If you're keen to attach to the trend that's opened 2019, you're in luck. Well, as long as you haven't burned Charles Howell III, the stars are aligned.
Xander Schauffele and Matt Kuchar respectively opened and closed the Aloha Swing with their second titles of the season, but there's only one golfer in the 156-man field at the Desert Classic who has a win in 2018-19: Chucky Three Sticks.
You know, CH3 is No. 4 in my Power Rankings and only next week's Farmers Insurance Open is included in his Future Possibilities below. OK, so Torrey Pines arguably is his best spot in our world and this week's tri-course experience caters to surprise exponentially more than it does expectation.
Patrick Cantlay, defending champion Jon Rahm and Justin Rose sit 1-2-3 in my Power Rankings, but I'd sit on each if it's still an option. All look good everywhere. Everywhere. What's more, while Rose is the epitome of a professional, his thoughts might not be undivided as his regular caddie, Mark Fulcher, will be having heart surgery this week. Even if you like the inspirational angle, remember the nature of this tournament and add the variable that the Englishman will be making his debut on the current rotation of courses. In fact, he hasn't appeared since 2010.
Among the other notables, considering holstering Phil Mickelson as well. He's spoken openly about focusing more than ever for opportunities on the biggest stages. Granted, you might not be terribly interested in the World Golf Hall of Famer in those situations what with him turning 49 in mid-June, but the Desert Classic barely pinged the radar of smartest choices, anyway.
Instead, consider using the Desert Classic as a bridge. Even though Hudson Swafford (2017) is the only first-time winner in the last seven years, this is a terrific time to burn red-hot Corey Conners, the dynamic Peter Uihlein and Bud Cauley, or the sneaky Richy Werenski. Those are endorsements that extend to the back half of two-man One & Done lineups, especially.
Meanwhile, Adam Hadwin's course history almost is to glossy to believe with a T6-2nd-T3 slate since the current rotation debuted in 2016. Pairing him with CH3 is saucy. Same with the surging Andrew Putnam.
Desert cornerstone Lucas Glover makes sense no matter your game. He and Chez Reavie always seem to attract our attention at the same time, so it's kind of them to join forces once again.
And if you're game to have some fun – well, more than usual – roll out the quinella of Swafford and/or oft-mistaken lookalike Harris English.
The moral of this story is that you're not going to miss most of the guys who have taken a step forward above. We always want to be bold, but that dose of reality can help finalize your decision.
RANK PANELIST PICK COMMENT 208th
Charles Howell III Despite the angle in my lede, my goal remains to record a top 10 and his annual window of opportunity is closing. 241st
I’m taking the aggressive play this week. 247th
Andrew Putnam He's red hot and so are his recent results. I won't miss him down the road and he's worth the value this week. 287th
On the Mark
Charles Howell III
I was planning to play Matt Kuchar who often vacations and prepares in the desert. With Kuchar’s withdrawal, I'm more than content to roll with Howell, a preeminent ball-striker at a course that rewards good play from tee through green. 520th
I just have a feeling. Don’t expect anyone else to jump on it with me ... but it’s there. 737th
Andrew Putnam His runner-up finish at SONY was more than a hot week, it’s a trend: he’s 7th in Strokes Gained: Scoring this season.
NOTE: Select golfers committed to the tournament are listed alphabetically. Future tournaments are sorted chronologically and reflect previous success on the courses on which the tournaments will be held in 2018-19. The numerical values in parentheses represent the order of relative confidence of where to use each golfer if multiple sites are listed (e.g. 1 for strongest, 2 for next-strongest and so on). To present weighted confidence in real time, numerical values will not change all season no matter how many tournament remain listed for each golfer. All are pending golfer commitment.
Daniel Berger … Waste Management (2); WGC-Mexico (3); Travelers (1)
Patrick Cantlay … Genesis (4); Valspar (2); Memorial (3)
Jason Dufner … Desert Classic (9); Honda (3); PLAYERS (7); Valspar (4); New Orleans (1); Charles Schwab (6); Memorial (5); U.S. Open (2); Wyndham (8); TOUR Championship (10)
Bill Haas … Desert Classic (1); Genesis (3); WGC-Match Play (8); Heritage (4); Charles Schwab (2); Wyndham (6)
Adam Hadwin … Desert Classic (1); Waste Management (4); Genesis (3); Valspar (2); John Deere (5)
Brian Harman … Desert Classic (3); Arnold Palmer (7); Charles Schwab (1); Travelers (5); John Deere (4)
Russell Henley … Honda (4); Masters (3)
Charley Hoffman … Genesis (5); Arnold Palmer (2); Masters (4); Heritage (7); Valero (3); Charles Schwab (6); Travelers (1)
Charles Howell III … Desert Classic (4); Farmers (1)
Zach Johnson … Waste Management (6); Arnold Palmer (7); Valero (4); Charles Schwab (5); John Deere (1); Open Championship (2); TOUR Championship (8)
Si Woo Kim … PLAYERS (3); Heritage (1)
Chris Kirk … Valero (3); PLAYERS (5); Charles Schwab (2)
Kevin Kisner … Heritage (3); New Orleans (5); Charles Schwab (2); Memorial (6)
Russell Knox … Heritage (2)
Martin Laird … Desert Classic (6); Waste Management (1); Genesis (3); Valero (5); Barracuda (2)
Phil Mickelson … Desert Classic (10); Waste Management (4); Pebble Beach (5); Genesis (6); WGC-Mexico (1; defending); Masters (9); Wells Fargo (2); Open Championship (8); WGC-St. Jude (3)
Ryan Palmer … Desert Classic (1); Valero (2); Charles Schwab (4)
Pat Perez … Farmers (2); Pebble Beach (5)
Scott Piercy … New Orleans (1; co-defending); Canadian (7; last winner at Hamilton in 2012)
Jon Rahm … Desert Classic (3; defending); Farmers (6); Waste Management (4); Masters (5); Charles Schwab (1); TOUR Championship (7)
Justin Rose … Farmers (6); Genesis (9); Arnold Palmer (3); Masters (1); PLAYERS (10); Charles Schwab (7; defending); Memorial (4); Open Championship (8); TOUR Championship (2)
Brendan Steele … Desert Classic (6); Waste Management (2); Honda (7); Valero (8); Wells Fargo (9); Travelers (4); Reno-Tahoe (3)
Kevin Streelman … Desert Classic (8); Pebble Beach (1); Valero (9); Heritage (5); Memorial (4); Travelers (7)