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BlogDesert Classic Preview and Picks

Desert Classic

January 17th – 20th, 2019

PGA West Stadium Course

La Quinta, CA

Par: 72 / Yardage:

Purse: $5.9 million

with $1,062,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Jon Rahm

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

There are 29 players in the top-100 and 6 of the top-50 in the latest Official World Rankings. Those in the top-50 are #1 Justin Rose, #7 Jon Rahm, #19 Patrick Cantlay, #34 Phil Mickelson, #39 Kevin Kisner and #45 Andrew Putnam.

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

The field includes 4 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  Those players are #1 Justin Rose, #20 Patrick Cantlay, #21 Phil Mickelson and #24 Jon Rahm

The field includes 10 players in the top 25 on this year’s FedEx point standings.  Those players are #5 Charles Howell III, #10 Andrew Putnam, #11 Patrick Cantlay, #17 Scott Piercy, #18 Corey Conners, #21 Sam Ryder, #22 J.J. Spaun, #23 Chez Reavie, #24 Chesson Hadley and #25 Abraham Ancer.

The field includes 10 past champions: Jon Rahm – 2018, Hudson Swafford – 2017, Jason Dufner – 2016, Bill Haas – 2015 & ’10, Brian Gay – 2013, Mark Wilson – 2012, Jhonattan Vegas – 2011, Pat Perez – 2009, D.J. Trahan – 2008 and Phil Mickelson – 2004 & ’02.

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Desert Classic 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 Desert Classic in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Desert Classic.

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 DP, Dubai RSM Classic Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals Turkish Airlines WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms Nine Bridges CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Andrew Putnam
(170 pts)
2
(100)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T29
(7)
T50
(0.33)
DNP
Charles Howell III
(150 pts)
T8
(50)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T61
(0)
T5
(23.33)
DNP
Chez Reavie
(129.33 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP T7
(18.33)
T43
(2.33)
T33
(5.67)
Corey Conners
(122.33 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Scott Piercy
(109 pts)
T33
(17)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
T27
(7.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Patton Kizzire
(107.67 pts)
T13
(37)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T55
(0)
DNP DNP 67
(0)
DNP T23
(9)
DNP DNP
Hudson Swafford
(105.33 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T76
(0)
T55
(0)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP DNP T69
(0)
Jon Rahm
(99.33 pts)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP T4
(40)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Danny Willett
(90 pts)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(66)
DNP DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Abraham Ancer
(80.67 pts)
T29
(21)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T21
(9.67)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP T73
(0)
T5
(23.33)
DNP
Justin Rose
(74 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
3
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sungjae Im
(73 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T41
(3)
DNP T4
(26.67)
Patrick Cantlay
(62.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
J.J. Spaun
(62.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
T3
(30)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T72
(0)
T41
(3)
Ryan Armour
(62 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T21
(9.67)
DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
T29
(7)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Harold Varner III
(60.67 pts)
DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T23
(9)
T6
(20)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
Richy Werenski
(56.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T3
(30)
T23
(9)
DNP DNP T61
(0)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
Lucas Glover
(54.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T11
(13)
DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
Ryan Palmer
(54 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(30)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Luke List
(50 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
Aaron Wise
(48 pts)
DNP T27
(23)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sam Ryder
(45.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
54
(0)
3
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T43
(2.33)
T4
(26.67)
Chesson Hadley
(45 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP DNP T73
(0)
T2
(33.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Carlos Ortiz
(41 pts)
T29
(21)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T3
(30)
DNP DNP T53
(0)
Brian Stuard
(40.33 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T52
(0)
T39
(3.67)
T53
(0)
Brian Gay
(40 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
T41
(3)
T51
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T61
(0)
T69
(0)
DNP
Ryan Blaum
(39 pts)
T64
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
74
(0)
DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
Anders Albertson
(39 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T55
(0)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Harris English
(37.67 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
T68
(0)
T36
(4.67)
DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP T66
(0)
Sebastian Munoz
(36.67 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
64
(0)
T41
(3)
DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Dylan Frittelli
(35.83 pts)
T51
(0)
DNP DNP T7
(27.5)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP T25
(8.33)
J.T. Poston
(34.33 pts)
T20
(30)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T21
(9.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
C.T. Pan
(33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T23
(9)
T30
(6.67)
DNP
Pat Perez
(32.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP T7
(18.33)
T63
(0)
DNP
Si Woo Kim
(32 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
T10
(13.33)
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 DP, Dubai RSM Classic Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals Turkish Airlines WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms Nine Bridges CIMB Classic Safeway Open
John Huh
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Max Homa
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T60
(0)
John Chin
(-21.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Roberto Diaz
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Sangmoon Bae
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T59
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Josh Teater
(-19.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T48
(0.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T78
(0)
Adam Long
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T63
(0)
Ollie Schniederjans
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T74
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 74
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Curtis Luck
(-16.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
J.J. Henry
(-16.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz

The Desert Classic is enduring another year of no sponsorship.  The only difference is that with Lagardere Sports running things, there is a hope that they will secure a sponsor and everything will be fine.  When it ended after 2011 with no sponsor and many players not interested in playing the event, many thought it the event 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 CareerBuilders to step in and take over through 2021, so the event was on a very firm foundation.  But with CareerBuilders gone, things are again a bit foggy.

One of the reasons things are looking up was the 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 25 years, all the courses that held the Desert Classic 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 two rounds on the course in 1987 and they didn’t like it at all.  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 loudly voicing their displeasure a couple of days after Corey Pavin won.  So many players were mad 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 were 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 previous 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 that 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.  Last year was more of the same, it played to a 71.18 average and was the 36th hardest course for the year

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 which is still popular today.  Of course, this event has competition as it’s played the same week as the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour and the SMBC Singapore Open on the Asian Tour.  Both of those events have an excellent field of marquee players like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi while in Singapore marquee names like Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Davis Love III are playing. The Desert Classic has a solid base of good players like Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, and Phil Mickelson.

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 Desert Classic, 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 a hundred bunkers around it.  Water comes into play on nine of the holes, and the Desert Classic course record is 67 which Corey Pavin shot in the final round in 1987.

Last year the course played to a 71.181 average and was the 36th hardest course on tour.

Other courses used in the Rota:

La Quinta C.C.

La Quinta, Calif.

7,060 yards     Par 36-36–72

The course has a 74.2 rating and slope rating of 136 from the championship tees

The 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 47 of the 59 Desert Classic 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:

  • 2018 – 68.831 average, easiest of the 51 courses used for the year
  • 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
This is the third course used:
  • PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course
  • La Quinta, Calif.
  • 7,159 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • The course has a 75.3 rating and slope rating of 143 from the championship tees

The 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 third straight year and had blended very well into the tournament.  The course had a 69.445 average making it the 50th 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 Desert Classic

*Of the 156 in the field, 126 have played at least once at the Desert Classic has 105 have participated more than once.

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

  • Bill Haas is -153 under in 36 rounds playing 9 years
  • Ryan Palmer is -146 under in 36 rounds playing 9 years
  • Charles Howell III is -144 under in 38 rounds playing 9 years
  • Martin Laird is -118 under in 36 rounds playing 9 years
  • Kevin Streelman is -109 under in 32 rounds playing 8 years
  • Matt Jones is -109 under in 29 rounds playing 7 years
  • Jason Dufner is -108 under in 29 rounds playing 7 years
  • Brendan Steele is -101 under in 31 rounds playing 8 years
  • Brian Gay is -97 under in 31 rounds playing 8 years
  • Pat Perez is -94 under in 28 rounds playing 7 years
  • Ben Crane is -93 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Zach Johnson is -92 under in 25 rounds playing 7 years

