Humana Challenge: Blixt the sole selection

The Punter's sole selection - Jonas Blixt
The Punter's sole selection - Jonas Blixt

Our man has picked out just one selection for this week's PGA Tour action but he's a man with a plan. The stats suggest the market leaders are worth going after from start to finish in California. Read his in-depth preview here...

"It may not be easy to determine which sort of player might win but the chances are they’ll be an outsider – the last six winners were all matched at over 100.099/1 before the off."


Tournament History
The Humana Challenge is the first event on the West Coast Swing and the first pro-am of the year. Formally the Bob Hope Classic staged over five rounds, Humana took over sponsorship of the event two years ago and it was reduced to the conventional four rounds. 

The event is staged over three courses (listed below) in rotation over the first three days, with the host course, the Palmer Course, staging the final round and that's the best time to watch. With amateurs in attendance, the first three days are slow and the coverage a bit dull but the pro-am aspect of the event finishes on Saturday and the professionals are left alone to fight for the title.


Venue
PGA West (Palmer Course), par 72, 6,950 yards -Stroke Index in 2013 - 68.92
PGA West (Nicklaus Course), par 72, 6,924 yards 
La Quinta Country Club, par 72, 7,060 yards

All three tracks are very easy resort courses - see links below for more details.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Details
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports all four days at 8.00pm


Last Five Winners
2013 - Brian Gay -25 (Playoff)
2012 - Mark Wilson -24
2011 - Jhonattan Vegas -27 (Playoff) (5 rounds) 
2010 - Bill Haas -30 (5 rounds) 
2009 - Pat Perez -33 (5 rounds)


What will it take to win the Humana Challenge?

Length off the tee is largely irrelevant judging by the last two winners (ranked 75th and 69th for driving distance) and Driving Accuracy looks slightly more important - the worst any of the last five winners have ranked is 36th but as it's basically just a birdie-fest, the secret is to hit as many greens as possible and to sink plenty of birdie putts.


Is there an angle in?

The Sanderson Foods Championship has proved to be an excellent form guide. Three men, Chad Campbell, Bill Haas and DJ Trahan, have all won both tournaments and Scott Stallings really should have done - the 2012 SFC winner traded at just 1.141/7 last year before faltering late on.

Phoenix Open form correlates fairly well and I've a feeling that the fairly new Greenbrier Classic will do too in fullness of time.


Is there an identikit winner?

The Humana Challenge is a very difficult event to weigh up, with all types winning at various points in time. It used to be a good event for the older experienced players that could cope with the longevity of the rounds and the idle chatter with all the amateurs and plenty of event experience was important - between 1984 and 2006, on average, the champion was playing in his seventh Bob Hope Classic but then that all changed.

Between 2007 and 2011, four of the five winners were winning on the PGA Tour for the first time and the odd man out, DJ Trahan in 2008, was winning just his second event. Big-hitting rookies were seemingly taking control but two years ago it was all change again when the experienced Mark Wilson took the title in testing windy conditions. And last year summed up how hard it is to fathom with the vastly-experienced Brian Gay beating tour rookie and pre-event 1000.0 shot, David Lingmerth, and the perennial bridesmaid, Charles Howell III.

It may not be easy to determine which sort of player might win but the chances are they'll be an outsider - the last six winners were all matched at over 100.099/1 before the off.


In-Play Tactics

This is an event where you can recover from a relatively slow start. Bill Haas won from five back with two rounds to go and two years before that, Justin Leonard was eight back at the same stage. And a plethora of winners have been four, five, six and even seven back with two rounds to go so don't fret if your pick gets off to a slow start.

In six of the last seven renewals, at least one player has traded at odds-on and gotten beat on a Sunday. Last year there were two, the aforementioned Stallings and Charles Howell III who hit 1.42/5. This is most definitely an event to get stuck into the favs, either before the off, in-running on a Sunday, or both.


Market Leaders

Zach Johnson's best finish here of eighth was two years ago, when the wind probably helped his cause a bit, so I'm not convinced this event is ideal for him. Given the form he's been in it would be ridiculous to dismiss him but he'll have to find his putting touch again - it was slightly off last week at the Sony.

Webb Simpson's in fine fettle too but his event form is regressive and reads 5-33-13-MC. Brandt Snedeker is one of the best putters in the world so in theory this event should suit but he too doesn't have the greatest form figures (10-MC-8-23) and he's not been at his best in a while either.

The only other two trading at below 30.029/1 are Keegan Bradley and Harris English. Bradley was seventh on his only previous appearance in 2011 but hasn't been seen since flopping in Japan at the end of November and could easily need the outing and English has to overcome the disappointment of Sunday's defeat at the Sony.

Nobody makes much appeal at the head of the market but given the record of outsiders in this event in recent years, that's probably no bad thing.


Selection

So far I've backed just one player, Jonas Blixt, at 90.089/1. The young Swede is a terrific putter when on-song and he's already won twice on the PGA Tour, including at last year's aforementioned Greenbrier Classic.

I may well add to my sole selection tomorrow when the inevitable Wednesday drifts occur but I'm going to kick off the In-Play Blog, either tomorrow night or at the latest on Thursday, so I'll detail any late picks then.

The plan this week is to lay the majority of players trading below 100.099/1 before the off and to get more in the book as the event goes on, as I did at the Travelers Championship last year. Here's the In-Play Blog and De-Brief for that event which demonstrates how this week may (hopefully) pan out.

I haven't layed all the players I wanted to yet so I haven't yet got my starting position, which is why I'll kick off the In-Play Blog early.


Selection:
Jonas Blixt @ 90.089/1

Lay Book (Very early stages)
Worst Case Scenario -£711
Best Case Scenario +£370


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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