Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, January 17 at 2:45 PM EST.
This is one of those unique PGA TOUR events where we have not one course to decipher but three. Our host this week is the TPC Stadium Course, which hosts one of the three opening rounds of rotation as well as Sunday’s shootout. The other two tracks are the PGA West (Nicklaus) layout and La Quinta Country Club. The Stadium Course is the jewel in the crown. Golf Digest ranked it as the fourth most difficult course in the USA in their annual report and it’s a theme that seems to ring true for PGA TOUR pros and amateurs alike and it’s also worth noting that this CareerBuilder Challenge is a pro-am tournament for the first three days.
Playing at a hefty 7,300 yards for its Par 72, the Stadium layout was designed by Pete Dye and features a pair of punishing final holes. The 17th is called Alcatraz, named after the so-called unescapable prison that housed Al Capone and Whitey Bulger, among others. This par three features an island green and averaged over par last year. The 18th, meanwhile, also averaged over par last year and features a water hazard immediately to the left of the small green.
The Nicklaus Tournament Course plays a tad easier than the Stadium layout. Measuring 7,204 yards for its Par 72, this is designed as the classic ball-strikers test – as you know the great man likes it – and while there is plenty of room off the tee, the areas around the greens are hazardous at best. Water, sand and thick grass awaits errant approaches, while the sloping and tiered greens reward precision iron play.
Thirdly comes La Quinta CC (Par 72, 7060 yards), with its superb tree-lined fairways, shimmering lakes and immaculate greens. This is the easiest of the three courses, and it was here that Adam Hadwin joined the 59 club just 12 months ago.
What we’re looking for this week:
The CareerBuilder Challenge is a difficult tournament to predict given the rotational course policy which naturally opens the door to a clear draw bias. But if we’ve got the forecast right, we should hopefully minimize the potential impact of that. The next thing bettors or fantasy players should note is the pro-am format, which naturally appeals to some players more than others. A handy guide is to consider past results here and at the AT&T Pebble Beach, which handily is a three-course pro-am event held in California. When looking at the caliber of players who featured in the top 10 last year – Harman, Cauley, Steele, Chad Campbell and Scott Stallings – we know that straight, accurate hitting is essential. It’s also worth noting the correlation with a couple of other Pete Dye courses: Harbour Town, which hosts the RBC Heritage, and TPC Sawgrass: the home of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event.
Chris Kirk 45-1
It’s great to see Chris Kirk returning to something like his best form. The four-time PGA TOUR winner has had his struggles in recent years, but with back-to-back top-10’s to his name – T4 at the RSM Classic, T10 at the Sony Open – it’s clear that the groove is back in his game. Kirk is always someone to consider on Pete Dye layouts. He’s got a top-10 to his name in this event, as well as a number of impressive showings elsewhere including T12 at TPC Sawgrass (Players Championship 2017) and T5 and T10 at TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic) and Crooked Stick (BMW Championship) respectively. The stats from the Sony Open show that Kirk was hitting his approaches nicely and scrambling/chipping well too, and we do like to back in-form and confident players in this pro-am format, as they are more likely to enjoy the festivities compared to those who are not striking the ball well. Kirk ranks 11th ON TOUR in Approaches from 150-175 yards and 51st in Driving Accuracy (Risking 0.2 units to win 9 units).
Brian Stuard 75-1
A return to his former swing coach has coincided with Brian Stuard recording four top-25 finishes in his last half-dozen starts, and his game looks in fine fettle right now. Three of those efforts have been top-10s, and perhaps most impressively, he has continued his great form despite the festive break, which could have derailed his momentum. A former winner at another Pete Dye track, TPC Louisiana, for the 2016 Zurich Classic, Stuard’s short and steady game should suit all three tracks this week, and with a pair of top-10s to his name in this event clearly the pro-am format does not concern him. Although it’s early in the 2018 season, Stuard ranks 8th on TOUR in Driving Accuracy this year, thus his momentum and this price tage makes him very worthy of consideration (Risking 0.2 units to win 15 units).