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

  • Adam Hadwin is -71 under playing 4 years (-17.75)
  • Bill Haas is -153 under playing 9 years (-17.00)
  • James Hahn is -67 under playing 4 years (-16.75)
  • Ryan Palmer is -146 under playing 9 years (-16.22)
  • Charles Howell III is -144 under playing 9 years (-16.00)
  • Matt Jones is -109 under playing 7 years (-15.57)
  • Jon Rahm is -31 under playing 2 years (-15.50)
  • Jason Dufner is -108 under playing 7 years (-15.43)
  • Harris English is -76 under playing 5 years (-15.20)
  • Andrew Landry is -29 under playing 2 years (-14.50)
  • Grayson Murray is -29 under playing 2 years (-14.50)
  • Seamus Power is -28 under playing 2 years (-14.00)
  • Bud Cauley is -83 under playing 6 years (-13.83)

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

DraftKings

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

  • Jon Rahm – $11,600
  • Justin Rose – $11,000
  • Patrick Cantlay – $10,600
  • Charles Howell III – $10,600
  • Adam Hadwin – $10,000
  • Andrew Putnam – $9,700
  • Phil Mickelson – $9,500
  • Aaron Wise – $9,400
  • Abraham Ancer – $9,300
  • Chez Reavie – $9,200
  • Scott Piercy – $9,100
  • Luke List – $9,000

A bit of warning on this week’s Desert Classic.  It’s a wide open field, other than Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson, you step down on marquee names into the Patrick Cantlay and Charles Howell III of the world.  So when you look at the list above, don’t be so surprised to see names that normally aren’t worth that much.

So first up is Jon Rahm at $11,600.  Yes he is one of the hottest players in the game right now, winning the Hero Challenge last month and finishing T-8th at the Sentry T of C.  Now I know he is the defending champion, but I say no on him.  That’s because it’s hard to be a back to back winner at the Desert Classic.  It’s only been done once by Johnny Miller in 1976.  The reason, you are still playing with amateurs on three different courses and that makes the odds even tougher.  Yes, he will be good at making birdies and eagles, just don’t think he will be in the top-five this week.  Justin Rose at $11,000 is another story.  He was one of the most consistent players of 2018, in his last seven events leading up to the BNI Indonesian Masters he was in the top-8.  Then all of a sudden he finished T-17th in that event which to some was a mystery.  Now many could blame the fact that he changed his irons from Taylor Made to Honma.  Many may wonder why someone as successful as Rose would change from a well know brand of clubs to a company that he unknown outside of Japan and China?  To be fair Rose problem in Indonesian was more putter and around the green-related than greens hit, which he was strong in hitting 83.3% of his greens.  But the big question will be, is Rose really serious about this week?  Why did he pick the Desert in Palm Springs over Abu Dhabi to start playing his new irons.  Rose last played in this event in 2010 and missed the cut.  He played in 2007 and was T-3rd but all of the courses are different now.  So the question is, will you pull the trigger on Rose at $11,000?  I say no, I want to wait and see how he does with these new clubs before I plunked down my money so I say no to Rose.  As for Patrick Cantlay at $10,600, think he will do well even though his only start in this event he missed the cut.  But remember this, he won in the desert of Las Vegas in 2018 and a couple of months ago finished T-2nd in the desert of Las Vegas, so he is a fat yes in taking him.  Also like Charles Howell III at $10,600, he has played well of late and I think he will do well this week.  Also, like Adam Hadwin this week at $10,000, he has been the most dominating player on the Stadium course.  In six go-arounds he is 20 under par and in 2017 shot 59 at La Quinta so I say he will have a great week.  Andrew Putnam is at $9,700 because of his runner-up finish at the Sony, now he has played ok in the Desert Classic and been very consistent, I say no because $9,700 is too high to pay for him.  The same with Aaron Wise, sorry he is having a good season but it’s not worth $9,400, I would take a pass on him.  Phil Mickelson is another question mark, at $9,500 you have to wonder if he is top value.  Yes, he finished T-3rd in 2016 the first time the Stadium course was played, but since then was T-21st and missed the cut.  I say save the money this week.  Abraham Ancer is priced at $9,300 and I wonder why.  Hasn’t shown us much in his two Desert Classic starts and yes he won the Australian Open at Thanksgiving and was T-29th in the Sony, but not worth the high price.  Chez Reavie is also high at $9,200 but that price is based on him finishing T-3rd at the Sony.  I say take a pass on the high price.  Now I can justify Scott Piercy at $9,100, he played well last year and has been very consistent including a T-5th in Korea and T-6th at the Mayakoba so I can see you picking him.  Last on the big price guys is Luke List at $9,000, again I can’t justify the high price (yes he was T-6th in 2016) other than he was T-4th at the Safeway and the RSM Classic.  So I say he is a toss-up, but I won’t touch him.

