PGA Above the Cut: CareerBuilder Challenge
This week takes us to the mainland for the first time in 2017 with the CareerBuilder Challenge out in La Quinta, California. This tournament is a little different as each player will be guaranteed three rounds, each played at a different course. The final round will be played at the TPC Stadium Course so this course will have 2 of 4 rounds with the PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament course and La Quinta Country Club making up the other two courses the players will see this week. Course history is going to be tough to look at as last year was the first time these three courses were used together for this tourney.
I am going to be looking for trends that are common to all three courses such as Par 72s, Bermuda Greens, and relatively easy courses. I also want to try and get players who are solid sand players and can rack up the birdies. The winning score could be in the -20s again this week so birdies are going to be important as well as Par 5 scoring. DraftKings scoring heavily values Eagles and with more par 5s on the courses this week we are going to want to try and target some high upside scorers. Plus, with every player getting three rounds guaranteed, a missed cut isn’t as deadly as usual, but if you want to have a chance to take down any GPP’s you are still going to need 6 of 6 golfers being above the cutline.
Before we dive into the players for this week I think it is important to do a quick recap of the action last week. Analyzing what happened in the previous week and making some mental notes to use going forward can be a great way to improve and notice trends and leaks in your lineup construction.
Justin Thomas……wow. Credit to him as he is making it look like he is playing a different sport than everyone else in the field. He is molten lava hot fire right now and seems clearly poised to make the jump this year and contend in some bigger events. He is not in the field this week so we will have to wait to see if he can make it three straight wins. With all the attention on him some of the other good showings got lost in the shuffle. Rose, Spieth, and Zach Johnson (who is playing this week) were some of the top names who put up scores that on many weeks would have been enough to take home the trophy. Once we get a few more events under our belt current form will start to matter ever more, but it is still important to see how people are starting the year off. Personally, it was a pretty ugly start to the year for me thanks to Brandt Snedeker and a few others, but for any NBA fans out there let’s all listen to Joel Embiid and “trust the process”.
Patrick Reed $11,200 – Lets start off the picks with the best player in the field. Patrick Reed is only 1 of 3 golfers in the field this week that are in the top 30 of the World Golf Rankings and he’s the only one in the top 10 teeing it up. Reed plays hard no matter what the event so motivation will not be a factor even in a laid-back atmosphere as this is a Pro-Am. He has already played this calendar year coming in 6th in the Tournament of Champions two weeks ago, and is the betting favorite to pick up the W this week. With most of the other top players in the world not in this event Reed at $11,200 has to be considered just based on the talent gap between him and most of the field.
Jon Rahm $9,700 – Rahm is a beast. That’s it.
Seriously though, Rahm burst onto the scene last year and showed why he was one of the most highly touted amateurs before turning pro. The Arizona State player posted two top 5s last year in only 11 events and looks poised to get a win on the tour this year which may come early in the season. Rahm is great off the tee and really can overpower courses with monster drives which can lead to a ton of birdies and eagles on the card. Rahm is a very solid player, but an even better DraftKings player as his scorecard will rarely, if ever, give you the dreaded 15 pars, 2 birdies, 1 bogey round. More likely, you will see birdie streaks and possibly some eagles which allows Rahm to not have to rely on placement points as much as other golfers because he has a ton of raw points from scoring holes. In an event like this you are going to need to make a lot of birdies to contend and Rahm should have no problem going low.
Brendan Steele $9,300 – Brendan Steele is a golfer I really like this week especially for GPPs. When he is dialed in he can go super low and he is from California so he has the local angle going for him which certainly helps. Steele’s biggest weakness is with the putter, but he does prefer Bermuda greens which these courses have and as we’ve talked about before putting has a lot of variance. If Steele can just be average on the greens his great iron play and his abilities off the tee will put him in contention. One last factor that boosts Steele is he is very solid out of the sand and that can really help this week as there are some difficult bunkers that may be in play.
