CareerBuilder Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation
Defending Champ: Bill Haas
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The TOUR has dropped the mic on Hawaii and heads back to the mainland for the first time in 2016. Now, the fun part: THREE COURSES!!!! Unlike a standard tournament, the CareerBuilder Challenge… in partnership with the Clinton Foundation makes uses of the many layouts in La Quinta, California…
La Quinta CC
PGA West – Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course
PGA West – TPC Stadium Course
Players will alternate between venues for three rounds, then there will be a cut and the final round will be held TPC Stadium Course. (If there are more than 78 golfers who make the T70 cut after the third round, the cutline will be dropped to T60 and ties for Sunday.). But here’s the kicker: While the three-course rotation is not a new development with this event, two of the courses are fresh for 2016 – The Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course (JN) and TPC Stadium Course (TPC).
CareerBuilder Challenge Key Stats
Birdie Conversion Rate
Par 5 Birdies or Better
Since there’s relatively little data to draw from on JN and TPC, it’s best to go with the theme of the area. It’s dry, and there’s going to be sand all over the place. Oh, and TPC is SUPER hard, which is also something new to this event.
Generally, the three courses are birdie making havens, minimal differences (scoring wise) from one day to another. Last year, La Quinta (LQ), PGA West – Palmer, and PGA West – Nicklaus (Yes, a different course from the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course) all played among the easiest on TOUR. La Quinta was the hardest of the troika in 2015, ranking 47th of 52 courses in terms of difficulty (-1.917 stroke average per round). All we can glean from TPC and JN, unless you want to go back to the 80s and 90s – which we don’t – is from the the finals of PGA TOUR Qualifying School in 2002, 2006 and 2008, and that doesn’t really reveal much. Sure, we can see which players gained strokes on the field from those events, but those numbers have no context since it was during Q-School, and gaining strokes on guys who didn’t quality for the TOUR doesn’t have much merit.
The Pete Dye designed TPC Stadium course is essentially a more challenging version of TPC Sawgrass, complete with a similar island Par 3, 17th hole. TPC was actually part of this event rotation in 1987, but players protested to get it removed, claiming it was, “too tough”. Now, there’s no guarantee that this current crop of pros will find the layout as hard, but in the Yahoo! game, avoiding players at TPC (at least until we see its true difficulty in the first round) seems like the prudent move. A link to the list of tee times will APPEAR HERE… once those times are actually released.
Strategy wise, this event does differ from the others as well. Since every player is guaranteed to play three rounds, feel free to take more chances than normal when assembling your roster. Obviously, you don’t want to select objectively bad players, but going more contrarian than usual presents less risk than in a regular week.
CareerBuilder Challenge Picks
Jason Bohn & Tony Finau
While most will gravitate towards Phil Mickelson, with the three rounds of guaranteed stats, I’ll lean a tad off-kilter and roll out Jason Bohn and Tony Finau. Finau disappointed Fantasy owners a week ago, and as one of the highest rostered players in the Yahoo! A-List, the lackluster result will squash his ownership this week. Which would be unwise. Finau’s one of the few in the field with reps on JN and TPC, and always has an easier time when the courses feature four Par 5s instead of two. He’ll start on the bench, though, because Bohner Jam is getting thrust immediately into the starting lineup. Bohn’s accuracy off the tee with keep him away from the danger lurking off the fairway, and will make up for his average Par 5 scoring numbers (72nd) with an elevated Birdie Rate (14th) and Par 4 Scoring average (17th). There’s always a chance he’s a bit rusty (Bohn hasn’t played since mid-November), but his form on the swing-season to end 2015 is worth investing in – T2/T39/T2/T3.
Francesco Molinari, Patrick Reed, Jason Dufner & Ryan Palmer
Since most statistical analysis is rooted from educated guess work, sticking to recent form is likelier a better bet for the CareerBuilder Challenge. The wins haven’t materialized, yet, but Patrick Reed is still the world’s hottest player. On the course; he’s not a handsome man. Entering La Quinta, the field’s top player (World No. 10) has seven straight T10s worldwide. Jason Dunfer has sneakily been on a T10 run himself, earning those honors in back-to-back full field events, with a team win at the Franklin Templeton Shootout during that run. Ryan Palmer has managed the 10th best scoring average this season despite putting totals which make him appear as if he uses a shovel on the greens – 155th in SG: Putt. Now, two courses may be new, but Palmer is simply a better player on Bermuda greens. Since 2013, he’s fourth in SG: Total on this type of grass, and 11th in Bermuda Performance vs Expected Strokes Gained. Things are setting up perfectly for Francesco Molinari. The Italian the current leader in driving accuracy, so, combine that with the way he was converting birdies, especially on the similar length Par 5s at the Sony Open, and he’ll be in the mix Sunday afternoon.
Kevin Na & Bill Haas
I’m not relegating Kevin Na to the pine just yet. Sure, NAAAAAAAAAAAAA’s T28 at the Sony was discouraging, but if that’s his downside, I’ll give him another opportunity to string together four solid rounds. Na’s still Top 25 on TOUR in Total Driving, Ball Striking, Scoring Average and the always important SG: Tee-to-Green; if he just can tread water with the field on the Par 5s, he’ll make up strokes everywhere else. Sure, I’d like to see better form out of defending champ Bill Haas, but screw it, even with the new layouts, I’ll go with the guy who has two wins in this area with an additional runner-up to his credit.