Fantasy Golf Picks: 2017 Careerbuilder Challenge Sleepers, Starts & Preview
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Careerbuilder Challenge Field
156 Players | Top 70 and Ties After 54-Holes Make the Cut
There are a slew of giant names hitting the links this week: Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willet, and, health-pending, Rory McIlroy. Problem is, they’re all teeing off in Abu Dhabi. This leaves the field for the Careerbuilder Challenge thinner than. So, we finally get the first 156-man event of 2017, and it’s one of the weakest tournaments of the year. Bummer. And to make matters worse, these guys are going to be around for far longer than usual. The Careerbuilder Challenge doesn’t abide by standard cut line rules. Each player is guaranteed three rounds, at three different courses, with the cut whittling the field down to the top 70 and ties after 54 holes. For DFS Golfers, this puts less importance on getting guys through the cutline. Still meaningful, but you want to target birdie-makers above all else in that format.
Just three of the world’s top 30 are making the trek to La Quinta: Patrick Reed (9), Phil Mickelson (21), and Emiliano Grillo (25). Where the Sony Open sported incredible depth past the top tier of players, the Careerbuilder does not. The secondary strength of the field is getting propped up by Francesco Molinari, Scott Piercy, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner, Bill Haas, William McGirt, and Kevin Na. Decent names, nothing great. Fortunately, we’ll be getting our first glimpse of Jon Rahm in 2017. Andrew Johnson too. So that should be fun. Well, it would have been fun, but BEEF WD'd.
Careerbuilder Challenge Key Stats
Careerbuilder Challenge Courses
TPC Stadium Course (SC) | 7,159 Yards | Par 72
La Quinta CC (LQ) | 7,060 Yards | Par 72
Nicklaus Tournament Course (TC) | 7,159 Yards | Par 72
As mentioned, the field will alternate between three courses before the final cutline is decided. The players that still need to set their alarms Sunday morning will walk back out to the host venue, the Pete Dye-designed TPC Stadium Course, the most difficult of the troika. Now, that’s a fairly loose use of “difficult”. Of the 50 courses used on the PGA TOUR in 2016, all three of the Careerbuilder layouts finished near the bottom in difficulty. LQ and TC were the 48th and 49th most generous for scoring, while SC was 41st out of 50.
Historic numbers can be skewed when you begin your research too far back. Before 2012 this event was played over five rounds, which is why you’ll see some winning scores below -30. While these courses are pretty simple, with Justin Thomas taking the week off to let someone else win, it’s doubtful anyone challenges that number. It’s on the table, though. The TPC Stadium Course is a relatively new edition too. La Quinta CC and the Nicklaus Tournament Course have been in the regular rotation for years now, but the SC was added back to the event for the first time since the 80s last year. It was the home of the Qualifying School event in 2002, 2006, and 2008, but we hadn’t seen the top-tier professionals take a crack at it for almost three decades. Since it’s a Dye-design, many expected the regular Dye challenges to crop up. And they did, to some extent. Described by some players as a, “more difficult version of TPC Sawgrass”. I’m guessing this was merely an easy comparison with both venues being designed by the same person and featuring similar island, Par 3, 17th holes. Now, the reason SC fell out of the original rotation in 1987 was because players claimed it was “too tough.” All this turned out to be hearsay, at least in year one. There are the classic no-line-of-sight approach shots and some of the bunkers are so deep they may actually be in China. Still, it’s just not that hard overall. You’ll see some crooked
Hillary numbers, sure, but most of the field will have no issues generating scoring opportunities.
Statistically, you want scorers at the Careerbuilder. At some events, grinders who can scramble for par at an elite level will have a distinct advantage; this is not one of those events. With all three courses playing as Par 72s, the easiest birdies on the course will come at the Par 5s. If players can’t get to -12 or better on those 16 holes, they aren’t going to win. Since there are so many different styles of players who have won in the past, it’s tough to amass enough information to isolate a “type” who will perform well. Last year’s leaderboard was littered with accuracy hawks and bombers alike. So, the best way to go about it is to target the skills that generally foster easier scoring chances: Strokes Gained Approach and Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green. Since eagles are such a bonus on DraftKings, you may want to give special attention to the leaders in that category too. Eagles can be chancy, however, the 78 made across the three courses in 2016 was the most for any tournament of the season.
Careerbuilder Challenge Picks (Yahoo! Game)
Patrick Reed & Bill Haas - On top of being the top ranked player in the field, Reed is a past champ of this event and holds the 72-hole record for birdies made (32)… Haas is a two-time winner of the Careerbuilder and showed the winter layoff didn’t faze him, collecting a T13 pay day at the Sony Open. Oh, and while course history can be wildly overrated, sometimes it’s tough to overlook. In his 12 starts at this event, Haas has played 54 rounds. 51 of them have been below par, two have been at par, and only his second round 73 in 2007 registers above par. He reeled off three consecutive Top 10s in La Qunita, and five in his the last seven years. Keep in mind, we used a lot of this same logic for Charley Hoffman a year ago and he MC’d after entering with three straight Top 10s himself, so, like most things in golf, it’s certainly no lock.
Jamie Lovemark, Charles Howell III, Francesco Molinari & Phil Mickelson – Gleaning too much from stats from 2017 is somewhat challenge, with so many players having such limited samples, however it seems like Lovemark is starting to tailor his game to what the course demands. Historically a bomber who eats up Par 5s, Lovemark has taken couple yards off his drives and has been drastically improved with his irons (43rd SG: ATG) and putting (19th SG: PUTT). Fresh off consecutive Top 10s, and a T6 here last season, I’m hoping the former NCAA champion and Haskins award winner can converge his new found skills with his classic affinity for Par 5 domination and finally come through on his massive potential. He was close last year, but three double-bogeys in the final round sunk his chances. Hopefully, he’s stored that experience away... Are we on the West Coast or in Hawaii? Yes? Then use CH3. Howell has four Top 15s overall, and constantly does his most productive work early in the season… Sneakily one of the hottest players in the world at the moment, Molinari has climbed up to 33rd in the world rankings with four straight Top 6, or better, finishes. Now, he hasn’t played since late November, which is somewhat concerning, but in a weak field like the Careerbuilder, leaning towards pedigree isn’t a terrible idea. One of the best approach players in the world (3rd SG: ATG ’17; 24th ’16), the short Italian is also shockingly adept at making eagles and scoring on Par 5s. If he can keep that consistent this week, expect another Top 10… I tentatively have Phil penciled in to my lineup, but there’s still no guarantee he’s actually going to play on the heels of two hernia surgeries in November, so place him on your bench for round one, at the very least. As the official ambassador of the event, he’ll most definitely be in attendance, but trusting him this week is going to be a stretch. Despite the risk, Phil has an amazing track record at the Careerbuilder, two wins, zero missed cuts in the last 10 years, and fits the skill template of birdie maker (29th), approach (6th), eagle rate (12th), and Tee-To-Green (21st) that should etch a spot on the Sunday leaderboard. Check back for Phil updates as Thursday approaches. Have a backup on hand in case you need to make a last second switch however. I’ll have Webb Simpson on call if needed.
Luke List & Jon Rahm - Luke List has been lurking long enough, he’s nearing a breakthrough, and I want to make sure I cash in when it finally happens. He just needs to learn how to play the weekends a little bit better because HOT STARTS, he’s got those down. Through 36-holes, List has been inside the Top 20 in all six of his starts this season. Yet, only once has used them to fuel a serious run at win - T2 at Sanderson Farms. Not to say he hasn’t churning out quality finishes. He has. In fact, List has strung together five Top 15s in a row. I’m just greedy and want to see him in an awkward photo hoisting a novelty check. Everything appears to be lining up for him—he currently ranks in the top half of TOUR players in every Strokes Gained metric and is making birdies (OR BETTER) on 68.92% of Par 5s, eight best this season… Rahm rules. If you don’t he does GTFO.
The Pat Mayo Hour covers the entire scope of the Fantasy sports landscape from Football to Reality TV, daily and yearly leagues and everything in between. You can watch the Pat Mayo Hour every weekday at 3:00pm EST, 8:00pm EST and Midnight on the FNTSY Sports Network Television channel or on your Apple TV, Xbox, Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. If you have a Fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at PatMayoHour@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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