Kevin Na $8,800 – I expect Na to be a popular play this week as he came in 3rd in this event last year and played last week making the cut at the Sony Open. These courses aren’t terribly long so Na not being a bomber shouldn’t hurt and he is great with his approaches which should set up plenty of birdie chances. Na didn’t make much noises last week, but still had 22 birdies and an eagle so clearly, he can score. If he can limit some mistakes (two double bogeys last week) he should be in line for a top 10 finish.
Ryan Palmer $8,000 – I did not have Ryan Palmer exposure last week and after Thursday that seemed like that may be costly. Palmer imploded on Friday and ended up missing the cut, which may lower his ownership with a lot of people still feeling burned. Palmer sets up nicely for this tournament with the ability to really put up a ton of birdies and take advantage with his great tee to green game. Had 12 eagles last year which was the 11th most on the tour so you know he is always a threat to take advantage of the par 5s on this course. Last week shows that Palmer always carries some risk, but the potential rewards outweigh that for me.
Adam Hadwin $7,500 – Adam Hadwin isn’t the most well-known player on tour, but his game is very solid and he ended last year playing some great golf. He was 6th in this tournament last year, plays well in California, and fits this week’s theme of being able to rack up a lot of birdies and go low. He’s made eight of his last ten cuts and at $7,500 you are not going to have to rely on him for a monster finish to make value. He was not in the field the last few weeks so current form is a mystery, but I’m willing to take the gamble that he can keep his hot play from last year going and put up a solid showing this week.
Roberto Castro $7,000 – Disclaimer: I am a huge Roberto Castro fan. I think he is a name to watch out for and is poised to break through and get a tour victory at some point this season. He was so close last year, losing in a playoff at the Wells Fargo, and his game has continued to get better. He is great tee to green, and accurate off the tee which keeps him out of trouble. His putting is an issue, but his ability to hit greens and leave himself shorter birdie opportunities helps combat his stretches of cold putting. I love his price of $7000; I think that is a steal and will allow you to really load up on some higher priced guys without sacrificing talent at the bottom of your roster. Castro is another player who has not played in the last few weeks, but I think he may go overlooked and be a nice low priced GPP play.
Ben Martin $6,600 – Another guilty pleasure of mine is rostering Ben Martin. He’s a deep GPP play, but someone you can usually get at sub 5% and has upside when he gets going. He played last week and posted a very respectable T36 with all four rounds under par. His putting really improves on Bermuda greens and when he stays out of the sand, which he does struggle in, he puts up plenty of birdies. Also, having three guaranteed rounds helps someone like Martin as he generates a lot of non-placement points but carries a risk of getting cut. At $6,600 if he can make the cut he should easily return value and have tremendous upside at low ownership.
Aaron Wise – $6,500 – Wise is someone we are going to be rostering for a long time as he is just getting started and already showing signs of being the real deal. The 20-year old former Oregon Duck played in four PGA events late in 2016 and made the cut twice, one being a top 10 finish. If I was making just one team I probably would look elsewhere as there are a lot of unknowns, but if you are looking to differentiate in a large field GPP Wise makes a lot of sense and has the talent to compete.
Below are a few guys that I will be either all out fading or plan to have less exposure than the field will in GPPs.
Francesco Molinari – $10,300 – I do not think Molinari will be too popular, but I will have ZERO exposure. I like his game and will probably find myself using him down the line especially in Euro, but he just doesn’t have the upside I am looking for. He is a consistent golfer who usually stays out of trouble, however with scoring expected to be really low he isn’t going to be able to get it done just by avoiding bogeys with that price tag.
Jamie Lovemark – $9,600 – Lovemark on paper checks a lot of boxes this week and is coming off a very nice T4 finish last week. So to be clear, while I am not recommending an all-out fade, I do believe he will be highly owned and is slightly overpriced. Spending $9,600 on Lovemark isn’t something I’m looking to do as I really like options above and below him that have more upside and less ownership. In the large field tournaments, we have to make stands in order to differentiate our lineups from The Masses and this is where I am currently choosing to make mine.
Good luck everyone!