The PGA Tour is in the California desert this week for the Humana Challenge at PGA West, where Patrick Reed -- a winner of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions two weeks ago -- returns as the defending champion.
It will also be the first time since the Ryder Cup that we see Phil Mickelson.
Here's a look at five players you'll want to watch in La Quinta when the tournament tees off on Thursday morning.
5. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2014-15 season: First start
Reason to watch: I'm just really interested to see what Mickelson is going to bring to the table this week after what was a mostly disappointing 2013-14 season. Last time Mickelson played in the Humana Challenge was in 2013 and he tied for 37th, but he has won the event twice in the past. Hard to believe, but Lefty still hasn't won on the PGA Tour since his triumph in the 2013 Open Championship. According to reports, Mickelson focused a lot on his conditioning in his time away from the Tour and -- hopefully for fans -- will be ready to get back on track in 2015.
4. Pat Perez
Best finish in 2014-15 season: T17 at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: Perez, winner of the 2009 Humana Challenge, enters this week after a solid T17 last week in Hawaii, which included a final-round 65. It was his first top-20 finish since last April in the RBC Heritage. Perez has been active on social media, stressing how much work he's been putting into his game over the last couple of months. Sunday in Hawaii showed that it's paying dividends. Now, with a chance to play at a place where he claimed his lone PGA Tour title, Perez is also riding high on confidence.
3. Bill Haas
Best finish in 2014-15 season: T22 at the McGladrey Classic
Reason to watch: The Humana Challenge was the first of Haas's five career PGA Tour victories when he walked away with the trophy in 2010. He enters this week coming off his first winless season on Tour since 2009 -- though he did still qualify for the Tour Championship. Haas finished second at the Humana in 2011, losing in a playoff, and tied for sixth a year ago. It's a place where he's very comfortable and he should be refreshed having not played in a Tour event since the beginning of November.
2. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2014-15 season: T3 at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: I should just include Kuchar on this list every time he tees it up. I thought I did, but apparently I overlooked him last week in Hawaii and he went ahead and tied for third. Oh well. I'm back on the Kuchar train this week. The seven-time PGA Tour winner pretty much always plays well when he tees it up in the Humana Challenge, most notably his tie for second in 2010. He finished in the top 10 on 11 occasions last season and picked up his first top 10 of the new season (in four starts) last week.
1. Keegan Bradley
Best finish in 2014-15 season: T64 at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Bradley, when he gets out to play, always strikes me as an aggressive animal who just broke out of his cage. He's intense. So, imagine how fired up he must be this week, playing on Tour for the first time since early November. And, his New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl a week from Sunday. And, in two previous Humana Challenge starts, Bradley has finished no worse than T18 (T18 in 2014; T7 in 2011). He's excited to get going again and for that reason, I'm excited to see him back out there.
5. Harris English -- T3
4. Chris Kirk -- T26
3. Russell Henley -- T17
2. Charles Howell III -- T26
1. Jimmy Walker -- Won
There are countless examples of two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson having fun off the golf course.
On Tuesday evening in Orlando, he provided yet another.
Watson, playing mini-golf, called his putt, made it and then broke out into a shirtless celebration.
Check it out here:
That's not the first time Watson has made a ridiculous putt in mini-golf. Remember this from last May?
Curtis Thompson may always be Nick and Lexi Thompson's brother, but he might not be "Nick and Lexi's brother" in conversation much longer.
Curtis Thompson understands that after her impressive victory last April in the Kraft Nabisco Championship -- becoming the second-youngest woman to win a major -- his 19-year-old sister Lexi might have a bit more of the spotlight than a guy who announced three months later he was leaving LSU to pursue a professional career.
"I'm used to it, for now," Curtis Thompson said of having a famous pair of siblings. "That's just the way it's been for a while."
But based on the way he handled himself on the Cobra Puma Golf range Tuesday at the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Center, it might not be that long before the roles are reversed. Curtis Thompson teed up five balls in a driving exhibition against his long-hitting sister, and wound up winning with a longest drive of 316 yards. Lexi's longest was 285.
Attendees then had the opportunity to see if they could exceed either drive, with the first one to do so winning a new Cobra Fly-Z driver.
It was Curtis' first time at a public Cobra Puma event, but he signed autographs and posed for photos with fans like he had been doing it all his life. The Coral Springs, Fla., native hopes to make it a habit.
And as far as outdriving his sister?
"Well, I do have an advantage," Curtis Thompson said.
With that kind of power -- and winning genetics -- it might not be long before Curtis Thompson can place a trophy or two on the family mantle as somebody more than "Nick and Lexi's brother."
It's a hybrid between a golf push cart and a skateboard, and it was one of the more unusual hands-on displays Tuesday at the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day.
So what's it like to ride the GolfBoard? We asked some of the people who braved it to give their honest opinion -- and they unanimously agreed it was fun and easier to control than they expected.
A video posted by PGA.com (@pgacom) on
Penny Holden, Pittsburgh: "It was easier than I thought to turn. I'd like to try it with a golf bag on to see if you could actually maneuever it as well. I really like that it stopped when you let off (the accelerator). You weren't afraid to fall forward, because it did come to a stop. To turn, you have to shift your weight -- and I felt like I had to make a wide arc, but I'm guessing the more you get used to it, the more you figure out how to manuever it better."
Brian Skena, Winter Garden, Fla.: "I'm a surfer/snowboarder, and first getting on it, you have to trust that it's going to carve. But as soon as you figure out that you can lean into it and carve, it rides similarly. Hanging onto the stability bar, I'd be interested in trying it without it. That almost puts a little stress on the forearm. You can lean into it really hard. I tried to make a tight turn and didn't make it, but it might have been because I didn't trust myself and not run over somebody's tent. As soon as you let off the throttle, it slows down. You're not going to run over anybody."
Jerry Stenstrom, Kalamazoo, Mich.: "You have to go back to skateboarding a little bit. It'll take you back to your youth. But it was a lot of fun. I think we'd get out there and have more fun surfing around on this than we would playing golf. I don't know that we'd use it at our course, but it is new."
Phil Allen, Oak Brook, Ill.: "At first, it was a little scary. But after you got the hang of it, it was a lot of fun. We were talking about it -- we're on the board of our club and that's why we're down here. We're trying to get golf rounds up and this might be one of those ways to get the young guys out. It's somewhere in between a little motorbike and a skateboard. It takes just a little time to get used to the acceleration, but once you do, it's pretty nice. Anybody could do it."
Christopher Johnson, Vail, Colo.: "I think it would be perfect for us, with so many snowboarders and skiers and people willing to try outdoor activities. It was similar to skateboarding in a way -- a little scary on the hills -- but it was fun, it was a blast. I'd say you'd be used to it within a few holes. There was a learning curve, even in the 20 seconds I rode it. I got more comfortable, for sure."
The Bend, Ore.-based company won the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show award for best new product. The company claims the GolfBoard speeds up the game, reduces turf wear and attracts a younger audience.
Between those already using the product and those who have orders in, GolfBoard officials said more than 100 courses have signed up so far.
GolfBoard's offical website: www.golfboard.com
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