American Bill Haas broke out of a four-way tie after three rounds to fire 22-under-par 266 to win the Humana Challenge at Palmer Private PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. His closing round 67 separated himself from a pack of five golfers on 21-under who tied for second. Hass, the 2010 champion, becomes the eighth, two-time winner in 56 years of competition.
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise:
The local favorite who plays out of Toscana just down the street has now won twice and lost in a playoff in three of the last six events in the desert. I won’t forget that he was T6 last year as well so make it four of six years T6 or better so he obviously enjoys practice and tournament golf in this part of the world. This was his 11th-consecutive Humana and he’s been over par ONCE.
Another reason gamers shouldn’t be surprised is Haas has now won on TOUR in six of the last seven seasons. Last year was the first year in five he did not win but he made 27 of 28 weekends (WD at Harbour Town). Those 27 weekends resulted in 17 top 25s and five top 10s.
Why This Performance Surprises:
Sometimes I have to nit-pick just to fill up a section and that’s what I’m doing here. Haas entered the week off a quiet fall after a strong finish to 2014. He was T22 at McGladrey and did put one round in the 60s at the WGC-HSBC as he finished T48 in the elite field. He also didn’t have his annual “warm-up” tournament at Kapalua to knock the rust off his game but that won’t be the case next season!
How Haas Won This Week:
As is usually the case in a birdie-fest, the winner must avoid bogeys and that’s what Haas did. He only carded two bogeys (T2) and racked up 47 pars to just 22 birdies and an eagle. Making birdies are great but avoiding bogeys is even better because it keeps the pressure off.
In the last five years Haas has been T26 or better in strokes gained-fairway four times so his ball-striking is rarely in question. Over that same time frame, he’s only finished inside the top 50 once in strokes gained-putting (47th in 2013). This week he was T3 in GIR yet only T39 in putts per GIR. Remember, only Palmer Private at PGA West was measured this week hence the absence of strokes gained numbers.
Haas was incredulous when Roger Maltbie asked him after his victory if this means less golf and more time at home since Haas is expecting a child. Haas dejectedly begged for the right answer to this question before mentioning that he might spend some more time at home because he does have this win in his back pocket. Haas’ victory and the ramifications for this fall’s Presidents Cup were glossed over in the interview but that’s hardly surprising. More proof that nobody cares about these things if the guy who won isn’t asked about it.
Oh, yeah, his dad is the captain of this squad.
Haas revealed in that interview that he was just hoping to cash this week so there’s that as well. Victories can free the mind and the golf swing; children make people tired and introspective. So there’s that as well. Season-long investors have been rewarded already and weekly gamers aren’t going to complain.
Haas has proven his worth on tracks that require birdie binges by winning at Humana twice and Sanderson Farms. He’s also racked up three victories at classics such as Riviera, East Lake and Congressional. The East Lake victory was in a playoff against Hunter Mahan for $10 million.
The majors and the WGC would seem to be the next step but he has zero top 10s in the four big ones and just four in the WGC events.
With This Win:
Win No. 6 comes with 500 FedExCup Points, $1,026,000 million and a return trip to Kapalua.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, Haas joins Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA have won eight of the first 10 events in 2014-15. Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) are the only worldwide influences in this list.
Haas joins Bae, Martin, Moore and Walker as those who have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his lead at Kapalua. This list is flawed because it doesn’t take into account ties but it’s my list so there.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 10 events in 2015, Martin, Streb and Taylor have made the breakthrough.
Johnny Miller is still the only player to defend his title. Last year’s winner, Reed, finished T24 in his defense.
What a difference a year makes. Last year T25 was 17-under; this year T24 was 15-under. Haas’ 22-under was the highest winning score since the shrinking to 72 holes in 2012.
Haas makes it four different winners in the last four events since Humana went to four rounds on three courses. Remember, this is the last year for PGA West Palmer and Nicklaus Private. We’ll see what the new digs are later this spring.
Ryan Palmer shot 61 with two bogeys as he looked to match David Duval’s 59 but fell just short. The 61 was the best round of the week by two shots. That’s also weird as usually there are multiple super-low (62 or better) rounds here.
The Stars and Stripes have won all but three of these since 2000.
Jhonattan Vegas is still the only rookie to win this event. Ever.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in and Reed joined the party at a whopping 25 at Kapalua.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week:
Matt Kuchar: After leaving him off Yahoo! last week, I wasn’t going to be fooled again, plus I wasn’t crazy about the other options in B. He backed up his T3 last week with T2 this week. He’s now 56-under in his last three trips to Humana and posted his second T2 since 2010. This was a week gamers could have argued to leave him out because of the wide-open-ness of a birdie fest. Here’s more proof as to why Kuchar is the safest weekly bet in fantasy golf.
