10 Players to Watch: CareerBuilder Challenge

  1. Patrick Reed, United States — Although he has not won since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions just over a year ago, Reed (pictured) might be close to breaking through for his fifth PGA Tour victory since 2013. He has posted top-10 finishes in his last six starts around the world since late last year, including solo second in his title defense at Kapalua two weeks ago, although he finished eight strokes behind world No. 1 Jordan Spieth. Reed is playing in what his now the CareerBuilder Challenge for the fourth straight year and he won the tournament two years ago, when he started with three 9-under-par 63s and his closing 71 was good enough for a two-stroke victory over Ryan Palmer. He tied for 24th in his title defense last year.
  1. Bill Haas, United States — Haas opened 2015 by winning the last Humana Challenge, now the CareerBuilder Challenge, for the second time — also having taken home the trophy in 2010. He closed with a 5-under-par 67 that included a 15-foot eagle putt on the fifth hole, before he took the lead for good with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 16 and salvaged a par after a poor drive on the last hole. That gave him a one-stroke victory over Charley Hoffman, Brendan Steele, Sung Joon Park of South Korea, Steve Wheatcroft and Matt Kuchar. Haas, whose father Jay claimed the title in 1998, also won it by one shot over Kuchar six years ago, and is coming off a tie for 18th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions two weeks ago.
  1. Matt Kuchar, United States — Kooch is playing in what is now the Career-Builder Challenge for the eighth time, and although he has never won it, he has finished in the top 25 in each of his last six appearances. That includes tying for second twice, including last year, when he held the lead after opening with 65-64 before a 1-under-par 71 set him back in round three. Kuchar closed with a 67, but wound up one stroke behind Bill Haas. He also finished a shot behind Haas in 2010, despite a closing 65. Kuchar opened 2016 last week with a tie for 13th in the Sony Open in Hawaii, shooting 8-under 62 in round three to equal the low score of the week.
  1. Zach Johnson, United States — Zach is the second-highest rated player in the field this week at No. 11 in the World Golf Rankings behind No. 10 Patrick Reed, and can climb back into the top 10 with a strong performance. He is coming off a tie for ninth in the Sony Open in Hawaii after a disappointing tie for 21st in the limited field Hyundai Tournament of Champions. However, Johnson has a strong record in the California desert event, even though he missed the 54-hole cut for the first time last year by one stroke at 69-70-70. He has finished in the top 25 in each of his other appearances in the tournament, including a tie for third in 2014, when he closed with a 62 to wind up three shots behind winner Patrick Reed.
  1. Si Woo Kim, South Korea — The 25-year-old Kim has only one victory as a pro, in the Web.com Tour’s 2015 Stonebrae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Calif., but he has started the 2015-16 season like this might be his year on the PGA Tour. After recording three top-25 finishes in the Fall portion of the wrap-around schedule, he was in the hunt virtually all the way last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii before finishing solo fourth, four strokes out of the playoff in which Fabin Gomez of Argentina defeated Brandt Snedeker. Kim, who has broken 70 in each of his last six rounds, is making his first appearance in what is now the CareerBuilder Challenge in the California Desert’s Coachella Valley.
  1. Jason Dufner, United States — After going through a divorce and losing more than 20 pounds with a gluten-free diet, Duf is starting to play like the guy who captured the 2013 PGA Championship for his third and last PGA Tour victory. He has played well early in the 2015-16 season, with ties for ninth in both the RSM Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii last week, equaling his total of top-10s for last season. Dufner is making his seventh start in the old Bob Hope Classic, and although he missed the cut last year after opening with a 76, he tied for 12th with the help of a second round 63 in 2012 and tied for 18th in 2010, when he had a 64 in round three.
  1. Graham DeLaet, Canada — DeLaet got 2016 off to a solid start last week with a tie for seventh at the Sony Open in Hawaii, bouncing back from a opening 3-over-par 75 with scores of 62-65-66. He’s hoping to play the West Coast Swing the way he did two years ago, when he tied for second in both the Farmers Insurance Open and the Waste Management Phoenix Open to give him four straight top-10 finishes. He will tee it up for the fourth time in the Coachella Valley event, with his best result a tie for 18th in 2010, when he closed with scores of 69-67-66. DeLaet is No. 145 in the World Golf Rankings after an injure-plagued 2015 and needs some high finishes to ensure a spot on the Canadian Olympic team.
  1. Jason Bohn, United States — Hoping to pick up right where he left off during the Fall portion of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule, Bohn will tee it up this week for the eighth time in what is now the CareerBuilder Challenge for the eighth time. He wrapped up 2016 by tying for third in the Frys.com Open, tying for second in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and losing out to Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland in a playoff at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. That came on the heels of a season in which he finished in the top 10 on six occasions, including ties for second in the Sanderson Farms Classic and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. His best result in the old Bob Hope Classic was a tie for 22nd in 2008.
  1. Matt Jones, Australia — Playing for the first time since holding off Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott to win the Australian Open late in November, Jones starts the year with his sixth appearance in the old Bob Hope Classic. His best result in the California Desert was a tie for eighth in 2010 and he also tied for 13th in 2014. The Aussie stumbled to a 76 in round one last year, then strung together scores of 67-64-68, but the damage was done and he tied for 41st. Jones showed even before his win in Australia two months ago that he could perform under pressure, chipping in for a birdie on the second playoff hole to beat Matt Kuchar for his only PGA Tour victory in the 2014 Shell Houston Open.
  1. Phil Mickelson, United States — Lefty starts 2016 with a new swing coach, Andrew Getson, and what he claims is a new swing plane as he tries to regain the form that has taken him to 42 victories on the PGA Tour, including 19 on the West Coast Swing. He has not won since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield and will make another bid for the Career Grand Slam in the U.S. Open at Oakmont, but right now he just wants to get back. Mickelson is making his 11th start in the old Bob Hope Classic, which he won in 2002 in a playoff over David Berganio Jr., and again in 2004, in another playoff over Skip Kendall. He has two other top-10 finishes in the event, the last a tie for fifth in 2005.

Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

Related Articles

Stay Connected


Latest Articles