First things first, let’s have a Justin Thomas discussion. That was a monster week for Thomas and hats off to him! For me it was the opposite because I executed the full Thomas fade. Looking at his ownership numbers on The Fantasy Fanatics we can see he was owned by just 9.29% on DraftKings (average) so a lot of people had the same idea.
When you look at his ownership by Entry Amount, you’ll also notice his ownership dipped below 5% in the $300 and $1060 GPPs. The gamers that strategize and put a lot of time into this clearly thought a fade was logical, while many in the lower-dollar buyins just threw in the name they saw win recently. Obviously the fade turned out terribly this time around, but part of that fade was based on an expected ownership increase which clearly didn’t happen.
The important takeaway here is that back-to-back winners are extremely rare on the PGA TOUR, especially when the second course isn’t a great course fit. Many people are cursing the names of touts across the industry after last week and will vow to never fade a winner again. This means we should be lining up and ready to execute another full fade when the opportunity arises again.
Enough about Thomas, let’s head back to the mainland for the CareerBuilder Challenge. The event this time is a guaranteed three rounds before the cut. It’s played in a pro-am format so the trio of courses are setup on the easy side of the spectrum to avoid disasters/slow rounds from the amateurs.
The three courses are La Quinta Country Club, Nicklaus Tournament at PGA WEST, and the Stadium Course at TPC WEST. Last year was the only year with these three specific courses while La Quinta has been around for a long time. Long-time readers know I’m a part of Team Course History, so I have to give the disclaimer that course history should be looked at very lightly this week. The stats are still slightly relevant since some golfers just like the region, some like playing par 72 tracks, and some just like bermuda greens. But actual course history is all over the map here given the number of different courses that have been used over the years.
If you read the quotes from the Fantasy Golfanac then you’ll know that course knowledge is certainly still applicable. Golfers like Dufner and Na both practiced at the course in the few weeks leading up to the tournament last year. Dufner ended up winning the tournament and Na finished T3. If you stalk any golfers on social media and have seen them at PGA WEST recently, it’s definitely worth noting.
For relevant stats this week the main thing popping is Birdie or Better Percentage. You have to be able to go low at a steady stream to keep up with the pace here.
As for correlated events, I am using the the Farmers, Riviera, Valero Texas Open, Sony Open, and Valspar Championship.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more course details and golfer quotes from previous years.
Players to Watch
Patrick Reed… Showed fatigue at the end of 2016 but a T6 at the SBS Tournament of Champions is a good sign for things to come. Especially since he was under the weather leading up to that event. Should be nice and rested now, making for a great play on DK. Historically he crushes on these easy pro-am type setups and this week should be no different. I would expect him to finish the week with the most birdies, or at least with two or three of the leader.
Paul Casey… Finished 2016 in great form but came out sputtering in Hawaii. He was a late entry into this week’s field which tells me he wants to regain that form (and confidence) heading into some of the bigger events. Normally I wouldn’t bother with a golfer that is 0-for-2 at an event but with only one year of history at the current rotation, he’s not too far behind the pack. A perfect bounce-back spot. Don’t be afraid to get back on the horse.
Kevin Na… I talked about the pre-tournament prep of Na and Duff Daddy last year which paid dividends. Na checks that box again this year as he posted a photo on his Instagram earlier in the month. The photo showed him at the Stadium Course getting paid out on a bet from Danny Lee and John Huh. All three of them make for very solid plays this week.
Phil Mickelson… Is attempting to return from two hernia surgeries. The initial return at this event sounded very iffy, so I’m not convince he’ll actually stay committed come Thursday. He is playing the role of tournament ambassador and Lety is a good guy. He wants to please his sponsors and play a big role in the event since he’s committed to being ambassador. I could see him going through the early-week prep of playing in the pro-am and then backing out on Wednesday. This would help him get back into the swing of pre-tournament prep work, but also not force him to compete when he’s not 100% ready. Keep your eyes peeled as the week goes on, but tread lightly given the health situation. I won’t be taking on the risk.
Ryan Palmer… Get’s good husband bonus points as he sat out the entire fall to be with his ailing wife who is going through cancer treatments. He returned last week and collapse to miss the cut on Friday and then took to Twitter to respond to the trolls. His Friday collapse last week hurt a lot of owners but he also shook off the cobwebs and should be good to go this week. He seems to thrive here regardless of the course rotation, posting top 20s in five of his last six starts here.
Bill Haas… If you look at raw birdie or better percentage then Haas is always a turd play on sites like DraftKings that value scoring so much. However, when you isolate his scoring to only similar tracks that he’ll face this week, then his DraftKings ceiling increases quite a bit. I would guess many sharp minds will fade Haas this week because of his low birdie totals and likely high ownership. I’m on the other side of that fence and think it’s okay to eat the chalk here (assuming he’s not too spendy on DK when salaries are released).
Brendan Steele… Has the local angle on his side and he can go low with the best of em’ when he gets in the zone. He’s been very inconsistent at this event but I think his upside is still there, making him a solid GPP option this week.
Lucas Glover… If we’re talking boom-or-bust then Glover has to be talked about. His irons usually go BOOM while his putting goes BUST. However, we have bermuda greens this week which means Glover is in play.
Emiliano Grillo… Speaking of bermuda, the Argentine has not taken to the surface very well. If I remember correctly, he grew up with poa on his home course and has shown much better results on poa and bentgrass earl in his career. The sample size is still small, but I it gives me an excuse to play the wait-and-see game here. I won’t be on Grillo this week.
Jon Rahm… Birdie machine and no stranger to desert golf, having played his college ball at ASU.
Francesco Molinari … The Italian version of Bill Haas, he should be good for a top 25 but he’s always just lurking and not really in true contention. He’s never held the lead after any round on the PGA TOUR.
Aaron Wise … Talent-wise he has to be in your radar. It would be
wise smart not to avoid him if you’re making more than 10 lineups on DraftKings this week.
My Top 25 for the 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge
1. Patrick Reed
2. Kevin Na
3. Ryan Palmer
4. Jon Rahm
5. Paul Casey
6. Zach Johnson
7. Bill Haas
8. Keegan Bradley
9. Jason Dufner
10. Luke List
11. Brendan Steele
12. Charles Howell III
13. Charley Hoffman
14. Francesco Molinari
15. Webb Simpson
16. Danny Lee
17. Jamie Lovemark
18. Adam Hadwin
19. Cameron Tringale
20. Bryce Molder
21. Chris Kirk
22. Anirban Lahiri
23. Lucas Glover
24. Daniel Summerhays
25. John Huh