Charley Hoffman: Make it T10, T9 and now T2 in the last three at Humana for Hoffman as he used a Friday 63 and a Sunday 64 to add to his victory this fall at Mayakoba. His best year on TOUR is just over $2.5 million in 2010 and he’s over $1.5 million in just six events this year. He’s never had more than five top 10s in a year and now he’s had two in his last three events on TOUR. With the carrot of the top 50 in the OWGR lurking, he might be work a long-term investment.
Brendan Steele: Entering the week he played 10 of his 15 rounds here at 70 or above. Those resulted in finishes of MC, T66, T56 and MC so it makes perfect sense that he would rack up four rounds of 68 or better this week including at 64 to close. Like Hoffman he moved up 14 spots to hit the podium for his best finish on TOUR since his win at Reno-Tahoe in his rookie year. His numbers are trending in the right direction in his fifth year on TOUR. He’s coming off his best year of top 10s (four) and T-best top 25s with eight. Hop on and enjoy the ride!
Sung Joon Park: For those gamers looking for an angle, Park was T3 at the 2013 Web.com Q School finals played on this track. Scott Pinckney, who was loitering near the top of the leaderboard on Saturday, was second at that week. Park’s only season on ANY tour in this hemisphere saw him make eight cuts from 15 starts last year on the Web.com. His best finish was third and had one other top 10, T5. He finished T11 at the Web.com Tour Championship to sneak inside the top 50 and get his card. He won on the Japan Challenge Tour in 2010 and won on the Japan Tour in 2013 in a weather-shortened event. He’s made four of five cuts this season and his best finish was T32 entering the week. This is a great finish for him but he had played this course with success in the past. I’m not sold just yet!
Steve Wheatcroft: After almost giving up the game last summer, Wheatcroft went out and won the Albertson’s Open in Boise, punching his ticket back to the TOUR. His first win on the Web.com saw him post 29-under, which included a 60, so if there was going to be a place he might contend, this would have been the choice. His bread-and-butter is the putter and he showed that Sunday by saving his bacon multiple times with big par putts. He made almost half of his career TOUR earnings today ($342,000). Keep him in mind for birdie fests down the road.
Webb Simpson: He’ll be another one that will be sad to see this rotation go the way of the ditto machine as he closed with 65 in 2013, 64 last year and 64 again this year. Simpson looks like he’s back to his money-making self, short putter in hand, in the desert and in general. Both of his top 10s this year are in the desert (Las Vegas and Humana) and his T7 this week should put to bed any concerns about his putting moving forward.
Boo Weekley: Like Haas and Steele, Weekley add validity to ball-strikers this week with his T7 finish. He should be on the radar after his strong close (T2) to 2014 on TOUR plus he was productive in Australia. Weekley only made two bogeys all week but also had a double in the first round. He finished the week 18-under in the final three rounds. When he makes putts…
Justin Thomas: After setting the course record at Waialae last week, 61, and finishing T6, he was on the radar of gamers everywhere. His T7 this week included a second round 63 as he closed on 20-under as well. His double on No. 16 Sunday killed his chances of winning but his final birdie on No. 18 vaulted him to T7. That is his third top 10 in his last four events. He now has four top 10s in 16 career starts as a pro. He also gained valuable experience this week playing in the final group. The sky is the limit for this kid. Don’t be the last guy in fantasy land to realize this.
Colt Knost: Similar to Wheatcroft, Knost has had much of his success in pro golf on the Web.com Tour. He only has three top 10s in over 100 starts on TOUR. Known as a slick putter, Knost led the field in fairways this week so I’m not going to get too carried away. He’s been quietly consistent this year with five weekends from seven events and four of them have gone for T26 or better. His T10 this week is his first on TOUR since RBC Heritage in 2012. Wait and see will be the mantra moving forward.
Francesco Molinari: His T10 is his first on TOUR since last year’s PLAYERS. Playing a full schedule should help season-long gamers chalk up at least 15 starts. Molinari has made the weekend in 17 straight TOUR events dating back to 2013. In his first two events of the season the Italian has posted seven rounds of 69 or better including a season-best 64 to open this week.
