The PGA Tour is never an organisation to miss out, so with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy going head to head in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour, the PGA have their own test of desert golf this week with the CareerBuilder Challenge. The first event of the year on mainland USA, not only is this event split over three courses but many of those in the field will never have played competitively at two of them.
The courses may change almost yearly for the CareerBuilder Challenge – formally the Humana Challenge and Bob Hope Classic – but the host city remains La Quinta, California and it is the La Quinta Country Club which is the only course of the three that the event visited last year. The other two courses are the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and PGA West’s TPC Stadium Course. Every player will play a round each at the three stock par 72 courses before the top 60 and ties go once more around the TPC Stadium Course to sort the winner out on Sunday.
It is 29 years since the 7,113 yard track was included on the PGA Tour after players complained that it was just too tough. It will take some getting used to but the tournament organisers are unlikely to set it up to be too much tougher than the other two courses which are fairly easy tests. The other thing for the players to deal with this week is the fact that the first three rounds are pro-am tournaments.
It’s fair to say that this is a fairly quirky event but that has not stopped the PGA Tour stars from giving it a crack. Patrick Reed is the favourite and highest ranked player in the field but he’ll have competition in terms of the title and the attention of the fans from the likes of Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and defending champion, Bill Haas.
Reed has shown that he is fine with the nature of this tournament as in winning here in 2014 he carded the 72 hole record of 260 (28 under par). He’ll have to get to grips with the new courses but they are not expected to be overly tough and the perfect weather forecast further adds to the feeling that scoring is going to be low once again. Reed managed second place on his own at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and has six successive top 10s so back him to win at 10/1 with Betfred.
Nobody has won more money at this tournament than Bill Haas who has two wins and one playoff loss to his name. Haas loves playing golf in the Californian desert and a price of 28/1 with BetVictor about a player with such a good record here is surely too big.
The final player to have a bit of a punt on this week is Zac Blair at odds of 66/1 with Bet365. His finish of third in the Sony Open was the best of his career and though his all round game looked good last week it was his putting that was most impressive. Another good week with the putter in a tournament that tends to have low scores would be brilliant and could lead to a handsome payout for punters.