The West Coast swing begins on the PGA Tour this week with the traditional curtain raiser of the CareerBuilder Challenge. Many of the leading lights on the PGA Tour tee it up this week and they do so with an amateur partner as this is the first pro-am of the year.
Three cracking courses are in use for the tournament in what is always a low scoring event. With this being the first event of the year in mainland USA it is a popular one for players and spectators alike.
2017 – Hudson Swafford
2016 – Jason Dufner
2015 – Bill Haas
2014 – Patrick Reed
2013 – Brian Gay
2012 – Mark Wilson
2011 – Jhonatthan Vegas
2010 – Bill Haas
2009 – Pat Perez
2008 – D J Trahan
The three courses this week are the Stadium Course, the Tournament Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club. Each pairing plays each of the courses once over the first three days before the cut ahead of the final round which takes place over the Stadium Course.
All three of these courses are par 72s and the longest of them is the Tournament course which stretches no further than 7,159 yards. They are all set up very friendly given the amateurs are involved in the event so the one thing you know is this will be low scoring with the winning total well into the 20s under par.
Greens in regulation, putting and par 4 scoring are probably the key statistics to focus on this week but you won’t go too far wrong with anyone who makes a lot of birdies as that is very much the order of the day.
There is a stellar event going on over on the European Tour this week so as such the top end of this field may not be as loaded as normal but this looks a competitive event with the California regulars all teeing it up.
Jon Rahm is probably the biggest name in the field currently but American stars such as Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner and Zach Johnson will add some home feel about the tournament. Hudson Swafford is here to defend his title.
Jon Rahm is the 10/1 favourite to win this tournament and he has the power to blitz any golf course but these tracks aren’t really all about winging it out there off the tee. Length helps but it isn’t the necessity that we’ll see in the weeks to come on the West Coast. He’s a worthy favourite but I don’t think he’s an automatic winner.
Brian Harman is the second favourite this week. He is in excellent form right now but he is becoming frustrating to follow with the amount of times he has been in contention lately without getting the job done. He is 18/1 this week which in a normal event would be perfectly acceptable but this is quirky and he might be a little short off the back of that.
Webb Simpson is the third favourite at 22/1. I always have my doubts over him in these low scoring events because you just know his putter will go cold at some point and that could cost him. Former winner Patrick Reed and Kevin Kisner are both 25/1. Reed doesn’t look in the form to burst through and win but Kisner is very much a danger.
Phil Mickelson comes next in the betting at 28/1. We should never write Mickelson off in any tournament he tees it up in but this is his first event of the season and I always feel he lacks a little focus in these pro-am events. It is 30/1 bar those named.
Zach Johnson has an ordinary record in this tournament but he is far too good for that to stay in place for long and I fancy this is the year that could all change. He comes in here off the back of a positive week in the Sony Open and these three tracks should be set up to suit his game. He is a wizard with the short irons and wedges in his hand and we know all about his putting prowess. I rate him a leading contender this week.
Chris Kirk has put good weeks together either side of the break for Christmas and he should be coming here in good spirits. He finished in the top 10 last week and in the top five at the RSM Classic prior to that. In the RSM he led the field for putting which is no surprise because he is an excellent putter. His tee to green stats are decent enough and that all suggests he should make a significant improvement on his 21st place finish from last year.
I’ll have a bang at a couple of outsiders at decent prices, both of whom fit the profile I’m looking for. JJ Spaun is the first of those. He is tied seventh on the PGA Tour this year for par 4 scoring which bodes well and the reason for that is his iron play. In his last four tournaments Spaun has been in the top 10 for greens hit and he has three top 15 finishes in that time as a result including a second in the RSM Classic. He can go low as we saw here last year when he opened with a 66 and if he can build on that he’ll run close.
I’ve backed Andrew Landry a couple of times this season and I’m going to give him a chance again. He is an excellent putter which is important here and when he plays well he is very good with his irons as we saw in the RSM Classic where he ranked second for greens hit and where he finished fourth overall. That was his second top 10 of the season and if he can find a few of these pins he’ll soon be in contention this week.
Back Z.Johnson to win CareerBuilder Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
PLACED – Back A.Landry to win CareerBuilder Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back C.Kirk to win CareerBuilder Challenge (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 56.00 with Paddy Power (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back J-J.Spaun to win CareerBuilder Challenge (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here: