The CareerBuilder Challenge takes us to the mainland for the first time in 2017 after two weeks of Justin Thomas dominance in Hawaii. Jason Dufner defends his title this week in the California desert.
Stadium Course (host) at PGA West
La Quinta, California
Yards: 7,113 per the official scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Course Architect(s): Pete Dye (1986)
Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course
Yards: 7,159 per the official scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Course Architect(s): Jack Nicklaus (1987)
La Quinta Country Club
Yards: 7,060 per the official scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Course Architect(s): Lawrence Hughes (1959)
Event: No. 10 (Week No. 4 on the OWGR calendar)
Purse: $5.8 million
Winner’s Share: $1.044 million
FedExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Jason Dufner beat David Lingmerth on the second playoff hole. Both players finished on 25-under par 263.
- Full field event; 156 pro players plus amateurs
- Stroke play, 72 holes, cut to top 70 and ties after three rounds; if 78 or more players make the cut, only the low 60 and ties will play Sunday.
- Each course will be played once and the Stadium Course will host the final round.
Frys.com: Brendan Steele
CIMB: Justin Thomas
WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama
Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**
Shriners: Rod Pampling
OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez
RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**
SBS TOC: Justin Thomas
Sony Open: Justin Thomas
**First-time winner AND rookie winner
Usually in this portion I’ll list the history of previous winner in an effort to develop some angles and trends.
In 2011 this tournament was shortened from four courses to three and from five days down to four so that history is just that, history.
Last year saw the debut of the Nicklaus Private course and the reintroduction of the Stadium Course (first time since 1987) so there is limited information on which to track.
In 2012 Palmer Private, Nicklaus Private and La Quinta CC made up the three courses for the 72-hole event with Palmer Private hosting. Since two of those three are now out of the rotation, we’re left with LQCC.
LQCC Rankings from the last three years in the “new” format:
2016: -2.852 below par; third easiest on Tour.
Last year, only Kapalua and the Tournament course played easier so two of the three easiest courses on Tour are being used this week. #GoLowYo.
Pete Dye’s Stadium Course checked in at No. 41 of the 50 courses used on Tour so that puts all three in the easiest 10 used on Tour. With 25-under SHARED as the winning score and six players posting 20-under or lower, let’s not get too carried away with Dye’s design features. Remember this, Dye courses do one thing better than most: he rewards really good golf shots so guys who are striping it usually benefit. Jason Dufner made 30 birdies last year so the “newness” of the two new courses in the rotation had minimal effect.
The “why” is quite easy to navigate as well. These are resort courses that are in impeccable playing condition in weather that is non-existent for wind or rain. Give these guys perfect and they will run roughshod all week, amateurs trailing along or not. Give these guys four par fives every day in said conditions and get out the record books as well. Last week there was the magical #59Watch every afternoon at Waialae but that was par 70. This week will take a mighty effort to hit that number on the par 72 layouts but David Duval did it on Sunday in this event in 1999 so the precedent has been set.
Gamers, find guys who desert golf well, make a ton of par breakers and eat up par fives for breakfast. There’s not many secrets in the dirt this week and with optimum scoring conditions plus all three tracks playing less than 7.300 yards, all shapes and sizes should litter the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. This year, target golf will be in effect as rain and cooler temperatures will be lingering during the week. The golf ball doesn’t go as far but it sticks quicker so that helps but it gives the advantage to the longer hitters. Cold and rain will also make the amateur partners just that more annoying so you might want to lean on the younger bombers who hardly care about anything!
Facts and Figures:
- Tournament Record: Reed, 260 (2014).
- Reed also made a whopping 30 birdies that year.
- The highest winning score in this event since the return to three courses has been 22-under.
- Stadium Course Record: 63, last done by Whee Kim (2012) Q-School.
- Nicklaus Tournament Course Record: Harrison Frazar, 59 (2008) Q-School; Kevin Na, David Lingmerth Tour record 62 last year.
- LQCC course record: 61, Lennie Clements (1994).
- First-time winners: Jhonattan Vegas (2011), Charley Hoffman (2007).
- Vegas is also the only rookie winner.
- Only three internationals have won this event since 2000.
- Johnny Miller (1975-76) is the ONLY repeat champion since this tournament began in 1960.
- Other multiple winners include Arnold Palmer (5 times) and the gang with two wins each: Billy Casper, John Mahaffey, Miller, Corey Pavin, John Cook, Phil Mickelson and Bill Haas.
- Of the players finishing in the top 25 last year, there were only 19 rounds in the 70’s.
