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BILL DWYRE

Patrick Reed (63) leads after a perfect day in the desert

Reed, who won his first tournament in August, has a one-shot edge in the Humana Challenge as golfers are able to take dead aim.

January 16, 2014|Bill Dwyre
  • Patrick Reed hits a shot at No. 9 on the PGA West Palmer course during the first round of the Humana Challenge on Thursday.
Patrick Reed hits a shot at No. 9 on the PGA West Palmer course during the first… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

Thursday at the Humana Challenge was just another lousy day in paradise. The sun glistened against the mountains, temperatures hovered around 80, the wind took the day off and 112 pro golfers in a field of 155 shot under par.

It was a day when there were more birdies than you'd see in an aviary at the three perfectly manicured golf courses in the desert city of La Quinta,

After all the scoring carnage, the leader, at nine-under-par 63, was 23-year-old Patrick Reed, a Texan who played at Augusta State in Georgia and won his first PGA Tour event last year at the Wyndham in August.

Four others — Ryan Palmer, Justin Hicks, Daniel Summerhays and Charley Hoffman — were a shot back. Seven more, including Zach Johnson, Charlie Wi and Bill Haas, shot seven under.

The tournament, played in a pro-am format in which each pro plays with an amateur for the first three days before the cut is made, is contested on the Palmer and Nicklaus private courses and La Quinta Country Club. In past years, each course has carried a different degree of difficulty. Thursday, none had any.

The golfers, who often slog through wind, rain, knee-high rough and pockmarked greens, were both grateful and realistic.

Reed, who played the Palmer Private, said, "The course was in perfect shape. If you're hitting putts on line, they're going in."

He also said that any 63 on the PGA Tour, even one achieved on a Valhalla January day in the Southern California desert, is a great round. But later, he acknowledged that, if he had to give a letter grade to his driving, it would be "a C, C-minus."

The assumption was, apparently, that had he hit better tee shots, he might have shot 54.

Johnson, one of the hottest players on the tour since about the middle of last summer, played at La Quinta and said the greens were so good "they look artificial." He was asked why he plays in this tournament and he pointed to the obvious.

"The weather," he said. "This is pretty ridiculous."

Palmer said that, on a day such as Thursday, par was not really 72 at the three courses, "It is 68."

Los Angeles' own Wi, who managed his 65 despite bogeying the first hole and missing the first three greens in regulation, actually said there was enough afternoon wind to keep scores down a bit but quickly added that conditions were "just perfect."

Surprisingly, some of the bigger attractions had less than heavenly days in Thursday's paradise. Brandt Snedeker was even par, Retief Goosen and Stewart Cink one over and former Masters champion Trevor Immelman seven over.

A few other notables stayed close enough to still be a factor. Justin Leonard, former British Open champion, was six under, as was defending Northern Trust champion John Merrick. Rickie Fowler was four under; Keegan Bradley, Davis Love III, Webb Simpson, Ben Curtis and defending champion Brian Gay all three under.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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