The 2015 Humana Challenge Championship was still up for grabs as the last group, containing the sole leader, Bill Haas, came down the 18th fairway on the Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA West in La Quinta.
Waiting, watching and keeping loose on the driving range were five players, including Idyllwild’s Brendan Steele, who had finished their rounds tied at 21 under par—one shot behind Haas.
“The tournament’s definitely not over from my perspective,” Steele said as he waited for more than an hour to see if his 21-under total would get him into a playoff. “With the water on the last couple holes, anybody can make a bad swing at any time, so you just kind of hang out and see what’s happening. I can’t act like, ‘Hey, I did a good job, but it’s not enough, and I’m going to go home.’ I’ve got to be ready, just in case anything does happen.”
However, the jailbreak playoff was not to be, as Haas battled to a final-hole par and took home the $1 million-plus paycheck.
Meanwhile, fan favorite Phil Mickelson finished in a tie for 24th place, 7 shots off the lead—and it seemed the weekend was just what he needed. As he wound his way around the three courses, he seemed relaxed and unconcerned. For the first three days, he played a convivial and charming host to the amateur players in his group. Whether regaling them with amusing anecdotes or generously offering helpful tips, Mickelson seemed to be at ease.
“I’ve got some things to improve on, but it was a good week to kind of build a foundation (and) work on my game,” Mickelson told the media after his last round. “We had great weather. That allows you to work on the fundamentals and get the swing basics down without having to fight the elements, without getting into bad habits.”
How does the 2015 season ahead look to these two players?
“I’ve been feeling really, really good, shooting good scores at home,” Steele shared. “I know that doesn’t always translate, but I’m just seeing a big difference in my game.”
Meanwhile, Mickelson said he was excited for the upcoming year.
“I feel I’m ready to go, ready to get started,” he said. “It was a good week to get the year started. Now we’ll see the next two weeks if I can get that fine-tuning done and shoot the low scores I need.”
Scroll down to see several photos from the Humana Challenge.