The 2018 slate of tournaments continues on with the CareerBuilder Challenge that begins on Thursday in La Quinta, California. The event is held at The Stadium Course at PGA West.
Last year, Hudson Swafford was able to amass his first victory on Tour in the CareerBuilder Challenge – what a fitting name – and jump-start his career.
The CareerBuilder Challenge takes place in warm and sunny La Quinta, California where temperatures are supposed to be comfortable all weekend.
7,113 yards of open green, The Stadium Course at PGA West plays tough and has some of, if not the deepest, bunkers on Tour. There are also plenty of water hazards to be concerned about.
Patrick Reed’s 260 in 2014 is the record for 72-holes at the course.
The Field/Feature Groups
12:50 PM ET: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson: Rahm is currently sitting at 20th in the FedEx Cup Rankings and is coming from a runner-up finish, albeit not that close of one, in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s primed for a solid tournament. Watson is playing in the CareerBuilder Challenge for the first time in six years. In his previous appearance, he finished tied for second place.
1:10 PM ET: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas: Kizzire captured victory at the Sony Open last weekend and claimed the number one spot in the FedEx Cup Rankings and is looking to build off of that this weekend at La Quinta. Haas, a former FedEx Cup champion in 2011, will be Kizzire’s playing partner Thursday.
1:20 PM ET: Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson: Mickelson will make his 2018 debut this weekend. He believes he found a breakthrough with his driver that’s going to get him out of the winless funk he’s been in. Johnson has missed the cut the previous three years.
Last year, Hudson Swafford came into the tournament winless in his shot career. He left with his first win in his back pocket. Adam Hadwin shot a 59, tying the 18-hole record at the course, on the third day last year to take the lead.
Swafford was able to get four birdies in the final five holes on Sunday to prevail over Hadwin and Bud Cauley. Hadwin, despite a historic day Saturday, was only able to birdie on two of his first 15 holes to allow Swafford to win on Sunday.
“They don’t give them away out here,” Swafford said. “It’s not easy. I’ve been close. I’ve been in the heat lately. Just keep putting myself in position, and this just feels unbelievable.”
- Five of the top 10 players in the FedEx Cup Rankings and five of the top 30 in the world rankings will be in this tournament.
- The 2013 Open Championship was the last time Mickelson won a PGA Tour outing. He’s got a solid chance to do it this weekend if he’s figured out his driver.
- 13 of the last 14 golfers to win the CareerBuilder Challenge have been American born. Jhonattan Vegas was the non-U.S. born player to win in 2011.
The nice thing about the CareerBuilder Challenge is that the mega-names won’t be playing. This leads me to make the choice of Jon Rahm this weekend at La Quinta.
Rahm’s last two tournament’s have been runner-up finishes. He is clearly beginning to really develop his game and eventually might contend with golf’s elite later in the year.
I’m going to say Rahm shoots well all four days and consistently hangs in the top-5. He’s destined to finally get over the hump somehow.
However, if Mickelson finds his driver like he believes he has, then Rahm might have some solid competition a top the leaderboard. Regardless, I suspect that Rahm wins this one and finally gets over that second place hole he’s been in for the last two tournaments.