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PGA Tour Stats Review: Entering the Humana Challenge

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

This week, the PGA Tour moves to the mainland for the Humana Challenge. This event, formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, is played on three courses in the California desert - the Arnold Palmer Course at PGA West, the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club.

History Lesson

Brian Gay won this event last year in a playoff over Charles Howell III and David Lingmerth. Recent winners include Mark Wilson (2012), Jhonattan Vegas (2011), Bill Haas (2010) and Pat Perez (2009).

It was a springboard for Lingmerth, who went on to tie for second at The Players in May.
Gay failed to add another top-10 last season but does have a fourth-place finish this season at The McGladrey Classic.

Our recommendation, however, is Howell, who has played extremely consistent golf the last 12 months. Consider this: his 2013 consisted of two top-3s and five top-10 finishes in 26 starts. Statistically, he was 17th in strokes gained-putting and fifth in scrambling. So far this season he has a fifth, a sixth, two sevenths and an eighth-place finish in six starts. He also ranks second in scoring average, 12th in total driving and 12th in the all-around ranking.

Who is Playing

Two golfers who made offseason swing changes - Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley - make their 2014 debuts this week.

Fowler has begun working with swing coach Butch Harmon, and while some changes take longer than others, Harmon said he is happy with Fowler's work. Rickie has posted pictures on Instagram showing him practicing and playing. We recommend starting him if you want to take a flier on someone.

Bradley, meanwhile, has hired Chuck Cook (his BFF Jason Dufner's teacher). Bradley's game is incredibly streaky - seven top-10s with 10 finishes either outside the top 25 or a missed cut last season, yet he was fourth in the all-around ranking. He probably should be avoided until we know how the swing changes shake out.

Also in the field are, among others, Zach Johnson (see last week's column for why we love him) and Webb Simpson (see the Hyundai stats preview for reasons to pick him).

Sunday Surgers

This segment looks at players in this week's field who made big moves last Sunday.

Charles Howell III –
He moved up 19 places on Sunday with a round of 66. For the week he was seventh in strokes gained–putting.

Kevin Na –
Na also gained 19 spots en route to a T8 finish at the Sony Open. He finished the week T2 in greens in regulation.

Brian Gay –
Gay's Sunday 67 gave him a T32 finish. He was second on the week in putts per green in regulation.

Charlie Beljan –
Beljan's Sunday 67 led to a tie for 38th. He finished the week fifth in strokes gained–putting.

Peter Malnati –
Malnati, a Reshuffle List member, desperately needed a strong finish and he got that with a Sunday 66 that lifted him 26 places on the final leaderboard to a T38 finish. He finished the week seventh in putts per green in regulation.

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