Josh Culp

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Patton Kizzire came from off the pace over the weekend to heist the trophy at last week's Sony Open in Hawaii. In similar fashion to Justin Thomas last year, Kizzire is feasting early in the season in events outside of the continental United States. 

Now the TOUR heads back to the mainland for the CareerBuilder Challenge which takes place in the Palm Springs area. For the second straight year, Phil Mickelson will play the role of tournament ambassador. 

As a reminder for gamers, this week's CareerBuilder Challenge will be using a Pro-Am format. There will be 156 amateurs teeing it up this week alongside the field of 156 TOUR pros. With 312 competitors in play, they will split their playing time amongst three different courses during Rounds 1 thru 3 before the Top 70 professionals (and ties) will make it through the cut to play the final round. 

The Courses

This trio of courses will offer viewers a unique look. Due to the winter overseed, the grasses on the fairways, first cut of rough, and greens will be as green as any on TOUR. At the same time, the dormant bermuda rough will be looking to gobble up any errant tee balls. This sleeping bermuda will look quite brown, not unlike your local muni course in the offseason, perhaps. The brown does a great job of framing the recommended routing. 

Stadium Course at PGA WEST (Host Course):
The course that was once known for being too difficult for this event. This Pete Dye design returned as the host course during the 2016 edition.

While there is trouble lurking everywhere here, tournament officials have done a nice job to setup this 7,113-yard par 72 in a fashion that doesn't lead to 7-hour rounds for the amateurs involved.

The current rotation of courses has been used for two years and the Stadium Course has been the toughest course in both editions. Many golfers will be familiar with the course due to it hosting Q-School as recently as 2013.

After the 54-hole cut this week, golfers will head back to play the Stadium Course for the final round. 

Going low here will be a HUGE bonus, but it's not a necessity. Jason Dufner won in 2016 with a 9-under (of 25-under) coming at the Stadium Course. Last year, Hudson Swafford was only 5-under in his two rounds at the Stadium Course, despite winning the event at 20-under 268. Most of the scoring will still be done on the Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club.  

Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST:
Designed by Jack Nicklaus, this par 72 plays to 7,159 yards during competition. This will be the third year it will be featured in the CBC course rota. 

The field averaged 68.94 (-3.06 RTP) during the 2016 edition,  making it one of the easiest tracks on TOUR. Last year, some uncharacteristic weather roared through during the event and spiced things up a bit. All three courses played tougher than the year prior, with the Nick Tourney yielding a field-average score of 70.74 (nearly two shots harder than 2016). 

Spoiler Alert: The weather should not wreak havoc like last year and this course should yield some REALLY low scores. 

La Quinta Country Club:
First used for the 1963 edition, this course easily has most CareerBuilder history. It's taken a few breaks throughout the years, but golfers that have played this event in the last 10 years should have a really good grasp of what this track has to offer. 

This par 72 plays to 7,060 yards during tournament week. Previously known as one of the tougher tracks in the rota, golfers now rip this course apart, despite the fariways being on the narrow side of the spectrum. 

This course could certainly cause golfers trouble if it were a standalone course on a normal TOUR week. Instead, tournament officials make sure the pin placements are easy enough for the amateurs to handle and the overseeded greens are extremely pure, leading to plenty of birdie conversions. 


Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play...
Brandt Snedeker: "All it comes down to this week is whether you make those key 10-footers or not. Pretty much turns into a putting contest every year because there’s so many birdie opportunities. So that traditionally suits my game pretty well."
Jeff Overton: "I think out here you get some good wedge looks and I’ve been really working hard with my teacher, James Siekmann, and my wedge game has been very good and then because you get some 6-, 7-footers and you see those go in and the next thing you know the 15-footers go in. So definitely it’s short game, especially out here, kind of early in the year on this course."
Hudson Swafford: "Hitting out of the fairway is key here. The overseeded rough can get a little sticky and create some problems. Hitting from the fairway is key here."
Jamie Lovemark: "You can be really aggressive off the tee (at La Quinta). There’s some holes I do hit iron off of, but for the most part a lot of drivers. The Nicklaus is tomorrow, I haven’t been out there, I drove a few holes. And Stadium is tough. It’s a lot harder than the Palmer last year. I expect the scores to be a lot higher. A lot of water, a lot can happen. The par-5s are a lot tougher."
Adam Hadwin: "I think on Stadium you have to get your self around without making some big mistakes. I think some big mistakes lie out there. You got par-5s with water that you try and be too aggressive you can easily make a six or seven and that’s going to throw you pretty far back, instead of kind of making maybe laying up and taking easy par or something."
Brendan Steele: "I played Stadium a lot kind of as a kid and a little bit mini tours and stuff, but I haven’t played as much in the last 10 years. So getting out there again it was fun to kind of see the shots and see what I remembered correctly and what I didn’t remember, but there’s definitely a lot of water, you have to hit a lot of good shots and just really be committed to your lines and stay aggressive."
Overview: Lots of golfers reference all the trouble that can be found on the Stadium Course. Playing conservative on the host course sounds like the proper strategy as long as you can go low elsewhere. Then you need to catch fire with the putter during your rounds on the Nick Tourney and La Quinta. 

