The First Tee – CareerBuilder Challenge by Adam Daly

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff January 16, 2018 00:10

The First Tee – CareerBuilder Challenge by Adam Daly

There’s a three-course rotation event this week for the CareerBuilder Challenge, and a 54-hole cut which always makes it an interesting week from a picks perspective. The other change from a regular event is that because it’s a 54-hole cut, there is NO MDF if the T70 is more than 78 golfers, and it would then move to T60 instead. This is a full-field event, but making the cut won’t be as important if there’s a highly-volatile player in the mix that matches birdies with bogeys.

The three courses this week are TPC Stadium at PGA West, PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club. There will be some overlapping statistics with the three courses setting up fairly similarly, but the only shot tracker data comes from the course that gets played twice (TPC Stadium). It’s another birdie-making tournament.

THE COURSE – TPC Stadium

The only course with ShotTracker is also the course that gets played twice, but unfortunately it only got added to the course rotation at the CareerBuilder two seasons ago so there’s not much correlation data to look at.

TPC Stadium Course is a Pete Dye design, which means narrow fairways, short yardage in total, and water coming into play; much like Dye’s Sawgrass design, there’s an island green on the 17th here (known as “Alcatraz”), and water could conceivably come into play on eight holes.

This is the hardest of the three courses, with the highest slope and stroke ratings (150/76.1) of the three. Off the tee, accuracy will be key given the potential hazards and narrow fairways, which means driver may stay in the bag a bit more. At 7,113 yards and par-72, going short but accurate off the tee will set up the longer iron approach shots (typically above 150) so that could be keyed in on. With the par-3s averaging above par on three of the four, scoring on the par-3s will put a golfer so far ahead of the field, so that should be a focus as well.

THE COURSE – PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course

The Nicklaus-designed (obviously) course is the boring, middle of the pack course in almost every way: at 7,159 yards (also a par-72), the scoring average here last year was -1.25 below par and is neither a course that makes nor breaks a golfer’s performance at CareerBuilder. This is a relatively straight-forward track from tee to green, with average-sized fairways and little-to-no-rough to contend with, but the struggles will be on the greens. The greens are slightly-above-average in size, but feature lots of tricky undulation and are tiered, so the approach game will be paramount.

THE COURSE – La Quinta C.C.

La Quinta is one of the easier courses on Tour, as a very short par-72, just 7,060 yards. Last year it played -2.36 strokes below par with 683 birdies/12 eagles made – 24.7% of holes seeing birdie or better. The four par-5s are all very scoreable yardage, from 516 to only 547 yards. There are five short par-4s as well, at or below 405 yards.

Through the weekend, golfers will need to go low at La Quinta given it’s the easiest of the three courses – this is where Adam Hadwin carded his 59 en route to a 2nd place finish last year. The course is lined with mature trees and some water hazards will come into play on seven holes, and with narrow fairways golfers tend to pull long irons or woods off the tee. The greens at this course are slightly different from the Bermuda of the other two courses, being a Bermuda/poa annua mix.

STATS

This week will be one of the more vague weeks possible in terms of which stats to look at, given the lack of good data and that the event takes place over three courses.

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off-the-Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Birdie or Better %
  • Proximity to the Hole
  • Par-3 Scoring
  • Par-5 Scoring

The Golfers

Jon Rahm ($11800): After finishing 2nd at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Jon Rahm is the highest-priced golfer in the field and for good reason: he had 11 top-10s last season (23 events) including a win at the Farmers, finished T34 here with a -9, but mostly it’s his play from tee to green which will be the most consistent mark of success here. Last season Rahm finished 3rd in the PGA – 1st in this field – in SG: Tee to Green, with the bulk of that coming off the tee; Rahm is consistent off the tee both with driver in hand or a long iron, which will be important with narrow fairways on two of the three courses played.

Rahm is an elite golfer, as demonstrated by his 3rd OWGR ranking, and his scoring numbers reflect that: 7th in BoB%, 7th in Par-5 Scoring, and 24th in Par-3 Scoring (to say nothing of his 4th place finish in Par-4 Scoring). His average proximity to the hole is one of the few “holes” in his game (ranked 50th last year), with the other being play around the green; the way the greens are set up, there’s not a lot of run-off, so he should be able to find the greens fairly consistently.

Also consider: Webb Simpson ($9700) – Last week’s performance from Webb was fantastic, finishing T4 at the Sony Open. Importantly, he continued his streak of gaining strokes with his putter, which is the one factor that typically knocked Webb out of contention. His price is reasonable, he’s nails on approach and from tee-to-green, and he can knock the -4s and -5s out of the park this week.

Values:

Wesley Bryan ($7200): Rostering a player that says he’s keeping the driver in the bag for the foreseeable future would generally be a bad idea, but there are worse courses to do that on; both La Quinta and Stadium can get scored on without driver, and with Bryan’s horrendous play off the tee that might be an excellent decision for him. Looking at last season’s stats, Bryan struggled IMMENSELY from tee-to-green thanks to losing 0.795 off the tee – the result of short, inaccurate drives. That he made that up in every other facet of his play is what makes him very interesting this week: he was 26th in SG: Approach, 36th in SG: Around the Green, and 45th in putting. He finished T7 at the Valspar (another over-seeded Bermuda course), and definitely has the ability to go low.

He missed the cut here last year with a poor opening round, but enters the week off a T32 in Hawaii and T27 at the Tournament of Champions.

Other values: Dominic Bozzelli ($6800) – Bozzelli finished 5th here last year – his first full year – and although he’s only played the one PGA event since the Canadian Open thanks to injury, that one event was a T39 last week at the Sony Open. This is much less of a statistical play than normal, but it banks on Bozzelli’s pure talent as a golfer. Bozzelli’s 5th here was aided by gaining two strokes with the putter, but he was more accurate than normal thanks to avoiding the driver, and hit 70% of greens; if he can repeat those two things while putting even average, he’ll more than pay off his price point.

Scott Piercy ($7400) – Piercy is one of those volatile golfers that can load up the DraftKings birdie/eagle points and still miss the cut, but as mentioned off the top that isn’t as much of a factor this week with the 54-hole cut. He’s in fine form off a T25 at the Sony last week, was 11th in Birdie or Better % last season, and has started off 2018 with great numbers in everything except driving accuracy.

Good luck this week! You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey if you have any questions, and my DMs are always open.

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff January 16, 2018 00:10

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