Russell Henley (pictured) continued his run of remarkable form with an 8-under par round of 64 on the first day of the Humana Challenge on the PGA Tour. Henley was tied fourth at the close of play in an event that has a pro-am format. and is played on three desert course in California.
Henley played his first round on the Nicklaus Course at La Quinta. This course is the easiest of the three. Eleven players from the top 16 players on the leaderboard played at the Nicklaus course on Thursday.
As three courses are used in rotation on the first three days, the stagger will not unfold until each player has competed on each of the courses. Players who teed it up at the Palmer Course were facing a tougher layout than at the other two venues.
James Hahn and Aaron Baddeley are third and fourth respectively, and could be said to be ahead of the field as they have now played the hardest course. Further down the leaderboard, established winners Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker cannot be dismissed as they have now got the harder course out of the way.
If Henley were to win this week, he would become the first player in the history of the Tour to win his first two events as a full playing member. At some point you would expect a mental letdown, but the early signs are that Henley can build on his run of 21 successive competitive rounds played under par.
Phil Mickelson had a disappointing start to his new season. At level par after playing at La Quinta, he is in danger of missing the cut. Mickelson tends to take an extended break over Christmas and usually needs a couple of tournaments to play at his best.
On the European Tour, the Abu Dhabi Championship is not panning out as expected. Tiger Woods is well off the pace at eight shots behind Justin Rose, the leader of the tournament towards the end of the second round.
Rory McIlroy looks certain to miss the cut, which is a surprise as he had everything in his favour this week. He played down the adjustment needed to his Nike clubs, but it appears it may take him some time to adapt to the new equipment.