Correlated Courses

This week's event and the Waste Management Phoenix Open shows an extremely tight connectionn. One of the strongest correlations I've seen in a while. Perhaps it's the desert connections, or the overseeding, or just the time of year he falls on the TOUR schedule. Maybe, it's all of the above. Let's see what other courses show a correlation to success here in the Coachella Valley. Looking at past performance, golfer quotes, and course setup, these five courses show up as potential pointers: 

TPC Scottsdale
Colonial Country Club
TPC Boston
Torrey Pines
TPC Sawgrass

The Weather

Golfers often come to Palm Springs to get away from the bad weather, but last year they got hit with rain throughout the tournament. 

That shouldn't be an issue this week as the current forecast calls for cool temperatues in the low 60s for most of the week but very little wind and no rain in the forecast. With termperatures that low, don't expect to see many booming 350-yard drives. 
There does appear to be the chance for some gusty conditions on Friday, but that could change as the tournament draws closer. Keep an eye on the forecast up until Wednesday night. Check back on Wednesday for the DFS Dish where I will dive further into possible weather angle in terms of tee-time stacking and/or course stacking.  

Players to Watch

Jon Rahm
Will get his second look at this trio of courses as he finished T34 in his debut last year. Posted a bogey-free 66 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course but only managed rounds of 70 and 72 at his two attempts to tackle the Stadium Course. His overpowering nature might not be suited for a Pete Dye design, but he should still be considered one of the favorites this week, based on talent alone. 

Phil Mickelson
Playing the role of tournament ambassador for a second straight year, Lefty will have his hands full, off the course. Last year he only managed to play the Stadium Course at 1-under in his two attempts but the year before he picked it apart with rounds of 66 and 68. With the weather not looking to be a problem, I would expect Mickelson to rack up a lot of birdies this week, shaking off a bit of rust in the process. 
Brendan Steele
The Cali native didn't find anything better than T56 in his first four attempts here but he's since rattled off finishes of T2-T34-T6 over the last three editions. He struggled with the wind at Kapalua but prior to that he gained 6.7 strokes over the field at the CIMB Classic (T13) and 14.4 strokes over the field en route to victory at the Safeway Open. With calm conditions back in the forecast, I'd look for the local boy who grew up just 50 miles from here to jump back in the mix. 
Aaron Wise
Another local who I have high hopes for this week. Wise doesn't have the track record of someone like Steele, but the youngster grew up in Corona, California, just 90 miles down the road. I already mentioned the TPC Scottsdale course correlation, but it's also worth mentioning that golfers that train in Arizona have done fairly well here, also. The Oregon Duck checks that box as well since he recently made the move from Las Vegas down to Scottsdale. That reeks with experience on the West Coast and experience in the desert. Both should help him this week in the California desert. 

Bill Haas
A two-time winner of this event, he loves coming to California in January. Most gamers think of Haas a a steady par-maker so they struggle to pick him in a shootout. However, he's proven that's just not the case as he won here in 2010 with a score of 30-under-par (5-round event) and then won in 2015 with a four-day tally of 22-under-par. Let's not forget about his close call in 2011, either, where he posted 27-under 333 to finish runner-up on the week. He is the all-time winner leader at this event and it's not particularly close ($574K advantage over Phil Mickelson). Regardless of the course rotation, Haas just loves this area. 

Peter Uihlein
May fly in under the radar this week after a poor showing at the Sony. I would chalk that up to rust but he will now have that competitive advantage over much of the field this week. Doesn't have much experience on the West Coast but this is a good intro to California golf since he won't have to deal with the tricky poa annua greens that are featured for the remainder of the California Swing. Should be a good buy-low spot for gamers look to fill out DFS rosters. 

Patrick Reed

Making his first start since becoming a father for the second time. He may need a round or two to shake off the rust, but he finished T12 here last year and also won this event in 2014. Should be really hungry to get back to the winner's circle after completing his first full season without one last year. 
J.J. Spaun
Finished T50 here last year in his CareerBuilder debut. Didn't get to use his knowledge of California golf since the weather was not California-esque. Shook off the cobwebs last week en route to a T47 at the Sony. Prior to the holiday break he rattled off three straight top 15s. I'd look for this California native to get back into contention this week. 
Austin Cook
Many gamers are probably still on the fence with Cook. They don't know whether to believe the small-sample hype. I am not on the fence and I will continue to ride the Cook train this week. He's gained 2 or more strokes over the field in 10-of-15 stroke-play events over the course of his young PGA TOUR career. He's also not going to shy away from a putting contest if that's what it takes this week. He's gained 1.8 or more strokes putting for the week in 10-of-14 events with ShotLink tracking. Elite short game and very serviceable in reaching the green. 

Ranking the Field
Keep your eye out for our Expert Picks which get posted on Tuesday night. The DFS Dish will provide some last minute tips on Wednesday. 

Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.
Email :Josh Culp

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