Week three of the PGA Tour season find the best golfers in the world back on the soil of the United States mainland. After two events in Hawaii the tour is in La Quinta, California for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Three courses play host to this 156-player field – Arnold Palmer Private/PGA West, Nicklaus Private/PGA West, and La Quinta Country Club.
Defending his title in pursuit of the $1,008,000 first prize is veteran Mark Wilson.
Wilson made a 10-foot birdie putt on the last hole to hold off Robert Garrigus, John Mallinger and Johnson Wagner by two strokes. Garrigus narrowly missed a 35-foot eagle putt that would have given him the lead right before Wilson calmly made his birdie to claim his fifth career PGA Tour victory. Wilson had to play three holes at La Quinta CC on Sunday morning to complete his third round before returning to the Palmer Private Course for his final round on Sunday afternoon. The third round was suspended after a damaging wind storm ripped through the area on Saturday.
Wilson posted his career low round on the PGA TOUR when he shot a 10-under-par 62 in the second round. His round included eight birdies and an eagle. For the week, he was 1-under par on the par-3 holes, but was 8-under on the par-4s and 14-under on the par-5s.
Wilson’s win proves that you don’t have to be long to win the Humana Challenge but you must take advantage of the par fives.
The field this week is stocked with a bevy of talented players even with the top players in the world occupied in Abu Dhabi.
Nine of the 30 players that made it to the 2012 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola will play in the Humana Challenge: Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Robert Garrigus, Carl Pettersson, John Senden, Webb Simpson, Bo Van Pelt.
For the second straight season Phil Mickelson will start his TOUR season in Palm Springs. Mickelson is a two-time winner of the Humana Challenge, the leading all-time money winner of the event along with four top 10s in 10 career starts. He has only four above-par rounds in 47 career rounds at the Humana Challenge.
Rookie Russell Henley captured the Sony Open in Hawaii last week at the age 23 years, 9 months and 1 day in just his third official start. He had two as an amateur. With his win, he becomes the first rookie to win in his first start as an official member of the PGA TOUR since Garrett Willis at the 2001 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open. Henley’s 256 total is the third-lowest 72-hole total (tie with Mark Calcavecchia/2001 Phoenix Open). It will be interesting to see if he can carry over his the momentum of his 5 birdie finish in Hawaii to the mainland.
From a Canadian perspective the full contingent of those holding PGA Tour membership is in the field.
Mike Weir and Grahan DeLaet are looking to rebound after missing the cut at the Sony Open.
Stephen Ames had the best showing among Canadians in Hawaii with a tie for 20th place while Brantford, Ontario’s David Hearn shared 31st.
PGA Tour rookie member Brad Fritsch of Ottawa, Ontario was impressive in his debut as a member. He tied for 36th at the Sony Open and ranked 4th in total driving. His length (2nd on tour with a 319.6 average) should be of great benefit this week in La Quinta with the par five holes as a key to scoring.