This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
PGA West - Stadium Course (7,113 yards, par-72)
PGA West - Nicklaus Tournament Course (7,159 yards, par-72)
La Quinta Country Club (7,060 yards, par-72)
$1,062,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
We bid our 'alohas' to Hawaii after a two-week stint on the tropical islands, as the PGA Tour now travels to La Quinta, California for the first leg of the West Coast Swing with the Sony Open and Sentry Tournament of Champions in the rear-view mirror. The Desert Classic can be a circus of sorts with three different courses playing host to 156 entrants, each to be paired with an amateur for a 54-hole pro-am before a cut precedes Sunday's final round at the Stadium Course. Given the wonky format and a purse at less than $6M, there understandably isn't a ton of appeal for the world's top players to attend with several gems on the upcoming schedule. As a result, only three of the Official World Golf Ranking's top-25 will tee it up in La Quinta, while several others elect to play in the Euro Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions. Nonetheless, sunny skies and comfortable temperatures are expected for the final three days of the tournament in Cali, though mild rain could arrive at some point Thursday.
Recent Past Champions
2018 - Jon Rahm
2017 - Hudson Swafford
2016 - Jason Dufner
2015 - Bill Haas
2014 - Patrick Reed
2013 - Brian Gay
2012 - Mark Wilson
2011 - Jhonattan Vegas
2010 - Bill Haas
Key Stats to Victory
Last year we saw Jon Rahm average nearly seven par-breakers per round en route to his playoff victory over Andrew Landry at 22-under-par. Birdie chances will be abundant at the resort-style La Quinta CC and even the Nicklaus Tournament Course, so look for players to experience inflated ball-striking numbers at these venues while trying to simply keep pace on the Stadium Course. Dialed-in iron play will play a role in differentiation with several difficult par-3s on tap as well, so proximity is included in the key stats to complement par-breaker percentage.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Rose, $12,100 - Rose will be without his right-hand man Mark Fulcher as the latter undergoes heart surgery, but the World No. 1 should be able to maintain focus with a backup caddy. Rose has finished third or better in three of his last four starts, adding a win at the Turkish Airlines Open in November. The 38-year-old was stellar in all facets of the game throughout his 2017-18 campaign, finishing the season fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green and second in birdie average.
Jon Rahm, $11,900 - Following a bit of an underwhelming run in the FedExCup Playoffs to end his 2017-18 campaign on a sour note, Rahm has gone T8-Win-T4 in his last three starts to round back into form. The Spaniard also just so happens to be the defending Desert Classic champion and owns the top betting odds this week. Rahm sits at seventh on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Phil Mickelson, $10.600 - Mickelson, a two-time Desert Classic champion, is making his first appearance since his pay-per-view win over Tiger in November. The 48-year-old San Diego native ranked sixth on Tour in birdie average and top-15 in proximity from 125-200 yards this past season.
Andrew Putnam, $10,500 - Putnam was unable to catch up to a steady Matt Kuchar on Sunday at the Sony Open, but the former's runner-up performance drove him to 10th in the FedExCup standings. He led the field in SG: Putting and mustered 22 tweeters at Waialae, ultimately earning his fourth straight top-20. Putnam tied for 17th in La Quinta just last year as well.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Richy Werenski, $9,600 - With three consecutive top-25s including a T3 at the Mayakoba, Werenski is looking to join the top-150 in the OWGR for the first time in his career. He's a combined 27-under-par in two trips to the Desert Classic, highlighted by a top-10 at PGA West in 2017. Werenski ranks top-45 in both par-3 and par-4 scoring this season.
Scott Piercy, $9,500 - No stranger to desert golf, the Las Vegas native got to 19-under-par at this event last year en route to a T6 finish. Piercy has finished no worse than a T33 in six straight starts since a missed cut at the season opener, climbing to 17th in the FedExCup standings.
Peter Uihlein, $9,000 - Uihlein posted his best finish since early June with a T7 during his last start at the RSM Classic, firing a bogey-free 63 that included six consecutive birdies in the final round. He ranks 34th on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green and 21st in proximity from over 200 yards. Uihlein also notched a top-20 result at his first career Desert Classic appearance in 2018.
Sungjae Im, $8,800 - Currently the No. 2 rookie on the PGA Tour behind only Cameron Champ, Im collected his fourth top-20 of the season at the Sony Open where he ranked top-5 in both GIR percentage and SG: Off-the-Tee. The Korean 20-year-old hasn't been affected by a lack of experience on his new circuit as he travels to the Desert Classic for his PGA West debut.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
It's important to target players with par-breaker potential with the guarantee of 54 holes and plenty of birdie opportunities on the La Quinta CC and Nicklaus Course layouts, but patient veterans with experience in the pro-am format carry an advantage as well. Those who begin the week at the tougher Stadium Course have not fared very well in the past, which could be the case again this year with scattered showers in the forecast for Thursday.