Quality Field Contests Humana Challenge

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Zach Johnson is eyeing an eighth PGA Tour victory. Image courtesy of golf.com/Getty Images

Formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, the Humana Challenge is a US PGA Tour event played over 3 courses at La Quinta in California. There are 14 past Humana winners in the field, including defending champion Brian Gay who survived a two-hole, three-man playoff 12 months ago to claim his fourth career tour win.

Among the top players in the world golf rankings chasing the $1million winner’s prize are Zach Johnson (6th), Brandt Snedeker (14th), Webb Simpson (20th), Keegan Bradley (22nd) and Bill Haas (31st). Beaten in a playoff last year, Charles Howell III looms as a threat after a promising start to the 2013/14 season. With four top-10s in six starts, the 34 year old from Augusta tied for eighth at the Sony last week, where he finished with two 66s.

A former US Open champion, Simpson is first on tour in scoring average and second in strokes gained putting. Even though he missed the cut in the birdie-laden Humana Challenge last season, Simpson last October won in Las Vegas - another event notorious for low scoring. Making his first start in 2014, Bradley has only played this event once for a T-7 finish.

Coming off his first top-10 finish since July, Pat Perez is a past champion having won the tournament in 2009 – his lone PGA Tour success. An annual fixture in the Humana tournament, Haas has solid local form. He won here in 2010 and was beaten in a playoff 12 months later. Over his past 27 rounds at the three venues used for the event, he has been under par. Haas is opening his 2014 campaign and hoping to win for the sixth time in his PGA Tour career.

Of the young guns coming through, Harris English has both promise and form. In his third year on tour, the lanky 24 year old last week finished fourth at the Sony and won at Mayakoba in November. A new coach and playing in his backyard might help Rickie Fowler . The tour’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2010 made the cut in 18 of his 22 tournaments in 2013 and enjoyed five top-10 finishes. Fowler’s only win 107 tour starts came at Wells Fargo in 2012, but with renowned coach Butch Harmon in his corner that could change in 2014.

John Senden and Matt Jones are the leading Australians in the market, with Aaron Baddeley and Geoff Ogilvy next best. Robert Allenby, Greg Chalmers and Stuart Appleby are long shots, while Steven Bowditch and Scott Gardiner are rank outsiders.

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