Ryan Palmer: My OAD for the week gave me a heart attack when he made TRIPLE when tied for the lead on the front Sunday. He rallied by almost making TWO, holes-in-one on Nos. 15 and 17 coming in. He holed 35 inches of putts in those two birdies. He added one more on No. 18 to finish T10. If he wouldn’t have made TRIPLE, he would have…Ah, never mind! This was his fourth top 10 in his last five starts and his third in a row. His second round 61 was the low of the week.
Erik Compton: After T42, MC and T69 there’s no reason why Compton should have had gamer’s attention this week. His T10 this week was his second top 25 in his last 13 events since T2 at the U.S. Open. Last season, Compton made the jump by proving to gamers that his game can travel outside of the state of Florida. He’s made five cuts in a row and is a fantastic putter on Bermudagrass and this T10 should flip the switch to heat it up.
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Patrick Reed: Only Johnny Miller has defended here as Reed stalled out to T24 on Sunday after 71. He began the day in striking distance, just three off the lead, but couldn’t find the magic of 2014 when he found 63 three times in four rounds. His 71 this year matches his 71 to close last year but 23 spots on the leaderboard was the difference. His last six events have been T26 or better. Choo. Choo. Choo.
Ryan Palmer: T10, see above.
Matt Kuchar: T2, see above.
Bill Haas: WIN, see above.
Webb Simpson: T7, see above.
Zach Johnson: Well, I’m lawst. Course form has been the “tell” for ZJ over the last year or so and he started with solo sixth at Kapalua. He backed that up with an ice cold week at Waialae where he had won and finished top 10 the previous year. With top 10s in two of the last three years here everything was looking on the up and up. His six bogeys and a double wiped out 15 birdies and saw him MC on the number. Form is temporary; class is permanent. The form isn’t there on courses he’s fired in the past. #TrialSeparation
Chris Kirk: There was no final round low 60 this week to bail out Kirk and his owners. The concern, similarly to Johnson, is the frozen putter. There’s plenty of good but 2015 MINUS those two blistering rounds have been a fantasy killer. He’ll be back but I need a break. Kirk and Johnson were half of my B Group this week. I’m not wondering why I’m terrible right now. I put my faith in a pair of studs and they haven’t fired. Yet.
Shawn Stefani: Gamers have been warned, told and reminded that this kid is going to fire. Need more proof? He was THREE OVER PAR after one round and finished T15 after playing the final three rounds 20-under. That’s not a misprint. He’s fired on easy courses and hard courses and has no problem getting low. He made four eagles on the week and was second in GIR. Make it five weekends in a row and the last three have been second, T6 and T15 (with a 75). #SizzlingSteak
Scott Piercy: His current form was the reason he hit this column but his course history did have my concern. His T30 was his first weekend in three tries but he didn’t make enough par-breakers to get owners attention. I like that he has made five of seven weekends in the new season and is having zero health issues. And T30 on a track where he’s had no successes is another bright sign. #Staythecourse
Brandt Snedeker: Well, that didn’t go as planned as 13 birdies couldn’t overcome seven bogeys as Sneds MC. The seventh time in a row was not a charm. Glad I had him in Yahoo! B Group (not really).
Keegan Bradley: He’s sandwiched two podiums in silly events (T3, T3) between a T64 at WGC-HSBC and now T48 this week. Each tournament he doesn’t win just adds to the drought. His talent level is massive so the disappointment of weeks like this matches it. He plays a ton so there’s no point getting uptight. Yet.
Ryan Moore: WD with a neck injury. Please stay tuned to Rotoworld.com for updates on his condition.
Charley Hoffman: T2, see above.
Billy Horschel: He began the final round just four shots back after 65 on Saturday. He was 15-under after four holes and looked like he was going to make a run before nine pars in a row came to a crashing halt with a nine on the par-five No. 14. He did birdie two of his last four to finish T42. He only made five bogeys on the week so I’m not concerned moving forward as his iron game was as solid as usual.
Harris English: Another who didn’t fire on Sunday as he began play just five shots out of the lead. His closing 70 was his worst round of the week (67-68-69) and he finished T30. He made 50 pars and only four bogeys.
Jason Dufner: Gamer’s biggest fears are realized as “Skinny Duff” needed 76 in round one. Gamers then were more confused as he cranked out 65 on Friday. Just to keep us all guessing, he posted 69 on Saturday to MC by two shots. Did I mention that Thursday included six bogeys and a double? Good. Did I mention that Friday was bogey-free 65? Good. If I did that, I would confuse gamers even more! Duff Daddy doesn’t need my help!
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO) plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.