DFS Picks for the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge
Course(s): PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West, & La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, CA
Yardage: 7,113, 7,204, 7,060 (all par 72)
Purse: $5.9 M
Field: 156 players
Recent CareerBuilder Challenge Champions
The Sony Open Recap
During a week when the golf wasn’t necessarily the main story, Patton Kizzire came out on top in an enduring battle of wills, beating James Hahn in a six hole playoff. The win is Kizzire’s second win of the young 2017-18 golf season and it boosted his standing in the World Golf Rankings. Less than three months ago, Kizzire was ranked outside of the Top 300; he is now number 54 in the world.
The Sony Open took place in Hawaii where a ballistic missile alert was sent out mistakenly Saturday morning. It took some 37 minutes until an alert was sent declaring the false alarm. In the golf coverage world, the Golf Channel’s camera technicians went on strike mid-tournament, affecting the quality of the coverage. Rounding out the list of unfortunate news, Blayne Barber’s caddie had to be admitted to the neurologic intensive care unit Friday night after collapsing and hitting his head. It was certainly an interesting week for everyone in Hawaii, especially those involved in the Sony Open.
The CareerBuilder Challenge Preview
This week, the Tour ends its Hawaii swing and heads back the mainland for the CareerBuilder Challenge. The CareerBuilder Challenge (once the Bob Hope Classic and Humana Challenge) is played from Thursday to Sunday but unlike most tournaments, it’s held at three different courses. PGA West, PGA West Stadium Course, and La Quinta Country Club. Also, unlike most PGA tournaments, instead of a 36-hole cut, they make the cut after 54 holes of golf. This doesn’t necessarily change how you pick your golfers, but it could change the outcome of DFS scores this week.
All three courses measure 7,200 yards or less and play to Par 72, making this one of the lowest scoring tournaments on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, this event never draws a great field. The fact that it coincides with the Abu Dhabi Championship guarantees that certain stars will play there each year. Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Henrik Stenson are all over there along with the rest of Europe’s best players. Over here in the States, Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson headline the field. Last year’s winner, Hudson Swafford, will be there to defend his title. Upper echelon Tour players Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Kisner, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Brian Harman, and Kevin Chappell will all tee it up alongside the rest of the Tour regulars.
As long as the Tour keeps making stops at courses where the winning score is routinely 24 under par, birdie or better % will continue to be the most important key stat. These three La Quinta courses will reward the best ball strikers making strokes gained: approach an important factor as well. The first three rounds before the cut are played at all three courses, while the players who’ve made the cut for the final round will play at the Stadium Course. The Stadium Course is a Pete Dye designed track, so target players who’ve played well at other Pete Dye courses in the past (Harbortown, TPC Sawgrass, and Crooked Stick among others). All three courses have a full complement of Par 5s and many of them will draw a fair number of eagles and birdies, which makes Par 5 scoring another one of the key stats.
Birdie or Better %
Strokes gained: approach
Pete Dye History
Par 5 Scoring
DFS Picks for DraftKings
Phil Mickelson ($10,000) – For the first time in over 20 years, Phil Mickelson has something to prove. The back half of the 2017 season was one of the low points of his career. He had to miss the U.S Open (although for good reason, his daughter’s graduation), separated from his longtime caddie Jim “Bones” McKay, and was cut from the final two majors. Believe it or not, Mickelson has not won on Tour since his British Open victory in 2013. It doesn’t matter what event or how strong the field, Mickelson wants to win, now. He hasn’t played yet in the calendar year but showed back in October that he had turned the page from the 2016-17 season with third place and T15 finishes. Playing on a Pete Dye course in Southern California should make Mickelson feel right at home this week
Patton Kizzere ($9,100) – He’s the hottest golfer on Tour right now, and he won’t even break your bank. Patton Kizzire already has two wins this season including last week’s win at the Sony Open. Kizzire’s confidence is sky high and the field is one that shouldn’t daunt him. He sits in the top quarter on Tour in all the key stats for the week (strokes gained: approach, Par 5 scoring, birdie or better %), and is now using these events to get ready for The Masters.
Austin Cook ($8,700) – The early frontrunner for rookie of the year, Austin Cook has more than that on his mind. Cook has come out on fire to start his PGA Tour career. He’s already recorded his first PGA Tour win, has yet to miss a cut, and he’s finished Top 25 in five of his first six Tour events. Cook appears to be a few steps ahead of his classmates and will be teeing it up at some of the easiest courses on Tour this week. He ranks within the Top 40 in birdie or better % and in Par 5 scoring.
Brandt Snedeker ($7,700) – Brandt Snedeker’s last few years have been marred by injury. Time and time again he keeps coming back and proving he’s still got game, only to come down with a new injury. Snedeker went out and fired four rounds of 70 or better at the RSM Classic in November, proving he can jump right back on it. Once one of the Top 10 golfers in the world, Snedeker is just trying to get back to playing consistent golf with no relapse of injury. I love Snedeker’s upside in a soft field and priced at just $7,700 with a three-round cut.
Johnny Vegas ($7,500) – Johnny Vegas is looking to add consistency to his resume this year. So far, he has made all five cuts this season with his best finish coming two weeks ago at the Tournament of Champions. Vegas ranks inside the Top 20 on Tour in Par 5 scoring and strokes gained approach. His birdie or better rank is right in the middle, but he’s coming off a performance at Kapalua where he dropped 20 birdies for the week.
Ben Martin ($6,900) – Ben Martin is my sleeper pick for the week, although, some other DFS players may be on to him after his T 7 finish last week in the Sony Open. Martin has shot in the 60s for seven straight competitive rounds; nothing to sneeze at regardless of the course difficulty. In his last two events (Sony Open, RSM Classic), he’s finished T 7 and T 22 with 20 total birdies in each event. Martin is swinging the hot stick right now and could be just what you need to round out your roster this week.