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Humana Challenge Preview: Big Mo is on Clark's Side

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Goal No. 1 of any rookie on the PGA TOUR is to secure his card for the following year. Further down the list you'll find some other, loftier goals such as playing in the majors, finishing in the top-30 and, of course, winning somewhere along the line. While Russell Henley has some work to do if he's to accomplish all his goals set this season, he took care of the two most important at the Sony Open last week. The importance of last week might not end there, either. You see, Henley didn't just fall into this victory, he cruised from beginning to end like he'd been there before. Henley had every opportunity to wilt under the spotlight; in fact, he had all week to do so. Henley jumped out early with a 63 on Thursday, and although it was easy to overlook that round as simply a fluke, when he backed it up with another 63 on Friday, people starting paying attention. That is generally the time when most rookies would crumble. The weight of the situation plus the media attention is often too much to handle for a rookie, which is why many pick up victory No. 1 by coming from behind. But Henley refused to give into the pressure. Another solid round Saturday was followed by yet another 63 on Sunday. Henley appears to be on his way to bigger and better things, though we've seen this before. Let's see if Henley can impress us once again by backing up this win in the near future. If he can, he might just have to come up with a new set of goals for this season.

This week:
Humana Challenge

Last Year:
Mark Wilson shot a final-round 69 on his way to a two-stroke victory over three players.

Players to Consider:

1. Tim Clark

Again atop the list, Clark has both the track record here (two top-5s in his last two starts) and momentum from last week. If not for Henley playing out of his mind last week, Clark would already have a win under his belt.

2. Matt Kuchar

Kuchar also played well last week, finishing in the top 5, and his history at this event is pretty solid. Kuchar finished runner-up in 2010 and has a streak of four consecutive top-25s at this event.

3. Robert Garrigus

First start of the year for Garrigus, which is always a little scary, but he entered last year's Humana Challenge under the same circumstances and finished in a group of three players behind eventual winner Mark Wilson.

4. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker already has a top-3 to his credit this season and is fairly comfortable at this event. Snedeker has two top-10s here in his last three starts and should enjoy the forgiving courses this week.

5. Russell Henley

Whether Henley is the next big thing is yet to be determined, but even if he isn't, he's certainly capable of carrying some momentum from last week. Even golfers who flame out can get hot for weeks at a time, so odds are Henley picks up where he left off last week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Mark Wilson

Wilson's win last year came out of nowhere as he didn't show much in his previous three starts at this event. So, chalk that up to a guy getting hot over the course of four days. Odds are it doesn't play out that way again this year.

2. John Rollins

Rollins has played well here before - he finished runner-up in 2007 - but since that result he's failed to crack the top-60. Rollins' play overall has fallen off since 2007, so don't expect him to revert to his old form this week.

3. Stewart Cink

Is Cink ever going to get his game back? A player of Cink's caliber doesn't usually just fall off the map, but Cink seems to be breaking the mold. He's already off to a poor start in 2013 as he missed the cut at the Sony by a country mile.

4. Brian Davis

Davis has a couple of decent finishes on his resume here, but nothing to write home about, and he misses the cut just about as many times as he makes it here. Simply not worth a look this week.

5. Johnson Wagner

It was at this time last year that Johnson Wagner was tearing it up and starting to make believers out of all of us. Then his game went south, again. While he's shown the ability to come out of nowhere to win, it doesn't look like his game is in the proper form to do so.


Group A

1. Tim Clark
2. Brandt Snedeker

Once again, not a lot to choose from in Group A this week, but there is one glaring omission. While many will bank on Phil Mickelson this week, I'll be sticking with the duo of Clark and Snedeker, both of which are in my top 5 this week.

Group B

1. Kevin Na
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Zach Johnson
4. Webb Simpson

I'm not exactly thrilled with the collection of players I've amassed in Group B this week, but it definitely has some potential. Kuchar is the obvious choice as he's playing well, and Na has a pretty good track record here with two top-10s in recent years, but the last two picks were very difficult. I decided to grab a couple big names in the hopes that one of the two finds his game this week.

Group C

1. Russell Henley
2. Robert Garrigus

Group C came fairly easy as the last two players from my top-5 were in this group. Henley is bound to be a popular pick this week, so it's unlikely that you'll gain any ground with him; but I'd hate to be one of the few without him this week if he happens to go low again.

Starters Round One

1. Tim Clark
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Kevin Na
4. Russell Henley

A pretty straight forward lineup for round one this week. Clark has the track record and he comes in off a nice week at the Sony. Kuchar also has the form entering this week, so he gets the first spot in Group B. Na has a solid history here and is known for playing his best golf early in the season, so he'll grab the second spot. Henley seems like an obvious choice in Group C. Although Garrigus played well here last year, he started slowly, most likely because it was his first round of the year.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Three courses in play this week, but there isn't much separating them. Of course, as the weeks gets under way, there might be one course that plays easier than the others, but there's no way to know that now. As such, I have to assume the courses will play like they have in years past. Clark gets the start in Group A, but that spot will be up for grabs Friday. The course may factor in, but Thursday's round will carry more weight. I have Kuchar and Na a peg above Johnson and Simpson entering the week, but that could change after the first round. The plan is to stick with my starting duo until Simpson or Johnson force my hand. Henley will hold the starting spot in Group C until he shows signs of slowing down. If he starts slowly, I'll remove him immediately. There's always the chance of a hangover, so best keep an eye on him early.

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