Justin Thomas is hot hot hot right now, with PGATour.com already asking, if his “best is yet to come?” It’s always fun when the first full-field tournament of the year results in history being made. However, not as fun when 17 lineups between 2 novice daily fantasy golf players only feature Justin Thomas once, so let’s put Hawaii behind us and move on to the California swing. The Career Builder Challenge at PGA West is a unique event to say the least. It has never been quite the same since the five-day birdie fest known as the Bob Hope Challenge, but it is still played as a pro-am, still is played on three different courses, and although it’s been dialed back to the traditional four days, it is still typically a shoot out affair. There are not a ton of big names signed up this year, with Patrick Reed being the odds-on favorite to win, and Lefty getting his start on the 2017 season.
Statistic-based strategy is a little “iffy” right now, with the data pool in 2017 being inherently shallow, and so course history and current form are perhaps the best indicators of how players can fair. 2016 stats are great to look at, but often don’t often tell the whole story. So, without further ado, here are some of our picks for The Career Builder Challenge.
**Check out the first installment of a consistent “Tom’s Fade of The Week,” and “Jon’s Flyer of The Week.” Playing to our strengths, Tom has often picked high-level fades to avoid, while Jon has a knack for finding those guys near the bottom of the barrel who can rise up the leaderboard and win you some money.
Pick of the week
Bill Haas $10,500. This took a lot for me to put Mr. Haas up as my pick of the week. And he very well could let me down just like Chris Kirk did last week. However, history speaks for itself. Haas clearly knows how to play this work, notching a win here, back when it was the Humana challenge, and following that up with a t9 finish last year. He seems to have figured out this course, and I like that he was able chip in on 18 at Waialae to build momentum.
Kevin Na $8,800. Is Patrick Reed my favorite player of the week? Naaaa… Okay, that was too obvious, but so is picking Kevin Na this week, in my opinion. Na had a steady week with four rounds in the 60s at the Sony Open, and is ready to pop in 2017. He has made the cut here in La Quinta the past three tries, including his best finish at T3 last year. My only caution any time that I endorse Na is ownership percentage. For whatever reason, Na is always incredibly popular on Draft Kings. I think it is because of his well-known battle with nerves and anxiety, that reflects that of the average DK player trying to create winning lineups: he’s the every man golfer. But I don’t care if everyone takes him this week, because I feel so strongly about a top 10 finish this week.
Thick Steak Plays:
Zach Johnson $10,200. As mentioned previously, stats are a little harder to look at with a such a small data pool. We then have to guess based on 2016 and current form. ZJ certainly showed that he could go low in Hawaii, and I’d look for him to continue at PGA West. GIR’s and Putts are huge – I’ll say it all week. Those stats are going to lead to low rounds, and Johnson has proven more than capable in those areas.
Emiliano Grillo $9,800. If Tom doesn’t mention Jon Rahm as either his pick of the week, or at least one of his picks, then we’ll have words. Aside from Rahm though, I like Grillo to build on an impressive 2016 rookie campaign. He finished high in driving accuracy, GIR percentage, strokes-gained, and our going low composite stats. The concern is he has no course history here, but that didn’t stop him from making 22 cuts last year as a rookie.
Brendan Steele $9,300. Jon’s reference to Rahm comes from the fact that he was my prized third-round pick in our season-long league, as a guy I think can end up top 10 on the money list in a breakout year. But let me be clear: I plan on taking a wait-and-see approach with Rahm this week. Granted, it’s easy for me to do that because I am hedging, and will benefit from Rahm winning even if I don’t play him much in DK lineups. So instead, I’m picking some more obvious, chalky fruit in Brendan Steele. Steele won the Safeway Open to kick off the 2016-17 season, he’s coming off a T6 finish in the Tournament of Champions, and is known for great play in California. Done.
Scott Piercy $8,300. As you can see, I have skipped over a lot of the thickest of steak players this week, and am including a moderately thick play in Scott Piercy. That brings up a good tid-bit on contrarian lineup strategy. By far, and especially when talking about other novice players, the most common strategy lineup is to pick one or two players >9,000, two <7,000, and sprinkle in the mid-range plays to round it out. Thus, in weeks where you don’t love the high-end plays, a great strategy is to make some lineups with all 7,000-9,000 players, as you will likely create unique combinations that way. Piercy is a perfect anchor for this approach at the CareerBuilder, as he also is a steady cut-maker with top 10 upside, and a history of good play early in the season.Middle of the Road:
Chez Reavie $7,500. While not as cheap as I would have hoped, I like Reavie this week. Chez had himself quite a day on Sunday of the Sony Open. In a similar “go low” style of course, I think Chez can build on his Hawaiian momentum in California. If he can continue trending upward on his strokes gained approaching the green, then I think he is certainly capable of making those eagle putts that he has become recently accustomed to making.
Adam Hadwin $7,500. My love for Adam Hadwin knows no bounds. This guy is a birdie monster – ranking 12 in total birdies for 2012. He has had relatively good success recently at PGA West, and I would look for him to build on a good 2016 season, and come out and start making birdies left and right as he’s known to do. In terms of DFS scoring, Hadwin is like going to Hyde Park Steakhouse during happy hour: It’s a damn good deal.
Ryan Palmer $8,000. No tricks or gimmicks here, Ryan Palmer is up there with Mickelson and Haas as the biggest horse the course this week. He has finished no worse than T17 here in the past four years, and his success at this event dates back to the Bob Hope classic. Palmer had a disappointing 75 on Friday to miss the cut last week, but he did open with a 66, and should be able to bounce back in California.
Harold Varner III $7,200. Let me preface by saying: I am not picking Varner for a guarantee of a T25 finish, or even a guarantee of a made cut. I am picking Varner because he’s a young player with boatloads of talent, and is bound to go off eventually. He hasn’t done much since debuting as a rookie last year, but he did make 18/28 cuts, and converted 4 into top 10 finishes. What I like about Varner is that he’s known for making birdies, and he will get three rounds to do so before the cut, as the cut will occur on Saturday this week, after each player gets a shot at each course. People should be off of Varner after back-to-back missed cuts, which is why he is risky, but also a potentially sneaky pick.
Tom’s Fade of The Week
Jamie Lovemark $9,600. There are two main reasons to fade a player: his cost does not match your assessment of his value, or you perceive his ownership to be higher than your assessment of his value. Lovemark checks both of these boxes for me. On one hand, I think he fits the bill as a great play – long off the tee, capable of going low, and coming in with form (T4 and T6 in previous two starts) + history (T6 here last year). Wait a second, wow, Lovemark sounds like a perfect pick! The only problem is, Draft Kings also picked up on this, and consequently inflated his price to 9,600, and there is no doubt the public will pick up on this and lead to high ownership. So with a guy who is still relatively unproven, in a game that is incredibly difficult to achieve consistency, I see Lovemark as both a strategic and logical fade this week.
Jon’s Flyer of The Week
Peter Malnati $6,300. Malnati is my flyer of the week. Malnati shot in the 60’s all last week at Waialae good for a T27. I look for Malnati to continue to go low this week at PGA West. Malnati has proven he can make his birdies, and his weakness comes when he has a bad day and can’t recover. With the set-up of the Career Builder (cut on the last day), Malnati’s value is understated at his current price. I look to Malnati to have a good few days at PGA West, and hopefully be in contention come Sunday.