back to last year on the Web.com Tour, so another solid performance wouldn't be shocking.
Notable Groupings for Opening Round (All Times ET):
|12:10 p.m.||Phil Mickelson||John Foster||Matt Kuchar||Bill Kubly|
|11:40 a.m.||Brandt Snedeker||T.J. Jermoluk||Mark Wilson||Craig Johnson|
|12:00 p.m.||Pat Perez||Jay Geldmacher||Camilo Villegas||Bill Rodrigues|
|12:40 p.m.||Zach Johnson||Don Felder||Davis Love III||Dean Bramlet|
You can see a full list of tee times here.
|Round 1||Jan. 17||3 - 7 p.m. ET||GOLF|
|Round 2||Jan. 18||3 - 7 p.m. ET||GOLF|
|Round 3||Jan. 19||3 - 7 p.m. ET||GOLF|
|Round 4||Jan. 20||3 - 7 p.m. ET||GOLF|
Prediction: Phil Mickelson Wins
His success here isn't debatable, and given the way he finished 2012, he proved he still has plenty left in the tank. A win here this weekend could be a big momentum booster early in 2013.