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Little names shoot lowest scores in Humana Challenge

Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro and James Hahn are tied for the lead in the desert after 63s. Russell Henley is one back. Phil Mickelson struggles to a 72.

January 17, 2013|By Diane Pucin
  • Jason Kokrak joined Roberto Castro and James Hahn at the head of the PGA Humana pack after one round.
Jason Kokrak joined Roberto Castro and James Hahn at the head of the PGA Humana… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

There are three co-leaders after the first round of the Humana Challenge, and none of them has won a PGA Tour event.

So when the tournament ends Sunday at the PGA West Palmer course in La Quinta, it seems unlikely Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro or James Hahn will be collecting the winner's check of $1.008 million.

But for a day anyway, the threesome got to shine.

Kokrak, at La Quinta Country Club; Castro, at PGA West Nicklaus; and Hahn, at PGA West Palmer, each shot nine-under-par 63s Thursday, which gave them a one-shot advantage over a quartet that included rookie Russell Henley, who won last week's Sony Open in Honolulu.

Phil Mickelson, 42, and the biggest name in the field, shot an even-par 72 at La Quinta. Patrick Cantlay, who played for two years at UCLA before deciding to leave college and become a professional last June, was tied for eighth after shooting a seven-under 65 on the Nicklaus course. Cantlay had one string of five straight birdies.

All of the leaders commented on the perfect conditions Thursday. There was little wind and plenty of sun.

Kokrak said La Quinta played and looked perfect.

"The greens are not overly fast," said Kokrak, who had two eagles, "so you can be somewhat aggressive."

He is used to being dramatic.

He was 167th on the money list with three events left last year and in danger of losing his PGA Tour card until he tied for second at the Frys.com Open, the third-to-last event of the season. That finish meant Kokrak didn't have to drop to a lesser tour.

Hahn, a PGA Tour rookie who played his college golf at California, said, "The course was in great shape, the fairways are immaculate, the greens are rolling pure, so if you hit a good putt on the right line and at the right speed, it's going in.

"Plus, it's some good weather," said Hahn, who chipped in twice from off the green.

Castro, who is just beginning his second year on the PGA Tour, started well, making birdies on his first two holes. Because of the conditions, Castro said, "if you don't make a bunch of birdies, you're kind of left behind."

That's where Mickelson is for the moment, left behind. Because of a virus that kept him home and unable to practice much the last 10 days, Mickelson said his game was uncomfortable Thursday.

"My timing and rhythm was off," he said. "My putter was atrocious and I had been putting great."

Mickelson gave himself some reason for optimism, though. He birdied his final hole. "So now I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow," he said.

"I hit some shots today I hadn't been hitting … and was still able to shake out an even-par round today. As bad as that is, I've got a low round in me tomorrow. It doesn't feel like my game is that far off."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

Twitter: @mepucin

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