Keys to Swafford’s CareerBuilder Win

Here are some thoughts and observations from Hudson Swafford’s win at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Hudson Swafford began the final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge two shots off the lead at 15-under 201, Swafford birdied three of his last four holes (Nos. 15-17) to claim his first career PGA Tour victory in his 93rd career PGA Tour start at the age of 29 years, 4 months, 13 days.
Key to Swafford’s victory was hitting the most greens of anyone, he only missed 14 all week. Swafford also exceeded in playing the par 4s the best, he was 11 under for the week which is two better than the next best player.
Another key is Swafford getting the bounce back award for his play on the Stadium Course at PGA West. On Saturday he finished his round on the Stadium Course double-bogey, bogey, par for a 71, while on Sunday he finished birdie, birdie, birdie, par for a 67.
Other stats that Swafford exceeded in was leading the field with the most birdies made with 26.
Swafford struggled Sunday morning. Playing in the last threesome, he three-putted the first hole for bogey and after five straight pars found himself five back of Chad Campbell after he holed his third shot at five for an eagle. But Campbell wasn’t able to take advantage of his lead as he hit his tee-shot into the water on the sixth hole on the way of making a triple bogey six.

Swafford got things going when he hit a 107 yard wedge to 3 feet at 7 for birdie. At the par 5 eight, Swafford hit the green in two for his birdie and then did it again at nine when he made a 14 footer for birdie. With that birdie he went into the back nine tied for the lead. Swafford then won the tournament when he made a 11-foot putt for birdie at 15, then hit the par 5 16th in two and two-putted from 15 feet for the birdie. Swafford then gave himself the lead with a 8-iron to within 17 inches on the dangerous island green 17th. Swafford played the tough 18th safety, hitting a perfect drive to the right side of the fairway and then put a 7 iron to 20 feet away and was able to save his one shot win.
With the win Swafford qualifies to play in the Masters along with the Players Championship, the Dean & Deluca Invitational, the Memorial, The PGA Championship and he will start 2018 in Maui playing in the SBS Tournament of Champions.

So did we see this coming?
In his fourth year on the PGA Tour, Swafford has shown steady improvement each year. In a way he’s a bit like Charles Howell III, of late he has made a lot of cuts but hasn’t had much to show for it other than a steady pay-check. After missing four straight cuts last year between the Shell Houston Open and the Zurich Classic, Swafford started a streak going t the Players Championship in which he has made the cut in 19 straight cuts. But he has gone under the radar screen because his best finish in the 18 straight cuts before the CareerBuilders was T-13th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. In the 18 cuts made Swafford racked up only four top-25 finishes, so that made him hard to justify a pick in fantasy golf. Because of him making a lot of cuts and reasonable checks, Swafford has always been on the upper end in DraftKings money. This week he cost $7,900 which is a lot for a guy that never really contented. In the last year he has only been in the position to contend just twice, and in his 92 starts before this week his best position going into the final round was T-5th at the 2014 Quicken Loans National (finished T-11th) and last year’s Farmers Insurance Open were he was T-9th after the third round and finished T-13th.

One thing that is unique about Swafford is that he is a University of Georgia product, and became the 11th different Bulldog to win on the PGA Tour, the ninth since the start of the 2014 season and first since Bubba Watson at last year’s Genesis Open.
Here is the list of Bulldog winners the last three years:

Hudson Swafford – 2017 CareerBuilder
Bubba Watson – 2016 Genesis Open
Patrick Reed – 2016 Barclays
Kevin Kisner – 2016 RSM Classic
Chris Kirk – 2015 Crowne Plaza Colonial
Harris English – 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Brian Harman – 2014 John Deere Classic
Brandon Todd – 2014 HP Byron Nelson
Russell Henley – 2014 Honda Classic

Showing the dominance of the Georgia Bulldogs, Swafford’s win was the 21st PGA Tour victory by a Bulldog since 2010, the most of any college.  Second best is UNLV with 16 followed by Texas with 12.

So who brings any momentum into the Farmers?
Watch Brendan Steele who finished T-6th, four back of Swafford at the CareerBuilders. Steele won the first event of the year at the Safeway Classic and was T-6th at the SBS Tournament of Champions.
Hideki Matsuyama didn’t play at the CareerBuilders but was T-27th at the Sony Open but before that either won or was runner-up in six straight events.
Also we can’t forget about Dustin Johnson who decided at the last minute to play at Torrey. Other than Justin Thomas, who isn’t playing, Johnson has has the best streak going as he was T-3rd at the Hero World Challenge, T-6th at the SBS Tournament of Champions and T-2nd at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Many will point to Phil Mickelson’s T-21st finish at the CareerBuilder.  Coming off of two hernia surgeries, just the sight of Mickelson playing was great, but he was able to string together four good rounds for the top-25 finish.  But I think that’s were things end, since the changes made to Torrey Pines for the 2008 U.S. Open, the course has been unplayable, he has only made one cut in his last five starts.  So we will take a pass on Phil in the Farmers.

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