- Lucas Glover was the only player in the top 25 to have two rounds in the 70’s.
- Top 61 players were double digits under par and the cut was eight-under.
in order of preference for this week and this tournament
Bill Haas: The two-time champ makes his winter training ground in the Coachella Valley and is more than comfortable with the surroundings. Toss in that he’s finished T-20 or better in his last four Tour starts and he’s an easy fit this week.
Jamie Lovemark: The SoCal native gave it a sniff here last year as he played in the final group with Dufner. His 73 was disappointing but a fantastic learning opportunity. He got another lesson on a Pete Dye course as he lost to Brian Stuard in a three-man playoff at the TPC Louisiana. Last year he finished T-9 at RSM and T-7 at Sony before T-6 at CB Challenge. This year he enters T-6 and T-4 from those same two events. I may bee dum but I aint stoopid.
Patrick Reed: The 2014 champ and tournament record holder perked up with T-6 at Kapalua last time out. He has no problem making plenty of birdies as he proved with 32 of them here in 2014.
Luke List: I may be reaching here but I’m not going to be too far off if his recent results are any indication. He’s posted T-26 or better in his last six Tour starts as he destroys the golf ball off the tee. He’s also a very solid putter and is currently 11th in scoring during the “easy” portion of the schedule.
Charles Howell, III: He was one that was glad to see the course rotation change after his T-11 last year backed up T-58 and T-56 the two previous years. His current form should be renamed the “Howell Run” kinda like they do with the salmon in season. He pegged another top 10 last week at Waialae, his third from his last four starts on Tour.
Zach Johnson: His very solid week last week included at top 10 finish, a second round 61 plus 21 birdies. He found plenty of GIR and his putter was cooperating and he’ll use that formula again this week.
Jason Dufner: The defending champ has showed flashes this season but hasn’t been able to put it all together. He was 10-under after two rounds at Kapalua and shot 65 to open at Waialae but couldn’t finish either. He hit 23 of 28 fairways last week so we know what ISN’T the problem!
Brendan Steele: He kicked off the new season with a win at Silverado and has since added T-6 at Kapalua to his haul. His best golf is always on this coast and he’s 34-under the last two years in Palm Springs and that includes 74 last year on Sunday (T-2, T-34).
Kevin Na: He showed up here last January with no form to mention and ground out 62 on a course he’s never played. He followed that up with 68 on Sunday to hit the podium (T-3). His only win was in the desert in Las Vegas and he’s played Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass quite well over the years.
Emiliano Grillo: I’ll blame his travel schedule for the end of his 2016 but now that he’s had a few weeks off, I’m right back on board. His worst finish of 2016 after his T-54 at Oakmont was finishing DFL at the Hero in December. His game tee-to-green is fantastic and this even makes for a very soft landing spot for his first event back.
Jon Rahm: Any course, any event and anytime so I’ll save you the trouble of asking. He’s posted 23 rounds in a row at par or better before a closing 73 at Mayakoba last time out. Even though he’s only played a handful of tournaments, he’s more the exception than rule. Remember he hit the top five as a college student at ASU at TPC Scottsdale so not much is going to bother him.
Ryan Palmer: He should be on the radar over the next few weeks for the OAD crowd as he loves a bit of desert golf. He has no problem eating up distance off the tee and can score for fun. His T-17 finish last year was his first outside the top 10 in four years thanks to 73 on Sunday.
form plays, eye-catchers who make great support staff
Webb Simpson: He’ll have no problem getting the ball tee-to-green or eating up the par fives. His T-13 last week included very solid putting numbers and a repeat performance will push him up even higher with the added par fives. He’s feasted here over the years because perfect putting isn’t required.
Francesco Molinari: The last times he teed it up in the desert he was T-4 at the Shriners and T-4 at the Dubai World Tour Championship. His other two starts last fall were T-6 in Shanghai against a WGC field and winning his native Italian Open.
Adam Hadwin: With 24 birdies and an eagle it wasn’t surprising he shared the lead entering the back nine on Sunday last year. His 38 coming in playing with a major champion should have been an excellent learning curve. He finished the 2016 portion with T-21, T-27 and T-10 so enjoy the form meeting the course history.
David Lingmerth: Impossible for me to leave out a guy who’s lost two playoffs in this event in four years. The change of courses didn’t bother him a bit as he lanced the Nicklaus course for 62 and tied the low round of the day on Sunday at the Dye course with 65.
