Winner's Share: $1.62M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: La Quinta, Calif.
Course: TPC Stadium Course, PGA West
2017 champion: Hudson Swafford
Here we go, gamers. One of the most fun times of the year on the PGA Tour calendar: the West Coast Swing. The five-tournament segment begins with what for golf fans of a certain generation will always be known as "The Hope," as in the Bob Hope Classic. Of course, it's now called the rolls-off-your-tongue CareerBuilder Challenge. A few years back they dropped the 90-hole format, but it still has one of the biggest pro-am components. The max field of 156 will play with their amateur partners for three days on three different courses before the cut is made after 54 holes.
Two years ago, they introduced to the rotation two PGA West tracks -- the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course (par-72, 7,204 yards) -- to go along with venerable La Quinta Country Club (par-72, 7060). Golfers will play each of them over the first three days before the top-70 and ties play the Stadium Course on Sunday. If, however, 78 or more players qualify for the final round, then the cut would shift to the top-60 and ties. But even those golfers who would be left out will get a check and FedEx Cup points.
Speaking of the golfers, there aren't many good ones here. Only four in the OWGR top-30 have made the trip: No. 3 Jon Rahm, No. 20 Brian Harman, No. 25 and 2014 champion Patrick Reed and No. 27 Kevin Kisner. Phil Mickelson, outside the top-40 for the first time since 1993, returns for his second year as tournament "ambassador." Hudson Swafford is the defending champion. The Georgian won his first PGA Tour title with a 20-under score, which actually is quite low for this birdie/eagle-fest. Last year was unusually cool and rainy in the California desert. So while we have only two years of course history for two of the three tracks, last year was an aberration. In 2016, the three courses were among the easiest the golfers will see all season. Last year, La Quinta stayed true by ranking 49th hardest out of 50, but the Nicklaus was only 39th and the Stadium proved to be midrange tough at 30th most difficult. In the key stats and Champion's Profile below, we'll look largely at the past two tournaments. There's still information to be gleaned from prior years, such as, ugh, how a golfer deals with three rounds with an amateur partner while slogging through six-hour rounds.
Weather-wise, temperatures will be cool from the mid-70s to the mid-60s as the tournament progresses, but there is no rain and little wind in the forecast.
Key Stats to Winning at the CareerBuilder
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Ball striking/strokes gained tee to green
• Proximity to the hole
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Birdie-or-better percentage
2017 - Hudson Swafford
2016 - Jason Dufner
2015 - Bill Haas
2014 - Patrick Reed
2013 - Brian Gay
2012 - Mark Wilson
2011 - Jhonattan Vegas
2010 - Bill Haas
2009 - Pat Perez
2008 - D.J. Trahan
This is a ball-striker's week. Getting on the green in regulation will provide plenty of birdie of opportunities on some of the simplest greens on Tour all year. They've got to make birdies, a lot of them, or eagles, so tee-to-green play is paramount. Last year, Hudson Swafford was first in GIR. Two years ago, Jason Dufner was only 15th in GIR, but he was also fifth in the field in putting average. For what it's worth, seven of the past eight winners have played at least one of the two Hawaii stops before coming here.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
Rahm is far and away the class of the field at No. 3 in the world, with the next closest being No. 20 Brian Harman. And he so's close to No. 2 Jordan Spieth, the Spaniard can overtake him with a win here. Rahm won his final start of 2017 and then won the B flight two weeks ago at Kapalua -- runner-up to Dustin Johnson's eight-stroke win.
Brian Harman - $11,500 (15-1)
Harman seems like a slam-dunk Tier 1 pick as the No. 2 price tag in the field and coming off a fifth straight top-10 cash last week at Waialae. Plus, he was third here last year and 11th the year before. The only thing that gives us pause is the way in which Harman tied for fourth last week at the Sony: He should have won, and became visibly upset with himself late on Sunday when he let it get away. Such emotion could boost him this week, or he could let his disappointment linger.
Jason Dufner - $9,800 (30-1)
Dufner has opened 2018 with two top-20s -- T11 at Kapalua and T18 last week at Waialae. He's a recent winner here with a 25-under-total in 2016, a score likely to be needed again to win this time around. Dufner returned last year to tie for 25th. He is ranked 42nd on Tour in strokes gained total so far this season.
Webb Simpson - $9,700 (25-1)
Like Harman, Simpson is coming off a T4 last week. Unlike Harman, he climbed the leaderboard on Sunday to exit Hawaii with a much better taste in his mouth. More importantly, one of the best ball strikers year-in and year-out is also ranked 28th this season in strokes gained putting. Simpson had three straight top-25s here, one of them a T7, until a fade to T66 last year.
Tier 2 Values
Brendan Steele - $8,900 (30-1)
Steele is ranked sixth in strokes gained off the tee this season, 13th in GIR and 27th in SG tee to green. His deficiencies begin to surface around and on the green. That hasn't prevented him from notching a T6 last year and being runner-up to Bill Haas in 2015. Steele didn't have a good TOC at Kapalua (T29), but at least he's gotten the rust off so far in 2018.
Chez Reavie - $8,800 (30-1)
Reavie is coming off a top-20 last week at the Sony, giving him a Tour-leading six top-25s already this season. He's finished top-25 in every start he's made. He's also gone top-20 the past two years here. Putting is likely what's preventing those good weeks from becoming great ones (167th in SGP). Reavie ranks eighth on Tour in SG tee to green.
Bill Haas - $8,600 (40-1)
Haas obviously loves this tournament, having played every since 2005. And why not? He's a two-time winner with eight top-20s. Last year's T17 was actually one of his poorer recent results, but with his price now having dropped into the mid-$8,000s, he's still a sound play.
Bud Cauley - $8,400 (30-1)
Cauley has eight top-10s on Tour the last two seasons, two of them at the CareerBuilder, including last year's T3. One year, he played in Hawaii beforehand and one year he didn't. So he's succeeded both ways. This year, he skipped both Hawaii events. Cauley is ranked 12th on Tour in SG tee to green and 11th in SG putting.
Tier 3 Values
Kevin Chappell - $7,700 (40-1)
When scrolling down the DraftKings prices, we were looking for Chappell ... and kept looking ... and kept looking. Until we thought he may have withdrawn. And then we found him all the way down in the $7,000s. It's true that Chappell has had only one good showing here, a T8 in 2013. But at No. 32 in the OWGR, this is far too good of a bargain to pass up.
Brandt Snedeker - $7,700 (40-1)
As with Chappell, we can't figure out why Snedeker is so cheap. Well, maybe we can. He's played only twice since June, when a sternum injury ended his season. He notched a T29 at the RSM Classic in November. He then made a last-ditch effort to return to the OWGR top-50 before the end of the year, only to WD with heat exhaustion after flying to Indonesia for an Asian Tour event. Snedeker is certainly more of a risk than Chappell, but it's one we're willing to take in this watered-down field.
Kevin Streelman - $7,500 (50-1)
Streelman embarks on 2018 following top-25 cashes in four of his five fall-season starts. He's had mixed results here through the years, but included are a pair of top-10s plus a T11 two years ago. Streelman's autumn performance left him 14th on Tour in SG tee to green and sixth in GIR.
Lucas Glover - $7,500 (60-1)
Glover is one of the better ball strikers around. That classification often seems to be followed by "but he's not a good putter." And that surely is Glover, who is ranked 15th in SG tee to green and, um, 192nd in SG putting. He's missed only one cut in nine career visits here, with five top-20s. Glover skipped the two Hawaii events. He last missed a cut in June.
Ryan Armour - $7,400 (80-1)
Armour is 41 years old and playing the best golf of his life. That's probably because he hadn't played very well at the professional level until a few months ago. He won his first career tournament, the Sanderson Farms, in October and has followed it up with five more made cuts without a miss. Armour was a respectable T20 at Kapalua and T39 at Waialae. He's ranked 23rd in SG tee to green and 12th in SG approach.
Ryan Palmer - $7,100 (100-1)
Palmer cut his 2017 short to have shoulder surgery, which explains his sub-par play beforehand. He returned only last week with a T58 at the Sony. Palmer has five top-10s through the years at the CareerBuilder, so this is a good spot to take a flyer. Besides, Palmer was T24 in SG tee to green last week at Waialae.
Brandon Harkins- $6,700 (Field)
The 31-year-old California toiled on the Canadian and Latin American Tours before graduating to the Web.com Tour, via which he earned his PGA Tour card for the first time. Harkins has made 5-of-6 cuts so far, with four top-25s, including last week's T25 at Waialae. He had a runner-up and a third last year on the Web among six top-25s. Harkins stands 66th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained total.
Xinjun Zhang - $6,700 (Field)
The 30-year-old from China is playing the PGA Tour for the first time, and he's started out quite well. Zhang has made 5-of-6 cuts, including last week's T25 at the Sony. He also was T20 at Mayakoba. Before this season, Zhang had played only two PGA Tour events -- the WGC in China the past two years. But he got his card via the Web.com Tour, where he was runner-up twice last season among six top-25s.