Humana has evolved from Rat Pack into 'week of well-being'

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2014, 12:34 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – The perfect weather, mountain views and low scores remain. Little else at the Humana Challenge resembles the event's glory days.

The old Bob Hope Classic was Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, T-bone steaks and late-night cocktails. The Humana Challenge – actually, the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation – is corporate executives, carrot sticks and early morning power walks.

''Let's not forget that Bob Hope lived to be 100. He walked every day of his life,'' tournament executive director and CEO Bob Marra said Wednesday.

''We take the health and well-being mission of the tournament very seriously. We have a Fortune 500 company, Humana, that is dedicated to this. That's what they do. The Clinton Foundation, the same thing, a worldwide organization that helps people with a big focus on health and well-being. ... We want to make this clearly the healthiest sports event in the world. You have to walk the walk when you say that.''

The tournament has done away with the celebrity portion of the pro-am field, though actor Craig T. Nelson, singer Michael Bolton, Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely and Golf Channel's Holly Sonders are playing as ''special guests.''

''We feel like it's more important to have high-profile people – still celebrities in their own right – who are aligned with the tournament philosophy than to have a field of celebrities,'' Marra said. ''There aren't many absolute, no-question A-list celebrities who play golf and play to a level where they don't harm the tournament. A super-hot celebrity who is smacking the ball all over the place and causing a ruckus hurts.''


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The pro-am players paid from $25,000 to $29,000 to play alongside the professionals for the first three days of the tournament, and six of them will advance to the final round. By eliminating the roughly 20 slots given to celebrities, the event cut expenses and generated more than $500,000.

''There was only so much you could do with celebrities,'' Marra said. ''It was a neat part of the past, but I like it better now.''

The regular field also is thin on star power, with Kapalua winner Zach Johnson the top-ranked player at No. 6. No. 14 Brandt Snedeker, No. 20 Webb Simpson and No. 22 Keegan Bradley are the only other top-30 players. Phil Mickelson, the headliner last year, is skipping the event to play in Abu Dhabi.

''This is one of my favorite events,'' Snedeker said. ''Obviously, the weather is perfect. The golf courses, I feel like, set up really well for me.''

Snedeker tied for 11th two weeks ago in the Tournament of Champions in his first start since injuring his left knee jumping off a Segway scooter in China in early November.

''Self-inflicted, stupidity injury,'' Snedeker said. ''Luckily, it was not very serious. It boiled down a deep bone bruise and a sprain in my ACL and is a hundred percent healed.''

Snedeker will begin play Thursday at La Quinta Country Club in a group with Rickie Fowler. Johnson is paired with Bradley. They also will open at La Quinta before shifting to PGA West for rounds at the Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer private courses.

Last year, Brian Gay won his fourth Tour title, closing with a 9-under 63 and beating Charles Howell III on the second hole of a playoff. David Lingmerth was eliminated on the first extra hole.

The 43-year-old Gay is fighting neck pain.

''It started as a crick two days before I went to Maui and it's lingered and lingered,'' Gay said. ''It's been better some days, worse some others. I've had treatment. ... Felt the best of any day yesterday afternoon swinging the club and pain-free and I woke up this morning and it was kind of a new spot and worse.''

Bradley has a cold.

''I got a little sick yesterday,'' Bradley said. ''I'm feeling much better today.''

They came to the right event.

''We like it call it a week of well-being with a side of golf,'' Humana's Tom Noland said.

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm