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BlogCareerBuilder Preview and Picks

CareerBuilder Challenge

January 18th – 21st, 2018

PGA West TPC Stadium Course

La Quinta, CA

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,113

Purse: $5.9 million

with $1,062,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Hudson Swafford

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

There are 28 players in the top-100 and 11 of the top-50 in the lastest Official World Rankings. Those in the top-50 consistent of #3 Jon Rahm, #20 Brian Harman, #25 Patrick Reed, #27 Kevin Kisner, #32 Kevin Chappell, #38 Webb Simpson, #39 Jhonattan Vegas, #41 Jason Dufner, #43 Phil Mickelson, #46 Brendan Steele and #47 Zach Johnson.

Last year there was 11 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 6 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2017.  Those players are #5 Jon Rahm, #12 Kevin Kisner, #17 Webb Simpson, #22 Patrick Reed, #23 Jhonattan Vegas and #25 Brian Harman.

The field includes 14 players in the top 25 on this year’s FedEx point standings.  Those players are #1 Patton Kizzire, #4 Austin Cook, #7 Brian Harman, #8 Brendan Steele, #11 Chesson Hadley, #12 J.J. Spaun, #14 Ryan Armour, #16 Whee Kim, #18 James Hahn, #19 Tom Hoge, #20 Jon Rahm, #22 Alex Cejka, #23 Brian Stuard and #24 Chez Reavie.

The field includes 11 past champions: Hudson Swafford – 2017, Jason Dufner – 2016, Bill Haas – 2015 & ’10, Patrick Reed – 2014, Brian Gay – 2013, Mark Wilson – 2012, Jhonattan Vegas – 2011, D.J. Trahan – 2008, Chad Campbell – 2006, Phil Mickelson – 2004 & ’02 and Mark Brooks – 1996.

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the CareerBuilder Challenge field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

 

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the CareerBuilder Challenge

Player Sony Open Sentry T of C Australian PGA Championship RSM Classic DP World, Dubai Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Patton Kizzire
(249.33 pts)
Win
(132)
T15
(35)
DNP T45
(1.67)
DNP Win
(44)
T4
(26.67)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Brian Harman
(236.67 pts)
T4
(80)
3
(90)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP 8
(16.67)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP
Jon Rahm
(170.67 pts)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP Win
(66)
DNP DNP T36
(4.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brian Stuard
(131 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T9
(15)
T57
(0)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T62
(0)
Austin Cook
(122.67 pts)
T18
(32)
T22
(28)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP T50
(0.33)
T20
(10)
DNP T25
(8.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Tom Hoge
(117.67 pts)
3
(90)
DNP DNP T25
(8.33)
DNP T61
(0)
T7
(18.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
James Hahn
(110.67 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T77
(0)
DNP DNP T40
(3.33)
T28
(7.33)
DNP
Webb Simpson
(99.33 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
Ryan Armour
(96 pts)
T39
(11)
20
(30)
DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP T55
(0)
T20
(10)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Chesson Hadley
(92.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
T4
(26.67)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T3
(30)
Chez Reavie
(87.67 pts)
T18
(32)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP T15
(11.67)
T17
(11)
T13
(12.33)
Kevin Kisner
(84.67 pts)
T25
(25)
T17
(33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Ollie Schniederjans
(82 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T19
(10.33)
T23
(9)
T17
(11)
Brendan Steele
(77.33 pts)
DNP 29
(21)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Win
(44)
Chris Kirk
(75.33 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T34
(5.33)
T54
(0)
DNP T30
(6.67)
Zach Johnson
(74 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP T23
(9)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Jason Dufner
(71 pts)
T18
(32)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 74
(0)
DNP
Jhonattan Vegas
(68.67 pts)
DNP T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP T61
(0)
DNP T20
(10)
DNP T54
(0)
T39
(3.67)
DNP
Ben Martin
(68.67 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T59
(0)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
J.J. Spaun
(63.67 pts)
T47
(3)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T14
(12)
T10
(13.33)
DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Charles Howell III
(63.33 pts)
T32
(18)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP T19
(10.33)
T51
(0)
DNP
Russell Knox
(59.33 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP T9
(15)
T72
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T63
(0)
DNP
Brandon Harkins
(55.33 pts)
T25
(25)
DNP DNP T49
(0.33)
DNP T25
(8.33)
T20
(10)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T9
(15)
Whee Kim
(52 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T45
(1.67)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
T39
(3.67)
T54
(0)
Wesley Bryan
(51.67 pts)
T32
(18)
T27
(23)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T62
(0)
DNP T36
(4.67)
T32
(6)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the CareerBuilder Challenge

Player Sony Open Sentry T of C Australian PGA Championship RSM Classic DP World, Dubai Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Kyle Thompson
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Andrew Yun
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Atkins
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T65
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Jon Curran
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Marty Dou Zecheng
(-21.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
T69
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Sangmoon Bae
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T61
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Mac Hughes
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Mark Wilson
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Steve Wheatcroft
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T74
(0)
DNP DNP T59
(0)
Troy Merritt
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T51
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T69
(0)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

When you look at the struggles that events like Colonial and Houston Open are having now with no sponsor, it’s just a few years ago that many thought this tournament would not survive.  When it ended after 2011 with no sponsor and many players not interested in playing the event, many thought it was finished.  That wasn’t the case, Tim Finchem and the Tour worked an arrangement with Bill Clinton to get his foundation involved and then got Humana to take over sponsorship.  The format changed from a 90 hole tournament to 72 holes which help coax more players to attend.  Even with Humana leaving as the sponsor, the tour was able to get CareerBuilder to step in and take over through 2021, so the event is on very firm foundation

Another big thing that happened after the 2014 event was played.  The most popular home venue for the tournament was the Palmer Course, which for 14 of the 17 years between 1999 and 2015 was the home course.  But after 2015, the Palmer private along with Nicklaus private didn’t want to be a part of the tournament. For tournament officials, it was a terrible deal because they realized the importance of the Palmer course after a disastrous change in 2006 when the event was played at the Classic Club for three years.  Tournament officials along with the PGA Tour made what could have been a very controversial decision to bring the Stadium Course out of retirement, the Pete Dye design course which held the event 30 years before.

Back then the course was stunning on television, but the players hated it.  In the age of persimmon drivers and balata balls, the players thought the Dye track was too hard, and “gimmicky”  with its island green, 20-foot-deep bunkers, a green surrounded by a nine-foot moat style bunker.  Hitting drives was demanding because if the fairways were missed, the chances were high the ball is in a bush or behind a tree.  The course was the most penal course in the Palm Springs area and the country.  On top of that, the players hated how long it took to play.  Playing with amateurs, it took over six hours to get around.

The players demonized the course as being too hard, and it was.  Over the course of the last 25 years, all the courses that held the CareerBuilders ranked very easy and knew as places to make lots of eagles and birdies.  But that wasn’t the case with PGA West in 1987. The field played it once in the first 72 holes; then in the final round.  For the week it played to a 74.157 average,  two shots over par for the field.  It ranked as the 7th hardest course that year with the players loud voicing their displeasure a couple of days after Corey Pavin won.  So many players were bad that the Tour dropped the TPC Stadium Course and it was thought that it would never have another PGA Tour event.

In 1987 of the 18 holes played at PGA West, 16 of them were over par.  The only ones under was the par 5, 8th and the par 4, 12th. Hard to believe that three of the four par 5s were over par and the 11th hole played to a 5.308 average.  In the 30 years since only ten par 5s played harder with the 14th at Pebble Beach playing the hardest.

So the question in 2016 was if players thought that PGA West, which was impossible 29 years ago would possibly play differently?  Over the three decades the course was softened.  Bushes and small trees that use to line the fairways had been removed making the fairways more generous.  The moat bunker at 12 is gone and with golf equipment better and the course gaining only 190 yards, it still looked speculator on TV but didn’t kill the pros  When the course returned in 2016 it played to an average of 70.818 making it the 41st hardest of 50 courses.  In 1987, 16 of the 18 holes played over par.  In 2016 only seven played over par.  More importantly the players loved playing the course and many thought it was one of the best courses of the year.  So going into the 2017 event, the course was again the star.  Things didn’t change last year as the course played to an average of 71.588 and was the 30th hardest course of the year (mostly because of the wet weather all four days).  Despite it being harder, there was nothing but praise as players loved the Stadium Course.

For many, you ask them who Bob Hope unfortunately many don’t know of him.  He was probably the most significant comedian between the 1930s and 90s and hosted this event between 1965 and his death in 2003 at age 100. Hope’s name was the fixture until it was dropped in 2012.

Yes Bob Hope, who the tournament was named after between 1965 and 2011, would be proud that the event is still popular today.  Of course, this event has competition as it’s played the same week as the Abu Dhabi Championship on the PGA Tour.  That championship has an excellent field of marquee players like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Rose, but the CareerBuilder has a solid base of good players like Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson.

More importantly is the CareerBuilder is on solid ground and is growing which is a good sign.

Course information:

  • A unique event uses three courses.
  • PGA West TPC Stadium Course is the home and holds one round during the first three days and host Sunday’s action:
  • 7,113 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • The course has a 76.1 rating and slope rating of 150 from the championship tees making it one of the hardest in the country.
  • The course was designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1986.  Dye was hired by the Landmark developing company, which were big in the 80s with over a dozen courses around the country.  Landmark owners Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser gave Dye the task to build them the toughest course in the World.
  • Along with the 1987 CareerBuilder Challenge, the Skins Game was held on the course between 1986 and 1991.  PGA Tour qualifying school was held six times, the last being 2008 but the hint that the course was becoming more playable was when the Champions Tour held the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on it in 1995 and ’96.  The seniors took a liking to the course, which was softened for that event.
  • The average green size is 6,500 square feet, and the course has close to hundred bunkers around it.  Water comes into play on nine of the holes, and the CareerBuilder course record is 67 which Corey Pavin shot in the final round in 1987.
  • Last year the course played to a 71.588 average and was the 30th hardest course on tour.

Other courses used in the Rota:

  • La Quinta C.C.
  • La Quinta, Calif.
  • 7,060 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • Course has a 74.2 rating and slope rating of 136 from the championship tees
  • Course is private and not open to the public
  • La Quinta was designed by Billy Bell and Lawrence Hughes and opened in 1959.  In 1999, Robert Muir Graves and Damian Pascuzzo came in, rebuilt all the greens, bunkers, and tees.  He has also taken all the water hazards on the course and made them all come into play. The flagpole at the first tee is the official flagpole from the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. It was given to La Quinta Country Club by the Novotny family in memory of Frank Capra.
  • The average green size at La Quinta is 5,500 square feet, and the course has 101 bunkers.  There are five water hazards as eight holes are affected.  La Quinta was first used as a tournament course in 1963 and has been a part of 46 of the 58 CareerBuilder and historically been the hardest of the courses used.  It was the host course in 1970, 1977, 1980, and 1983.

Here is the scoring average of the La Quinta course compared to other courses that hold events on the PGA Tour:

  • 2017 – 69.635 average, 2nd easiest of 50 courses used for the year
  • 2016 – 69.148 average, 3rd easiest of 50 courses used for the year
  • 2015 – 70.083 average, 6th easiest of 52 courses used for the year
  • 2014 – 69.768 average, 4th easiest of 48 courses used for the year
  • 2013 – 69.487 average, 3rd easiest of 43 courses used for the year
  • 2012 – 70.678 average, 41st hardest of 49 courses used for the year
  • 2011 – 70.024 average, 43rd hardest of 51 courses used for the year
  • 2010 – 69.969 average, 47th hardest of 52 courses used for the year

 

  • PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course
  • La Quinta, Calif.
  • 7,159 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • Course has a 75.3 rating and slope rating of 143 from the championship tees
  • Course is open to the public
  • The course is a tamer version of its neighbor the Stadium course.  Look for lot’s of birdies to be made as the fairways are generous and the greens should be easy to hit.  The Nicklaus course held final PGA Tour qualifying tournament on the course in 1988, ’90. ’93, 2000, ’02, ’04, ’06, ’08, ’12 and ’13 so many of the players in the field will have played it.
  • Last year the course was used for the second straight year and had blended very well into the tournament.  The course had a 70.744 average making it the 39th hardest course on tour last year.

COURSE KEYS

We won’t have course keys since the event is played on three different courses.

 

DraftKings Tips

Looking for some good picks at the CareerBuilder?

*Of the 156 in the field, 127 have played at least once at the CareerBuilder has 105 have participated more than once.

*Here are the players that have played in two or more CareerBuilder’s and had the most under par totals since 2010:

  • Bill Haas is 148 under in 33 rounds playing 8 years
  • Ryan Palmer is 132 under in 32 rounds playing 8 years
  • Charles Howell III is 130 under in 34 rounds playing 8 years
  • Kevin Na is 118 under par in 33 rounds playing 8 years
  • Martin Laird is 117 under in 33 rounds playing 8 years
  • Matt Jones is 106 under in 26 rounds playing 6 years
  • Webb Simpson is 106 under in 29 rounds playing 7 years
  • Jason Dufner is 96 under in 25 rounds playing 6 years
  • Kevin Streelman is 96 under in 28 rounds playing 7 years
  • Brandt Snedeker is 88 under in 24 rounds playing 6 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

  • Bill Hass is 148 under playing 8 years (-18.5)
  • James Hahn is 55 under playing 3 years (-18.33)
  • Bubba Watson is 36 under playing twice (-18)
  • Matt Jones is 106 under playing 6 years (-17.67)
  • Adam Hadwin is 51 under playing 3 years (-17)
  • David Lingmerth is 84 under playing 5 years (-16.8)
  • Ryan Palmer is 132 under playing 8 years (-16.5)
  • Charles Howell III is 130 under playing 8 years (-16.25)
  • Jason Dufner is 96 under playing 6 years (-16)
  • Webb Simpson is 106 under playing 7 years (-15.14)
  • Phil Mickelson is 74 under playing 5 years (14.8)
  • Kevin Na is 118 under playing 8 years (-14.75)
  • Harris English is 59 under playing 4 years (-14.75)
  • Brandt Snedeker is 88 under playing 6 years (-14.67)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week looking at those making the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that are very costly this week:

  • Jon Rahm – $11,800
  • Brian Harman – $11,500
  • Patrick Reed – $11,100
  • Kevin Kisner – $10,400
  • Phil Mickelson – $10,000
  • Jason Dufner – $9,800
  • Webb Simpson – $9,700
  • Zach Johnson – $9,400
  • Patton Kizzire – $9,100
  • Chesson Hadley – $9,000

We can see how they have picked Jon Rahm, Brian Harman, and Kevin Kisner. All did well in the two-week Hawaiian swing, with Harman doing the best finishing 3rd at the TofC and T-4th at the Sony Open.  Now Webb Simpson was T-4th last week, Patton Kizzire won Sony.  After that, the rest have some reasons like Patrick Reed was T-5th at Hero and T-10th at DP World Dubai.  Jason Dufner is a bit of a mystery as he was T-11th at TofC and T-18th at Sony.  As for Chesson Hadley, he hasn’t played well since finishing 2nd at the Sanderson Farms and then T-4th a week later at the Shriners Hospitals.  Now Phil Mickelson presents a problem, yes he had won this event twice, does make lot’s of birdies and eagles but has only played once since he was T-3rd at the Safeway when he was T-15th at the WGC-HSBC.  So we are going on faith and Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte report that Phil wants to make 2018 a “great year.”  Phil told Rosaforte that he is physically stronger and been working hard on his game, but we have no real intel from other players stating that Mickelson looks ready.  I would be careful taking him since he does have a high price.

Webb Simpson at $9,700 is high, but he did finish the weekend 63-65 at the Sony.  He was T-6th in birdie or better conversion as he made an eagle and 14 birdies over the weekend.  The only player better was James Hahn, who shot 65-62 over the weekend and also made 14 birdies in his last two rounds.  He could be a perfect player this week since he is only $8,300 and if you look he has produced a lot of birdies and eagles in his three years playing the CareerBuilder.  So on paper, he is excellent, but we just don’t know if the Sony playoff loss took too much out of him.  Still at $8,300 you really can’t go wrong.

Zach Johnson is at $9,400, and after last week in the Sony, I wonder about him.  He finished T-14th, but a combination of that and his lack of offensive means he is a shaky choice in an event that players make lots of birdies and eagles.  Last week at the Sony Johnson was T-25th in birdies and T-22nd in par breakers so despite him finishing in the top-25, he just won’t give you the points for a price of $9,400

*Here are those players with costs between $7,500 and $8,900 that are worth the price:

Lot’s of good bargains in this price range

Still, I like Charles Howell III.  His T-32nd at the Sony was a disappointment, but he comes to the CareerBuilder with a lot of past success.  It is striking that he is 130 under in his last 8 starts, averaging 16.25 under per start and I think he will regain some of the shine that he didn’t have in Hawaii.

Brendan Steele is also a good buy at $8,900.  He didn’t play well at the Sentry, but has been stable and has a good record at the CareerBuilder finishing T-6th last year.  His production level is high in seven starts in the desert he is 87 under par.

David Lingmerth is also a person to watch at $7,800.  This is his first start since the RSM, he has two runner-up finishes at the CareerBuilder and is 84 under in 5 appearances.

Another hidden gem is Chris Kirk at $8,100; he has played well in his last two starts, he was T-10th at the Sony even with a final round 70.  He hasn’t shown much in the CareerBuilder, but last year he was close but finished the event with a final round 74 for a T-21st finish.

Have to wonder how Bubba Watson will do this year.  He struggled last year thanks to maybe enjoying life too much and spending too much time working on his minor league baseball team the Pensacola Blue.  But I think his biggest problem was switching to the Volivk Ball which just wasn’t right for him; he drastically dropped in driving distance and other than putting saw all his stats drop. Even though he had a multi-year deal to play the Volvik ball he said at the Shriners that he was going back to the ball he grew up with, Titleist.  Watson had a knack of playing well in the desert and I think that is one of the reasons he is playing this week.  So at $8,000 he is a good buy this week.

A couple of guys to be careful with, first Bill Haas would normally be a good pick at the CareerBuilder when you consider he has won twice in the last 8 years and in that span has been in the top-ten, five times.  But since finishing T-5th at the U.S. Open his game has not been very good, his only top-25 finishes was a T-13th at the Quicken Loans and T-10th at Dell Technologies. Following Haas missing the cut at the RSM nine weeks ago, he dropped out of the Top 50 in OWGR for the first time since the second week of 2011.  So frankly he is someone that I wouldn’t pick at $8,600.

Adam Hadwin, who was runner-up last year at the CareerBuilder looks like an excellent bargain at $7,600, but he may not be a good pick.  After his runner-up finishes in Palm Springs, he won the Valspar and finished 6th the next week at the Arnold Palmer.  But after that, he has only finished in the top-20, twice in his last 21 starts.  His ball striking has suffered as he is 138th in greens hit this year and was 114th last year.  Could the desert perk him up, possibly but I feel he is struggling with things right now.

*Who are the “Bargains” out there?

Kevin Na strikes out at $7,400 because of his three top-ten finishes in the CareerBuilder including a T-3rd in 2016.  He has a lot of production as he is 118 under par in his five starts in the Desert.  Still, the reason he is so cheap is that in 14 rounds this year he is even par and only broken 70 three times.  Last week he missed the cut at the Sony with rounds of 71.

John Peterson started strongly last week at the Sony with rounds of 66-64 but struggled over the weekend with a 74-69 to finish T-47th.  At $7,100 he may be worth the risk this week.

Usually, I would say that Stewart Cink is an excellent buy at $7,300, but avoid him this week.  He has missed his last three cuts in the CareerBuilder and just not worth the gamble.

Two other players that could surprise us is Dominic Bozzelli and Sam Saunders.  Bozzelli at $6,800 owns the competitive record at the Stadium course, shooting a 64 last year.  He finished the tournament with a 71 and finished 5th.  Last week at the Sony, after an opening round 70 shot 67-67-68 to finish T-39th so he may be a dark horse this week.

Another dark horse is Sam Saunders at $6,600.  His grandfather Arnold Palmer had a great run in the desert and despite missing the cut in all six of his starts in the CareerBuilder.  But he showed some signs of coming around as he shot 67-67-66-70 at the Sony to finish T-25th.

 

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the CareerBuilder Challenge

Key stat for the winner:

  • With the addition of PGA West TPC Stadium Course, it now gives the tournament a bit more of a challenge.  You won’t find any 59s shot on this course, in its first year 2016 65 was the lowest round shot at the Stadium Course.  Last year Dominic Bozzelli shot 64 in the first round making it the lowest round shot at the Stadium Course which was one of the 50 rounds shot at PGA West.  Key here is that low scores aren’t shot on this course like the others.
  • The most important stat is how many birdies are allowed on the three courses.  Last year players teed it up on two of the four rounds at PGA West Stadium Course and made 21 eagles and 843 birdies.  Remember that this course had each player go around twice on the course, while the other two courses held one round for each player.  La Quinta had 12 eagles and 683 birdies while PGA West Tournament had 11 eagles and 646 birdies. So a key stat, to look at for this week, is Par Breakers on tour.  Of the top-15 on that list, John Peterson, Jon Rahm and Ollie Schniederjans are in the CareerBuilder Challenge field.

Here are some more key stats to look for this week:

  • This week the pros will play over three courses in four days, quite a learning scale with very little time to prepare and learn two new courses.  Making it even harder for those coming from Hawaii unless they took red-eyes on Sunday Night or missed the cut; they won’t get to start practicing until Tuesday.  Still, it’s better than the days when this event was played over five days.
  • Another problem for the pros, the first three days they play with amateurs.  So patience is needed to tolerate those five-plus hour rounds.  Look for experienced players to do well, those with a long track record at the CareerBuilder should be your favorites. Since 1984, the champion has averaged winning in his 7th start. Last year Hudson Swafford won on his fourth CareerBuilder start while in 2016 Jason Dufner won on his 7th try.  In 2015 Bill Haas won on his 11 try while the year before Patrick Reed won in only his second start.  In 2013, Brian Gay won on his 12th CareerBuilder start while 2012 winner Mark Wilson was making his fourth start when he won.  Experience is a must in this event.  Yes, Jhonathan Vegas won the first time around in 2011, and Charley Hoffman in 2007 was the first player to make his Hope debut a victory since Donnie Hammond did it in 1986.  Still consider Hoffman, Vegas, and Reed are exceptions to the rule.
  • As we said before, the winner will have to make lots of birdies and eagles to win. When it was played over 90 holes, Phil Mickelson made 37 birdies in 2004 while Justin Leonard made 33 in 2005.   D.J. Trahan made 35 in 2008 along with Pat Perez in 2009,  Bill Haas made 34 in 2010, and Jhonathan Vegas made 34 in 2011.  When the event changed to 72 holes in 2012, Mark Wilson made 24 birdies while Brian Gay made 27 in 2013  In 2014 Patrick Reed went crazy with 30 birdies, along with two eagles while in 2015 Bill Haas made one eagle and 22 birdies.  In 2016 on new courses Jason Dufner went low and had 30 birdies.  Last year Hudson Swafford had 26 birdies so to win they will have to birdie at least 3 out of every ten holes played.
  • Look at someone who destroys the par 5s.  The last 21 winners have averaged a bit under 14 under on them with Phil Mickelson playing them in 14 under in 2002.  Mike Weir played them in 15 under in 2003, and Phil Mickelson played them in 12 under in 2004.    Justin Leonard played them in 10 under in 2005; Chad Campbell played them in 18 under in 2006, Charley Hoffman played them in 15 under in 2007 while D.J. Trahan was 13 under on them with Pat Perez setting the record for playing them in 19 under in 2009.  Bill Haas played them in 16 under in 2010 while Jhonathan Vegas was 11 under the last year it was held at 90 holes.  In 2012, Mark Wilson was 15 under while Brian Gay was 10 under in 2013.  In 2015 Patrick Reed was 14 under on them.  Jason Dufner went low in 2016 playing the par 5s in 12 under.  Last year Hudson Swafford broke tradition as he played the par 5s in 8 under, the first time since 1997 that someone was in single figures on the par 5s.
  • Now over the course of the last month, the Southern California area has been hit with a lot of storms and rain.  The good news, after rain played havoc all four days in Palm Springs last year, there will be no rain during tournament week, which will bring the scores down a lot.

 

 

 

Who to watch for at the CareerBuilder Challenge

Best Bets:

Jon Rahm

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
                    T34

He is the man to beat this week, he makes lot’s of birdies and has been on a roll since his victory in Dubai and runner-up at the Sentry TofC.

Webb Simpson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T66 T17 T7 T23 CUT T13 T33 T5

Played great on the weekend at the Sony, also like the fact that he is 106 under in the last seven times he has played in this tournament.

Brian Harman

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T3 T11 T82 CUT T54

Had the opposite results at the Sony playing well the first two rounds and struggle on Sunday. In his last three starts, he is 44 under par and has been under par in 11 of the 12 rounds. He is 36 under the last two years in the CareerBuilder

Best of the rest:

James Hahn

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T20 T38 T4

Went low on Sunday at the Sony, have to wonder if he can bounce back after the playoff loss. The good news in 12 rounds in the CareerBuilder he has made 5 eagles and 68 birdies so he knows how to go low.

Charles Howell III

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T12 T11 T56 T58 T2 T49 T13 T26 T65

Likes playing in this event, he has made the cut in ten of his 12 starts and was runner-up in 2013.

Patrick Reed

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T12 T56 T24 Win CUT

Have to wonder when he will get his game going, this is a good place for him.

Jason Dufner

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T25 Win CUT T12 T33 T18 T34 T53

Won in 2016 so you can count on him playing well.

Solid contenders

Brendan Steele

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T6 T34 T2 CUT T56 T66 CUT

He didn’t play well at the Sentry, but has been stable and has a good record at the CareerBuilder finishing T-6th last year. His production level is high in seven starts in the desert he is 87 under par.

David Lingmerth

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T34 2 T24 T78 T2

This is his first start since the RSM, he has two runner-up finishes at the CareerBuilder and is 84 under in 5 appearances.

Chris Kirk

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T21 T56 CUT T42 T7

Has played well in his last two starts including a T-10th at the Sony.

Phil Mickelson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T21 T3 T24 T37 T49 T45 T5

Good record in the desert, have heard that he has practiced a lot this winter and would really love to start off with a win in this event.

Bubba Watson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T2 T25 T26 CUT

Looking to make a comeback this year, has a good record playing well on desert courses.

Long shots that could come through:

Bud Cauley

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T3 T14 CUT T37 T30

Like that he went low last year, he had two top-tens in his four fall events.

Dominic Bozzelli

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
5

Wwns the competitive record at the Stadium course, shooting a 64 last year. He finished the tournament with a 71 and finished 5th. Also like that he had a solid finish at the Sony last week

Sam Saunders

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT

Yes he has missed the cut in all of his six CareerBuilder starts, but he would love to make his mark in an event that his grandfather Arnold Palmer did well in.

Has had a tough time of late:

Bill Haas

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T17 T9 Win T6 CUT T64 T2 Win T25 T16 T27 T19

Has a great record in this event including two wins, he normally would be a great pick but hasn’t played well since the summer.

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