Lucas Glover: Think Webb Simpson but with even MOAR fairways and greens! You’re going to have to accept a few shorties that won’t go in as that’s just part of the deal. Again, on two of the easiest courses on Tour, this is the ideal spot for guys who just don’t putt well. Glover was the only player in the top 25 last year with two rounds in the 70’s (T-17).
Russell Henley: His T-13 last week at Sony continues an excellent run T-14, T-24 and T-10 from his final three from last season. Hot form is hot form!
Keegan Bradley: Perfect spot for him to land after MC last week to kick of 2017. His game was in excellent shape before he got married in December as he rattled off back-to-back top 10’s before T-15 ended his season. He hit all over Honolulu last week so I’m hoping he’s overlooked.
Charley Hoffman: All or nothing but you don’t get to choose which! His six weekends have resulted in a win and four other top 10’s. His other four are MC including last year. He didn’t have any problem with the breeze winning in San Antonio last April.
Harold Varner, III: Rookies will see MC and stay away. I’ll see 70-68 and get right back on board, especially with par 72 all four days. I also don’t mind that he MC here last year on seven-under when the cut was eight. He crushes par fives and everything he tees up.
Chez Reavie: I’m not turning a blind eye to 61 on Sunday at Waialae. I’m also not ignoring his 66-65 weekend last year here. And I’m surely not going to ignore his T-4 at Mayakoba or his pair of top 25’s before that. No sir. Not me.
Chris Kirk: His form entering the week is MC-MC but nothing ridiculous. I’ll cheekily sneak him in the back door as he’s torched easy courses over the years. Shhhh.
Sean O’Hair: T-10 and T-11 in his last two starts just aren’t sexy enough to catch the eyes of most. I’d point out that T-10 was in the Las Vegas desert.
will return next week at Torrey New North and South
Off the Beaten Path
long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings
Hudson Swafford: Make it 18 in a row. Until he figures it out on the weekend he’ll remain in this column but I have no problem with guys banging cuts weekly. None.
Mark Hubbard: He’s 30-under in this event the last two years with T-20 and T-28. He should be one of the lowest rated players in DFS and based on his recent results, deservedly so, but something here fits his eye.
John Huh: He’s also hit the top 30 in the last two years both times but enters the week on 10 made cuts in a row.
Colt Knost: His MC last week wasn’t terrible (70-68) and he finished T-24 on 15-under here last year. Short courses and premium putting is his formula.
Martin Laird: He should probably be higher up the list but I like throwing a bone to those of you who take the time to read. He had one round above 70 last fall and rattled off T-8, T-27 and T-13 in three starts. He’s played every event here since 2008 and has made eight of nine cuts.
Cameron Tringale: If not this week, keep an eye next week as Rickie Fowler’s buddy from SoCal usually gets after it at Torrey Pines. He broke a four-year run of T-30-something with T-14 last year. Maybe the two new courses are just what he needed!
Vaughn Taylor: In another time, forgotten space, Taylor played this event five years in a row T-34 or better with a pair of top 10’s. His 65 last Saturday set the hook…
Kevin Streelman: His T-11 last year was his third T-11 or T-10 in the last six years. The Scottsdale resident shouldn’t mind a bit of desert golf.
Michael Thompson: If you can stomach the one round in the 70’s he might be just what you’re looking for in a sleeper this week! He led the field in SG:P and posted 63 and 65 at Waialae last week (T-20) plus he was T-28 here last year.
Brian Gay: Snuck him in last week in Hawaii and was rewarded with T-13. He’s won here before and if it’s wet, that will help with his tee-to-green game. His putter is of zero concern. #Wet.
Stewart Cink: Bookend 66’s only rolled him into T-36 but that four more rounds under par. I remember 62 on Sea Island and 64 and 65 at Mayakoba.
Whee Kim: If you’re firing darts, why not use the guy who has the Stadium Course record?
injured, rusty or not the track this week
Phil Mickelson: Beware the injured golfer!?! Maybe not if he’s in his late 40’s. Mickelson has plenty of other tracks that he plays well so hurrying him into the lineup for the first time of the season off invasive surgery doesn’t make any sense to me regardless of his finish last year. Out.
Mark Wilson: Sure he’s a previous champ here but his best finish since that 2012 victory is T-30 in 2015.
David Hearn: He’s played the last five seasons and never made the cut.
Jhonattan Vegas: The 2011 champ, as I know gamers love former champs, has four MC’s and a T-84 to his name since. I didn’t see anything at Kapalua that changed my mind as he was T-30 from 32 players.
Tomorrow I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.