How low can you go?
That’s the question yet again on the PGA Tour this week as players head back to the U.S. mainland for the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, Calif.
The CareerBuilder annually ranks among the easiest tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule in terms of scoring. The Stadium Course at PGA West, which will be used for all four rounds, is the tougher of the three, but not by much. All three hosts – PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club, the other two courses for the first 54 holes – play to a par of 72 and range between 7,000-7,200 yards.
Last year, Hudson Swafford won despite ranking 44th in strokes gained-putting. Adam Hadwin, who fired a 59 that week, was third in SGP, but 58th in strokes gained-tee to green. Moral of the story: the course doesn’t favor the ballstrikers or the putters exclusively; players must do at least one thing great, though, to win. Par breakers, obviously, will be huge.
This is 54-hole event, too, so for daily fantasy players, missed cuts aren’t as penal this week.
Here are my top-20 fantasy-golf options for this week’s CareerBuilder:
1. Brian Harman: Since the course switch, Harman has gone T-11 and T-3 at the CareerBuilder. Enters this year at career-high 20th in world rankings and riding a streak of five straight top-8s, including a T-4 at Sony. Ranks 12th in SGP.
2. Phil Mickelson: Lefty is tied for third on Tour in par breakers, fifth in SGTTG and 22nd in SGP. Finished T-21 last year in Palm Springs, though he was returning from a double-sports-hernia surgery. Owns five top-10s, including two wins and a T-3 in 2016, at CareerBuilder. T-3 and T-15 in two Tour starts in the fall.
3. Jon Rahm: Tied for 34th in his CareerBuilder debut last year. Didn’t miss a beat after long break following his win in Dubai last November; he finished runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Kapalua. Ranks seventh in SGTTG and 14th in par breakers.
4. Webb Simpson: Ranks 35th or better in SGTTG and SGP. He’s coming off his best showing of the season, a T-4 at Sony, and has made seven of eight cuts at CareerBuilder.
5. Chez Reavie: Hasn’t missed a cut since last season’s Byron Nelson and his T-18 at Sony was his sixth straight top-25 to open the new season. Ranks eighth in SGP. T-17 and T-12 in Palm Springs since the courses switched.
6. Charles Howell III: T-32 finish at Sony was a bit surprising, but Howell gets another course that he loves this week. Owns five top-15s at this tournament, including top-12s in each of the last two editions. Ranks 28th on Tour in SGTTG.
7. Bud Cauley: Ranks in the top 12 in both SGTTG and SGP, and is coming off a T-3 showing here. Also was T-14 in 2016. Owns two top 10s in four starts this season.
8. Jason Dufner: Ballstriking numbers are returning to normal while Dufner surprisingly ranks 13th in SGP this season. He’s coming off a T-18 finish at Sony and was T-25 last year at CareerBuilder, which he won in 2016.
9. Patton Kizzire: Ride the hot hand. Kizzire has won twice this season, including last week at Sony. He ranks 20th on Tour in SGP and 27th in par breakers. Nothing better than T-42 at CareerBuilder, though.
10. Brendan Steele: Finished 29th at Kapalua, but had a nice fall with a win at Safeway and T-13 at CIMB. Ranks 27th in SGTTG and T-16 in par breakers. Has a nice track record here – runner-up in 2015, T-10 entering final round in 2016 before tying for 34th, and a T-6 last year.
11. Zach Johnson: Two missed cuts since the switch in courses here, but his current form is too good to ignore. Johnson’s T-14 at Sony was his fifth straight top-25 finish. Ranks 18th in SGTTG and is top 50 in SGP and par breakers.
12. Kevin Kisner: T-25 finish at Sony was his worst of the season, as he was T-17 at Kapalua and T-4 at RSM. Was also T-25 last year in Palm Springs. Ranks sixth in SGP and is top 25 in par breakers.
13. Lucas Glover: Five career top-20s here, though was T-41 last year. Ranks 15th in SGTTG. Hasn’t played since a T-50 in China, but did notch top-15s in South Korea and Malaysia.
14. Patrick Reed: Looked good in Dubai (T-10) and Bahamas (T-5), but this will be his PGA Tour season debut this week. Was T-12 last year at CareerBuilder after winning it in 2014.
15. Bill Haas: A two-time winner in Palm Springs, though those came in 2010 and ’15. Ran off 40 straight red numbers at this event before a second-round 72 last year. Still has finished T-9 and T-17 since the course switches. Current form is lacking as a cold putter has caused him to miss his last two cuts, including at Sony.
16. David Lingmerth: Risky play, but does own two runner-up finishes in five CareerBuilder starts. Was T-34 last year with all four rounds under par. T-17 last time out, at RSM. Good putter.
17. J.J. Spaun: Opened with a 66 here last year before tying for 50th. Was a popular pick last week, but tied for 47th. Still has three top-15s this season, including a second at RSM, and ranks 17th on Tour in SGTTG.
18. Kevin Streelman: Posted for top-20s in five fall starts. Doesn’t make a lot of birdies, but is a top-20 ballstriker and has three finishes of T-11 or better in eight trips to Palm Springs. Did MC last year.
19. Chesson Hadley: An illness killed Hadley’s early-season momentum as he was forced to WD from Mexico last fall. He had three straight top-4s before that. Hasn’t played since a T-37 at RSM. Ranks 11th on Tour in SGTTG and is top 40 in SGP and par breakers. Did miss the cut here in 2016.
20. Ollie Schniederjans: Not a great record in two starts here, but is coming off a T-7 at Sony and ranks 15th in par breakers.