Ryan Blaum 125-1
In a field like this and with so many of the big names over in Europe this week, we always like to take some shots with pros in the 100-1 range are higher because there will be one or two of them in contention. The challenge is finding that one diamond in the rough and Blaum could be our guy this week. Just six players gained +2.00 or more shots from tee-to-green at last week’s Sony Open: James Hahn, Tom Hoge, Jerry Kelly, Chez Reavie, Scott Piercy and Ryan Blaum. Indeed, if the latter had putted better he may well have finished higher than his T10 return, but don’t forget the greens at Waialae are said to be rather grainy compared to those at the La Quinta estates, and so we’re not losing too much sleep there. Blaum finished T25 here last year on debut, which is a pretty solid return, and the 34-year-old looks set to be one of those players who enjoy their maturity as a professional golfer a little later in life. A pair of top-10s in 2017 suggests there is plenty of scope for development. Blaum is in the top-50 in a few key categories, which includes Shots Gained (SG): Tee to Green, Par 4 Birdie or Better Leaders and SG: Approach. Combine everything with his current high spirits and there is enough reasons to have him on side this week (Risking 0.2 units to win 25 units).
Scott Piercy 70-1
Scott Piercy may not be heard from at all this week but if he gets off to a good start on Thursday, watch out. Flicking through the strokes gained stats from the Sony Open it was pleasing to see Scott Piercy seemingly finding his form. The three-time PGA TOUR winner recorded +2.34 from tee-to-green and +1.32 on approach at Waialae, and if his irons are similarly dialed in this week he should compete well in what could be something of a birdie fest. There’s little to write about in his current form, or in his stats, given that 2017 was hardly a vintage year for Piercy. But at his best, this is a player with 27 top-10 finishes to his name, and last week he showed some signs of his premier play. He’s finished top 35 or better in three of his last four starts and is coming off a Sony week with four rounds in the 60s. He’s trending in the right direction and is most potent when there’s a layout where he can go low (Risking 0.2 units to win 14 units).
Aaron Wise 150-1
If the stars are going to align, figuratively and metaphorically, then Aaron Wise will crash leaderboards early and often. He entered 2017-18 as one of three on the short list to be the Rookie of the Year. Austin Cook has already won and Peter Uihlein has a pair of top 10s, so Wise has some catching up to do. This isn't to say that he hasn't started to trot. He's 3-for-6 with a pair of top 25s. And unlike the other two, he's already competed in the CareerBuilder Challenge, finishing T34 last year. The trio of tracks fits his profile as well. On the Web.com Tour in 2017, he ranked fourth in birdies-or-better percentage after hitting greens in regulation and fifth in par-5 scoring. He and Hossler are two pros to keep an eye on and to keep getting behind at odds like this (Risking 0.2 units to win 30 units).
Beau Hossler 150-1
Unlike Wise, his fellow first-time PGA TOUR member, Hossler doesn't qualify as a rookie because he exceeded seven starts last season, making eight. One perspective is that he won't be distracted by chasing the Rookie of the Year award. On cue, he opened the season with five consecutive cuts made, two going for a top 10. Most confident with putter in hand, the Southern California native figures to slide comfortably in his debut on the rye-Poa blends on all three courses. En route to securing his card via the Web.com Tour last year, he paced the developmental circuit in putts per round while ranking fourth in putts per GIR and seventh in converting those chances into par breakers (Risking 0.2 units to win 30 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for CareerBuilder Challenge
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for the Career Builder
Featured matchups of the week. We’re playing two heads up (72 holes) for 2 units each.
Grayson Murray +110 over Adam Hadwin (AT BET365)
This is more a fade on Hadwin than it is of getting behind Murray, as Hadwin has fallen off the map ever since he tied the knot early last season. Sure, he shot 59 in the third round of this event last year, but that was then and this is now. Fact is, he’s not striking it well at all, ranking No. 232 out of 235 players in strokes gained-tee to green. (Risking 2 units to win 2 units).-------------------------------------
Bill Cauley is -116 over Kizzire, which is very tempting because Cauley is in decent form but if we like Cauley spotting -116, we can certainly like Reavie taking back a small tag. Reavie is in good form too with seven straight top-25 finishes dating back to the BMW Championship in September and he finished T-12 here last year. That said, we love to fade guys coming off a win and that applies here to Kizzire. Every victory takes a lot of energy. Players often fail to follow up the next week with that energy drain being a factor and jubilation causing a letdown. Kizzire could only muster a T-45 the week after his Mayakoba win and after a six-hole playoff last week, he may do even worse than that here (Risking 2 units to win 2.12 units).
#7022 Chez Reavie +106 over Patton Kizzire = +2.12 units
6 golfers to win outright @ 0.2 units each = -1.2 units
Grayson Murray +110 over Adam Hadwin - 2 units
Therefore, 3.2 units in losses - 2 units in wins = a net loss for this event of 1.2 units
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CareerBuilder Challenge (Risking 5.2 units - To Win: 0.00)