With its October start date, the 2014 PGA Tour season is already well underway, but there arguably has been no more entertaining event thus far than this week's Humana Challenge.
Originally called the Bob Hope Classic, the event is typically littered with elite players looking to get into an early-season groove. The Tiger Woodses, Rory McIlroys and Phil Mickelsons of the world typically decline their opportunity to appear—Woods never has—but those who make the trip to the California courses usually come away glad they did.
This is the third year of the new format of the Humana Challenge, which changed its name starting in 2012 to represent a format switch. The event used to be held over five days and include celebrities, whacking the ball in between takes on films and time in the recording booth. Hope, an avid golfer, was the face of the loose atmosphere and low scores.
Well, suffice it to say plenty has changed. The Humana Challenge Pro-Am is still there and draws some fanfare, but the structural change has led to a more traditional golf tournament. The event is now held over four days instead of five, and the decision to space everything out over three courses has created an interesting dynamic.
One thing that hasn't changed is the low scores. Each of the last six tournaments has been won by a player shooting 20 under or better, and only once since 1960 has someone been in the single digits. In fact, Charley Hoffman's 17-under victory in 2007 is the only time since 1990 someone has won the event without hitting the red 20s.
If you want to feel good about your swing, the Humana Challenge is the place to be. Of course, carding an over-par score while leaders are dipping into the low-60s can kill a man's momentum just as fast. You know, either way.
Brian Gay is the event's defending champion and will be in the field this week. In fact, every winner dating back to 2005 will be in the field. The man who broke the streak? Mickelson, who is one of only seven multi-time victors in the event. Arnold Palmer holds the record with five, and no one else has more than two.
With that in mind, let's check in on the action and see how everything shook out.
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Round 4 Recap
It's a good think Patrick Reed built up a seven-shot lead through three rounds, because the eventual champion was far from sharp on Sunday, Jan. 19.
Reed carded four bogeys and five birdies to finish his final round at one under par, winning the tournament by two strokes, as announced by the tournament on Twitter:
Congratulations to Patrick Reed the 2014 Humana Challenge champion! pic.twitter.com/chbLPQXVMi— Humana Challenge (@HumanaChallenge) January 20, 2014
Meanwhile, Ryan Palmer and Zach Johnson were breathing down his neck all afternoon long in La Qinta, Calif. Palmer finished two strokes off the lead after shooting a brilliant nine-under par 63, and Johnson finished one stroke behind him with an extraordinary 62.
Afterward, Reed discussed his difficult final round, along with some strategic insight, as noted by the Associated Press, via ABC News:
"It was tough out there," Reed said. "I started toward the end playing for par, just because I knew pars weren't going to hurt me. I knew someone was going to have to do something spectacular to catch me."
In the end, Reed did just enough to pull out his second career PGA Tour victory. His birdie at No. 15 sealed the tournament, and it capped off a remarkable four-day adventure in which the little-known champ reigned supreme.
Full leaderboard can be found at PGATour.com.
Patrick Reed maintained his torrid pace in La Quinta on Saturday. He again shot a nine-under 63 to move to 27 under par overall, and a commanding seven shot lead heading into the final day of play on Sunday.
Reed set a 54-hole record with his performance, per his proud sponsor Callaway Golf:
Reed would have to completely implode on Sunday to lose this lead.
Coming into the day, Reed had just a two-shot lead over Brendon Todd. On Saturday, Todd was good with his four-under 68, but not good enough to keep Reed in his sights.
Reed had eight birdies and an eagle on the 16th hole.
At this point, Sunday's play should be a battle for second place. Crazy things can happen, but when you consider Reed has shot a 63 in each of the first three rounds, it's hard to imagine him playing poorly enough to give up his lead.
If Reed holds on, it will be the second PGA Tour win of his career. He also captured the Wyndham Championship in Aug. 2013.
Full leaderboard can be found at PGATour.com.
Round 2 Recap
For the second day in a row, the weather at La Qinta, Calif. was perfectly suited for low scoring, and the players happily obliged.
First-round leader Patrick Reed was hot once again on Jan. 17, as he carded his second 63 in a row to increase his one-shot lead to two strokes by the end of the second round. Remarkably, his round could have been even better if not for a bogey on No. 2.
As Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel points out, Reed is on pace to shoot 36 under par for the tournament, which would be truly remarkable:
Patrick Reed opens 63-63. On pace to go 36-under for 72 holes. I'm no math whiz or anything, but that sounds pretty decent.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) January 18, 2014
Reed wasn't the only golfer to sign a blistering scorecard after Round 2, either. Three other golfers—Brendon Todd (who is right behind Reed in the standings), Stewart Cink and James Driscoll—matched his score of nine-under 63.
Charlie Hoffman, who is just four shots off the lead, commented on the scoring conditions, as noted by the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
If the weather stays the way it is, all these golf courses have a lot of birdie holes. There's water, there's trouble if you short-side yourself, but if you're hitting good shots, the greens are good and you can make a bunch of birdies.
With 15 players within seven shots of the lead, this tournament is far from over.
Reed is going to need to keep his foot on the gas pedal for two more rounds if he has any chance of winning his second career PGA tournament.
Full leaderboard can be seen at PGATour.com.
Round 1 Recap
With beautiful conditions making for an ideal day on the course, 23-year-old Patrick Reed staked claim to what could be his second PGA Tour victory.
Reed, spraying a series of birdies dispersed well throughout the day, opened with a nine-under score of 63 to take a one-stroke lead over the field heading into Friday's second round. One of the youngest players in the field, Reed carded nine birdies without a bogey en route to an impressive day that keeps him a step ahead of the cabal of players nipping at his feet.
Ryan Palmer, Justin Hicks, Daniel Summerhays and Charley Hoffman are each sitting a stroke behind the leader at eight under. Overall, the day was filled with low scores aplenty with well more than 100 of the 155 players still participating in the Humana Challenge sitting at even-par or better.
Arguably considered the favorite in the event considering his recent run of success, Zach Johnson currently sits two strokes behind at seven under. Johnson won at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the beginning of this month and the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge before that. In fact, he's been on quite the little hot streak dating back to his triumph in September's BMW Classic and could be a force this season.
He carded seven birdies without a bogey on the day and was the early clubhouse leader. There are seven players currently tied with him at seven under.
But Johnson, along with everyone else, is merely chasing Reed. An Augusta State University alum, Reed won his first PGA Tour event last year at the Wyndham Championship, defeating Justin Spieth in a playoff. Impressive and cool under the pressure, it seems unlikely that he'll fall on his face despite the large group of players behind him.
This event also marks an interesting chance for Reed, as he's no longer being caddied by his wife, Justine. She is currently taking a break while pregnant with the couple's first child, a daughter, and cheering him on from the gallery. If rounds like this become more prevalent, there might be a bit of an awkward talk at the Reed household once Justine is back on her feet.
Among the other notable results, Rickie Fowler is hanging in there after a four-under afternoon, and Webb Simpson is just behind at three under.