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Humana Challenge Recap: Birdie Fest for Reed

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.

The Humana Challenge is enormously important, far beyond the four days of play. It is called, by no less an authority than Gary Player, "the healthiest event in golf." Humana and the Clinton Foundation partner each year to focus on public health, to inspire more Americans to live healthier lives. The 78-year-old Player, for whom fitness is paramount, was on hand in the California desert, helping former President Bill Clinton get the message out. Their efforts truly help people.

But about the golf.

Patrick Reed went 63-63-63 and built such a huge lead that his Sunday cooldown barely mattered. Of the top eight finishers, only two so much as had one round in the 70s; amazingly enough, one was Reed, with his Sunday 71, and the other was runner-up Ryan Palmer, with a Saturday 70. It's like this every year. It's where David Duval shot a final-round 59 to win in 1999, when the Humana was still called the Hope, aptly so. It's the NBA All-Star Game of the PGA Tour. If you like to watch golf tournaments in which par is a good score, well, I'm sure you enjoyed the NFL conference championship games on Sunday.

Maybe they could do something -- anything -- to make the golf just a bit harder. If golf ever needed defense, this was the week. What about eliminating the QUIET placards held by the marshals? Let's see Reed fire triple 63s like LeBron has to shoot free throws on the road in Boston.

But the good news is, if your guy didn't go low this week, who cares? It doesn't matter! The Humana is an anomaly, with success there having little impact elsewhere. Of course, winning a PGA Tour event is hard, even this one. But over the eight years before Reed won, here are the winners:

2013: Brian Gay
2012: Mark Wilson
2011: Jhonattan Vegas
2010: Bill Haas
2009: Pat Perez
2008: D.J. Trahan
2007: Charley Hoffman
2006: Chad Campbell

Not exactly the '27 Yankees. Sure, Haas is a big-time golfer. But for Vegas and Perez, it's their lone Tour title. For Trahan and Hoffman, they've won only one other time.

As mentioned, this week's play is not necessarily a good indicator of how a golfer is playing, or will fare on the season. That said ...


Patrick Reed

A win is a win, and when you've won twice in five months and you're only 23 years old, that's saying something. Reed is now up to No. 41 in the world, and he'll be in all the majors and WGCs this year, beginning with next month's Match Play. It surely wouldn't surprise if he won again in 2014.

Justin Leonard

The 41-year-old Leonard wound up T3, his best finish in 10 months and giving him two top-6 finishes in his last three events. He hasn't missed a cut in five tries in 2013-14. Perhaps this season can be a bit of a renaissance for the 2005 winner of the Hope.

Stuart Appleby

For Appleby, who barely kept his card by finishing 123rd in the FedEx Cup standings last year, a T9 was a welcome sight, and much needed. It was only second top-10 in the last 34 months, and it moved him to 54th in this year's standings.

Rickie Fowler

With a 68-71-67-66, Fowler needed a strong weekend just to climb into a tie for 33rd. A non-winner since 2012, Fowler has now been passed on the career wins list by ... Patrick Reed.

Nicolas Colsaerts

After stunningly failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs last year in his first go-round on the PGA Tour, Colsaerts teed it up for the first time in 2013-14 at the Humana. He broke 70 only once in three rounds and missed the cut.

Geoff Ogilvy

A missed cut at the Humana means his best finish in three starts in 2013-14 is still a solo 69th place at the Shriners back in October. His career trajectory continues to point downward.

Will Wilcox

No doubt Wilcox was picked up in some fantasy leagues after last week's T8 showing in just his third career PGA Tour start. This week, he failed to break 70, easily missing the cut.

Brian Gay, D.J. Trahan, Mark Wilson

All recent champions, all missed the cut, showing the capricious nature of the Humana. Trahan ballooned to an 80 on Saturday.

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