Patrick Reed tops the CareerBuilder Challenge Power Rankings
By Ben Coley
Last Updated: 20/01/16 3:23pm
The West Coast Swing gets underway this week with the renamed CareerBuilder Challenge. Ben Coley has looked through the field to pick out 10 players he expects to impress.
Arriving with seven successive top-10s to his name, the highest-ranked and shortest-priced player in the field fully deserves his No 1 slot in my rankings.
Reed produced a dominant display to win this event in 2014, opening up with a trio of 63s to separate himself from the pack before coasting home on Sunday. With changes to two of the courses on the rotation this year, the dynamic shifts and those super-low numbers may not be as easy to come by but that's no problem for Reed.
It's rarely simple in golf, but if the Texan maintains the form he's been showing for the best part of six months, he will likely win this event. As far as a betting proposition goes, there will be many worse 10/1 shots this season - in fact, Reed is probably one of the better ones.
Defending the title he won 12 months ago, there's every reason to expect a big week from Haas. For starters, that wasn't the only example of success in this event - he won it in 2010 and was runner-up after a three-man play-off a year later.
His overall record in California is strong and, along with father Jay, he's been renting a property in the area which means he's had plenty of practice on all three layouts. But most of all, his record when defending titles is really good.
Haas ended last season with a top-five finish in South Africa and played well enough in Hawaii on his return to suggest he'll again be a factor in what must be one of his favourite events on the schedule.
In many ways a frustrating player, Palmer is at least very reliable during the early weeks of the year and nowhere does he perform better than here in the CareerBuilder.
Palmer has five top-10 finishes in his last nine starts in the event, including four in his last five, and the pro-am format clearly brings out the best in one of the more relaxed characters on the PGA Tour.
Unlike many, Palmer has changed very little during the off-season and looked pretty sharp en route to 13th place in Hawaii last week. His most recent success came almost exactly six years ago so he's hardly the most reliable when it comes to crossing the line in front, but as far as producing a solid week goes only Reed is closer to a guarantee than Palmer.
One of PXG's headline additions, the early weeks of the season have revealed that Johnson in fact retains a strong Titleist presence in his bag. Little surprise, then, that he's picked up where he left off with two solid performances to start the season, including ninth place in the Sony Open where his ball-striking was solid.
Johnson is playing here to gain as many 'reps' as possible with a new driver which he's still purring about and as a player who tends to peak after a few rounds, there's every reason to expect a title challenge of some sort.
The Open champion very rarely misses the weekend and is as tough as they come in the mix, so under favourable conditions he rates an obvious contender.
It stands to reason that Kuchar, nicknamed the Joker, would go well in a relaxed event like this one, and bar a missed cut in 2008 his record is as solid as they come.
His other seven appearances have all resulted in top-30 finishes, including second place last year and in 2010. A second-round fightback in Hawaii ensured he kept another missed cut off the record and paved the way for a third-round 62, which saw him move onto the fringes of contention before failing to get anything going on Sunday.
Still, it was a decent start to the year for a player who failed, for once, to make the Tournament of Champions and he'll expect to step up a level here.
If you're willing to chance a player whose putting may cost him the title, then Simpson looks good value for punters at as big as 50/1. This, we shouldn't forget, is a player with four PGA Tour titles including a US Open to his name.
Granted, it's now over two years since the most recent of those successes and Simpson spent much of 2015 struggling to find any sort of touch on the greens, something which was again in evidence in Hawaii for large parts of last week.
The other side of the coin is that his long game has seldom been in better shape - which isn't often the case with those searching for a workable stroke, who can be known to neglect the range in favour of the putting green.
Consistent and frustrating - or perhaps just consistently frustrating - Na has never really been a friend to the win-only punter, with just one to his name from over 300 PGA Tour starts.
Still, he's likely to add to that tally sooner rather than later if he keeps knocking on the door as he has for the best part of a year. In all aspects, Na's game is much improved and if he can conquer the mental demons which have cleared plagued him, we might finally see the player he was meant to be.
In the short-term, desert golf suits - his win came at Summerlin - and there's no downside to the tougher conditions here. Na is also known to be extremely slow, which means he won't get frustrated at the pace of play in this pro-am.
The Italian, usually so strong from tee-to-green but poor once on them, actually putted really well at Waialae and will be hoping to bring that to an event which saw him finish 10th on debut last year.
Again, the tougher test on display should help one of the straightest hitters on the planet and, having signed off 2015 in good form, he looks ready to threaten the top-15 or so.
Molinari knows he has his work cut out to make a return to the Ryder Cup in September and it'll be interesting to see how he manages his schedule going forward.
You never know what to expect with Mickelson but one thing is for sure, while there will be some who think he's had his day, Lefty firmly believes there are tournaments to be won this year and beyond.
He starts the season in an event he knows well, having won it in 2002 and 2004, and while results have taken a downwards turn since, he is always around for Sunday here.
Some might look at 2015 as evidence that his light is fading but I'd remind you that he was second in the Masters and from March onwards missed just one cut, so anything is possible where Phil is concerned.
A must for your fantasy team, Bohn can build on a solid event record which shows seven cuts made from seven but zero top-10 finishes. Last season will have produced mixed feelings for the veteran, who played some of his best golf but spurned more than one opportunity, not least when second in two of the last three events he played in.
It's always likely that one way or another he'll manage not to win, but as a straight and steady player who makes birdies for fun, he has the right profile for this event.
Second here in 2012, Garrigus also boasts some eye-catching Q School form in this part of the world and he caught my eye in the Sony Open. A big hitter, last week's venue won't have ideally suited the man from Idaho yet he ranked fourth in greens hit to drop a strong hint that he's back in some sort of form. If he is, prices around 200/1 are huge.
A player who has finished second at Q School and contended to a point here last year, Pinckney could bounce back to form having struggled for the last six months or so. There was at least some encouragement in Hawaii last week, where he shot 66 in round two after a nightmare start, and perhaps he can bring that form to this more suitable event and ruffle some feathers.
The Venezuelan powerhouse is a former winner of this event and while the rest of his form here is uninspiring, clearly it's a tournament he's comfortable in. Now back in the best of health, Vegas produced three top-25 finishes in the last five events of 2015, including fourth in Mississippi, and he'll be raring to go as he bids to re-establish his status.
Watch the CareerBuilder Challenge throughout the week live on Sky Sports 4 - your home of golf. Live coverage begins this week from 4.30pm on Thursday via the Sky Sports 4 red button and Sky Sports Xtra