The Career Builder Challenge is a unique tournament in the yearly rota, as it features 3 courses – all in which players play once over the first three days – and then there is a 54 hole cut, unlike the traditional 36 hole cut format. The implications of this from a DFS player standpoint are significant, as because the cut is later in the tournament, all golfers* will play at least 18 more holes on Saturday, making this tournament a hybrid between the usual 36-hole cut format and no cut formats such as the WGC’s. Therefore, you should be weighing Birdie or Better percentage higher in your rankings this week, as because all golfers will play more, piling up the birdies are imperative for fantasy scoring.
The three courses in which golfers will play at are all par 72’s – featuring a total of 12 Par 5’s between them, four on each course. This makes Par 5 Scoring one of the most important stats of the week, if not the most important, as golfers will rely on the Par 5’s for most of their birdie making on the week. Most of the Par 5’s are gettable too, meaning most golfers can get to the green in two shots and have eagle looks throughout the week.
Another important factor to consider is how short these tracks play, as on the Stadium Course – the track golfers will play twice if they make the cut – 8/9 Par 4’s play under 450 yards, so wedge & short iron consistency is crucial. Below are my key stats of the week in order of relevance:
- Par 5 Birdie or Better
- Birdie or Better
- Approach 125-150
- Strokes Gained Off the Tee
(Disclaimer: Because many golfers have a small sample size on the year, I’ll be using complete 2017 season stats for rankings)
DFS DraftKings: Career Builder Challenge PGA Picks 1/18-1/21
Jon Rahm $11,800
Rahm is pricey this week, but it’s warranted. There are a number of factors that make Rahm appealing this week, but his current form is undeniable, as he comes in with a win and a second place in his previous two starts on tour. He made the cut here last year – a 34th place finish – but he’s an improved and calmer player now, and will surely want to play well before defending his title at Torrey Pines next week. Rahm checks out 12th in BoB% on Par 5’s, 7th in BoB% overall, and 2nd on tour in Strokes Gained off the tee, making him statistically appealing this week and a good anchor for GPP teams, though tough to fit for cash lineups.
Phil Mickelson $10,000
Anytime Par 5s and Birdies are important for a given week, Lefty is going to be near the top of your list. Phil hasn’t won since 2013, making his price for GPP’s a little high, but he makes up for it in scoring. Phil comes in this week as the tournament ambassador, is from close by in nearby Arizona, and has never missed the cut here in his 7 tries, making him full of narrative plays coming into the week. As for key stats, he checks a lot of boxes, as he ranked out 10th on the tour last year in Birdie or Better % on Par 5’s, 17th in Birdie or Better overall, and 34th in Approach 125-150. I like Phil in cash and GPP’s this week, and you can bet you’ll be seeing him on TV a bunch too to compensate for the loss of shot tracker at two of the courses.
Webb Simpson $9,700
It’s a crazy world when Webb Simpson is regarded as an above average putter, but here we are. Formally notorious for his frequent infuriating three-foot misses, Webb has turned the corner on the greens, especially on Bermuda surfaces, and thus should be fired up confidently in all formats this week. He’s made 7 of his last 8 cuts here at the Career Builder with a pair of Top 10’s, and is in strong form right now, placing fourth last week at the Sony to start off the season. Webb is just an average Par 5 Scorer, but was 56th in BoB% on tour last year and 77th in Approaches from 125-150, making him solid statistically on the week. A reinvigorated Webb on the greens makes him a strong target this week for cash and GPP contests, as he should capture a top 30 this week with plenty of upside if the putter runs hot.
Charles Howell $8,000
The new year rolls in, and the same rules apply: the air gets colder, resolutions get broken, and you roster Charles Howell in DFS. It’s really simple – Howell seems to suddenly play well in the early year, and then disappear after his early season winnings. Anyway. at 8000, I like Howell for cash games this week. He doesn’t have much upside, but he’s never missed the cut here in 9 tries and actually has two Top 15’s in his last two starts here. He doesn’t check much statically, but I’ve learned that he really never does, and always seems to thrive early season. He’s a strong mid-range play this week that you can pair with Simpson/Phil in your cash lineups.
Hudson Swafford $7,800
The Swafficer is back to his cut-making ways, making 6/6 on the year including the fall swing. But remember that he won here last year and comes into the week in relatively solid form, rattling off 2 eagles last week with 18 birdies in route to a T54 at the Sony. On courses that require a strong game off the tee, on par 5’s, and Bermuda putting, Swafford is your guy, placing 24th last year in BoB% on Par 5, 69th in BoB% overall, and 27th in Strokes Gained OTT. Known for his positive Bermuda splits as well, I like him for cash and GPP’s this week, as he has winning upside as we saw last year and is making cuts consistency, a recipe for success at a relatively low price of 7800.
Brian Stuard $7,500
I may be biased here with the money that Stuard won me last week, but I’m riding the Stuard train while it’s hot, as he now has 3 top 10’s in his last 5 starts and continues to putt brilliantly on these Bermuda greens. On top of that, before missing his last two cuts here, he placed back to back top 10’s at the Career Builder in 2014 and 2013, strong course history for a guy priced 7500. He’s not going to wow you statistically – placing in the bottom half of the key weekly stats, but he’s got a hot putter and has gained the third most strokes on tour on Bermuda Greens in his past 8 rounds. I like Stuard to keep his hot streak going and make the cut this week with upside, which is really all you want from a golfer this cheap.
Ryan Palmer $7,100
I’m excited about Ryan Palmer this week (I gasp as I say this), as I was happy to see the Career Builder course-horse make the cut last week in his first start back from injury. Despite MC’ing in last year’s injury-plagued season, Palmer has 6 Top’s 20’s here in his last 10 starts, qualifying him for the course horse narrative of the week. Palmer is never fun to roster – in part because of his miscues on the greens – but he pops statistically this week on top of his strong course history, as he was 22nd on tour last year in approach 125-150, and 19th in Strokes Gained OTT. He’s probably not safe for cash, but I like Palmer’s upside for GPP’s, as he comes back to California in hopes of another Top 20.
Trey Mullinax $7,000 (GPP Flyer):
Mullinax is risky, but I’m going to be loading up on the young bomber this week in GPP’s as he finally showed some form during the fall swing with back to back Top 25’s in his last two starts. Mullinax hasn’t lived up the hype of his fellow 2016 Web.com tour grads Xander Schauffele and Grayson Murray, but he certainly has the talent and these tracks this week should fit his bomb and gauge skillset well. In his poor season last year, he still ranked 50th in BoB% on Par 5’s, 30th in BoB% overall, and 42nd in Strokes Gained OTT, all marks that are better than most players in this field. He’s hard to trust, but a good GPP play this week as a birdie making bomber who made the cut here in his first try last season.