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, you need to pick three good guys in this price range.

I can see that Patton Kizzire at $8,700 could be good value.  Yes, his numbers in this event are not great, but for the year he has played well.  The deciding factor on him is his production value, it’s middle of the road so he isn’t a great buy.  Hudson Swafford at $8,300 is your first true value. He has won at the Stadium course and has had a good year, he was T-3rd last week at the Sony.  Ryan Palmer at $8,200 is good, has seen some nice moments in the Desert Classic and was T-3rd in Korea and T-7th in his last start in Las Vegas.  Do you want a good longshot?  How about Danny Willett at $7,800.  Yes, we haven’t heard much about him after he won the Masters, but he has been injured.  He is finally healthy and won the DP World Championship in Dubai, which is a desert course.  He also won on a desert course in Dubai and has done well on desert courses so he is a dark horse pick.  Last in this category is Joaquin Niemann at $7,600.  I have a spot open in my heart for him, I think he will be good if he could get on a role, and this could be a good week for him.  He played well in Las Vegas, think he can play well this week

Who are the “Bargains” out there?

Have to say that Bud Cauley is a great pick at $7,400.  He has played well the last three years in the Desert Classic and was T-10th in Las Vegas, Cauley is a very good pick.  A good gamble could be on Bill Haas at $7,400.  He ruled the roost for a number of years in this event, yes he has struggled with life and his game the past year but has shown signs of coming back.  I say yes on him.  Have to wonder why Andrew Landry is so low at $7,200, he was runner-up last year and yes his game has not been sharp at times, still think he is worth a gamble on.  Last, but not least I give you the case of Sam Saunders.  His grandfather Arnold ruled this event for years and had a summer home in the area.  He also had a great restaurant in La Quinta that people love to eat at.  His grandson Sam Saunders has tried hard on the PGA and Web.Com Tour for years now and struggled.  Last year in the Desert Classic he shot 64 in the last round to finish T-8th.  Saunders is $6,800 and in the memory of Arnold worth a try this year.

 

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Desert Classic

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.  In 2017 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 the Stadium Course.  Last year Kevin Chappell shot 64 in the second round and Sam Saunders shot 64 in the final round, the low at the Stadium Course  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 just 15 eagles and 913 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 28 eagles and 768 birdies while Nicklaus Tournament had 12 eagles and 737 birdies. So a key stat, to look at for this week, is Par Breakers on tour.  Of the top-15 on that list, is Aaron Wise who is playing this week.  In the top-15 playing, this week is George Cunningham, Ryan Palmer, Si Woo Kim, Jason Gore, and Phil Mickelson so they could also be good picks.
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.  On top of that rain was heavy on Monday and Tuesday, it’s supposed to rain on Wednesday so don’t expect a rookie to win this week  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 Desert Classic should be your favorites. Since 1984, the champion has averaged winning in his 7th start. Last year Jon Rahm won on his second try in the event.  In 2017 Hudson Swafford won on his fourth Desert Classic 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 Desert Classic 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.  In 2017 Hudson Swafford had 26 birdies while last year Jon Rahm had an eagle and 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 22 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.  In 2017 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.  But it was back to normal as Jon Rahm played the par 5s in 13 under par.
  • Now over the course of the last month, the Southern California area has been hit with a lot of storms and rain.  It rained on Monday and Tuesday, forecasters as saying it will rain on Wednesday and in the early part of Thursday with over a half inch of rain falling this week.  The good news, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be perfect, but the courses will be wet.

 

Who to watch for at the CareerBuilder Challenge

Best Bets:

Justin Rose

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT 3

Yes he has just changed clubs and yes this is time to experiment with them, he is still the best player in this event and if he gets hot with the putter will be hard to beat.

Patrick Cantlay

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT

Have to say that if he can play in the desert of Palm Springs as he plays on the desert of Las Vegas he will be a wrap for this event.

Adam Hadwin

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T3 2 T6 T48

Seems to own the Stadium, he is 20 under in the three years he has played there.

Best of the rest:

Jon Rahm

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
Win T34

Big question will be if he can do it again. Yes, he is one of the hottest players in golf right now, but I was disappointed in his play at Kapalua and think he may not play well this week.

Charles Howell III

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T20 T12 T11 T56 T58 T2 T49 T13 T26 T65

I think he can do very well this week and contend.

Bud Cauley

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T14 T3 T14 CUT T37 T30

Has played well the last couple of years in the Desert Classic, also played well in the desert of Las Vegas a couple of months ago.

Phil Mickelson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT T21 T3 T24 T37 T49 T45

Used to play well in this event has struggled of late, I think he has been practicing and is looking forward to this year.

Bill Haas

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT T17 T9 Win T6 CUT T64 T2 Win T25 T16 T27

Has done well in this event, looking to overcome a terrible 2018 with all of its problems.

Solid contenders

Patton Kizzire

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T42 T50 T42

Has played good of late, look for him to do well.

Danny Willett

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

Playing for the first time in this event, he is looking for a major comeback after being injured the last couple of years. Won the last event in Europe at Dubai, him coming to America shows he is ready to play great again.

Scott Piercy

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T6 T41 T30 CUT CUT CUT T19

Played well last year and has had a good 2019.

Ryan Palmer

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T20 CUT T17 T10 2 T6 CUT 4 T42 T48 CUT

Played great in Korea and Las Vegas, has contended before in the Desert Classic.

Hudson Swafford

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T29 Win T56 CUT T25

Past champion that plays well on the Stadium Course.

Long shots that could come through:

Andrew Landry

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
2 CUT

Was runner-up last year.

Joaquin Niemann

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

Still think he will be a star in the future.

Sam Saunders

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T8 CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT

Wouldn’t it be great to see him play well in a tournament that his grandfather won five times.

Comments

  1. Sal – any thoughts on Putnam and Reavie? Both seem to be playing well coming in.

  2. Robert, as I said in the DraftKings portion of the preview, I just don’t see the value of either of them other than Putnam was runner-up at the Sony and Reavie was T-3rd at the Sony. He has played well this year, just don’t see the good play continuing into this week. Also, Putnam finished T-17th last year at the Desert Classic, missed cut in 2015 so wasn’t very hot on him. As for Reavie his record at the Desert Classic is OK, but nothing special the same with his year, it’s been ok and he has made six cuts this year but other than the Sony nothing special. If you look historically (went back to 2010) those that finish well at the Sony don’t carry it over to the Desert Classic. (other than maybe Matt Kuchar in 2015, Johnson Wagner in 2012).

  3. Hey Sal, any thoughts on Phil with a 54 hole lead? I’ve got Hadwin and Cantlay but debating a hedge.. How’s his history been recently with the lead? It seems this course may play a little too easy for him to have his typical blow up hole. Any one else you see making a run on Sunday?
    Thanks for all the great info… love the site!!

  4. Geoff,
    As they say you never know what Phil is going to do next. Frankly I don’t see him blowing up or anything and Hadwin and Cantlay will have to go low like Xander Schauffele did at Kapalua. Remember the flank on Gary Woodland not able to win with the third round lead, he had a bogey-free, 5 under round of 68 and still lost due to Schauffele shooting 62.
    Mickelson is smart and knows that Pars are not going to do it, he had better shot 68 just to have a chance, the way he is playing it’s in his wheel-house.

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