This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE AMERICAN EXPRESS
Winner's Share: $1.368M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: La Quinta, Calif.
Courses: Pete Dye Stadium Course, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta Country Club
Yardage: 7,158 (Stadium)
2021 champion: Si Woo Kim
This tournament was for decades one of the signature stops on the PGA Tour calendar, largely because of entertainer Bob Hope, who pulled in a star-studded lineup of show business legends to frolic in the warm California desert in the dead of winter, which in turn brought in the biggest names in golf. Fans around the country in the shivering cold ate it up – and back then it was 90 holes across five rounds. Eventually, as those show business legends aged, the tournament lost its luster, and that was accelerated when Hope passed away in 2003 at age 100. His name was removed from the tournament title eight years later.
After that, the event drifted from sponsor to sponsor: Chrysler, Humana, CareerBuilder, Workday and even a few years with none. American Express came on board two years ago and, while the tournament is far from its heyday, things appear to have stabilized. Tournament host Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, world No. 1 Jon Rahm and five more golfers in the top-25 head the first maxed-out field of 156 in 2022.
Besides Rahm, there's reigning Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im, plus 2014 champion Patrick Reed just outside the top-25 at No. 26. The two biggest draws, however, are Mickelson and Fowler, both of whom have seen better days in the world rankings but maintain some of the strongest Q ratings in golf. Even Davis Love III, who like Mickelson teed it up when Hope was still around, will be on hand, as will former No. 1s Jason Day and Justin Rose. Si Woo Kim is the defending champion.
The Amex was not hit as hard by the pandemic as other tournaments; it was unaffected coming so early in 2020 and was played again as scheduled in 2021, though with no fans on site. That also eliminated the three-day pro-am that you either love or hate. You know, Bill Murray, Ray Romano, etc., etc., in six-hour slogs across 54 holes. That will be back this year, and along with it the third course in the rotation, La Quinta, which in 2021 was not in play for the first time in a half century.
The two PGA West tracks –- the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course (par-72, 7,147 yards) – were introduced in 2016 to go along with venerable La Quinta (par-72, 7,060). All of them are pushovers for today's golfers, though the Stadium is the hardest of the three. The golfers will rotate on the three courses before the 54-hole cut, and then the 1986 Pete Dye-designed Stadium track will go it solo on Sunday. Because the cut will come after Saturday's play, it affords a chance to gamble more with lesser-priced golfers.
We'll focus on the Stadium here, since it will be used for two rounds. It is short, so driver isn't always needed. With water on seven holes and more than 90 bunkers, there is some danger. And the bermudagrass greens are some of the smallest the golfers will see all year, averaging only 5,000 square feet. But they are simple and pretty slow. Three of the four par-5s are 560 yards or under. This is annually one of the biggest birdie-fests. Last year, Kim won it at 23-under even without La Quinta in the mix, one better than Cantlay, who closed with a 61 to break the Stadium Course record by two strokes. Two years ago, Andrew Landry won at 26-under-par.
Eleven of the past 12 winners played at least one of the two Hawaii stops before coming here, including Kim, who played the Sony Open last year. There's something to be said for getting in some tournament rounds after the long winter break, even only two. Since the tournament's inception in 1960, there have been only six non-American winners.
Weather-wise, it looks like a spectacular week that should only increase the scoring: temperatures in the 70s all four days, no rain and wind in the single digits most of the time.
For more information, check out what Len and Jason Sobel have to say on the Links and Locks podcast.
Key Stats to Winning at PGA West
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Ball Striking/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie-or-Better Percentage/Par-5 Scoring
There's little mystery this week. Getting on the green in short order will provide plenty of birdie of opportunities on some of the easiest greens the golfers will see all year. Last year, Kim made 23 birdies and one eagle. Two years ago, Landry made a whopping 31 birdies. Three years ago, Long made 23 birdies and three eagles. The year before, Rahm made 27 birdies and one eagle to beat runner-up Landry. Back to 2021, none of the leaders ranked in the top-10 in driving distance. Kim was first in greens in regulation, second in Strokes Gained: Approach and eighth in SG: Putting. Runner-up Patrick Cantlay and third-place finisher Cam Davis were top-5 in putting. Eleven of the past 12 winners played at least one of the two Hawaii stops before coming here. The over/under on the winning score at golfodds.com is 262.5 – 25.5 shots under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,300 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +500)
Rahm has to be considered every single time out and is as close to an automatic play as there is in DFS. Further, the price for the top guy on the DK board is very reasonable. Rahm has not played here since 2019, when he tied for sixth, a year after winning it all.
Patrick Cantlay - $10,900 (+900)
It's hard to think of a golfer who makes more clutch putts than Cantlay, who seemingly can drain one every time he needs it. And whoever wins this week will have to make a lot of putts. Cantlay was runner-up here in a final-round duel with Si Woo Kim a year ago and ninth in 2019.
Talor Gooch - $9,700 (+2000)
We all know that Gooch has taken his game to the next level over the past few months. The thing is, Gooch was playing great at this tournament long before he started playing well everywhere. He's never missed a cut in four visits, with top-25s the past three years and a best of fourth in 2019.
Seamus Power - $9,500 (+2800)
Like Gooch, Power has really come on the past few months and, also like Gooch, has played well here before getting good. He was 11th in 2018 and 21st in 2017, a lifetime ago in his career. Power just cracked the top-50 in the world for the first time and is due for a clunker at some point, but we say it won't happen this week. Power is ranked fourth on Tour in par-5 scoring.
Tier 2 Values
Matthew Wolff - $9,300 (+2800)
Wolff did not play either of the Hawaii tournaments and, while we lean toward guys who've already gotten some tournament golf in 2022 under their belt, it's not a deal breaker. Wolff closed 2021 in great fashion with four straight top-20s, two of which were top-fives. His short game was the difference. He's ranked fifth on Tour on both Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and Putting. Wolff is ranked 19th on tour in par-5 scoring.
Abraham Ancer - $9,200 (+2500)
It's almost impossible to not enjoy Hawaii, but Ancer was 35th out of 38 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, then missed the cut at the Sony. Palm ain't too shabby, and Ancer has rather enjoyed his visits the past few years. He was fifth last year, runner-up the year before and 18th in 2019. He's not the longest hitter but ranks 32nd in par-5 scoring.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout - $8,700 (+6000)
Bezuidenhout hasn't played this tournament before, not that there's a large learning curve to these three courses (still it's easier to learn one course over a few practice rounds than three). We like him this week because he's coming off a top-20 at Waialae, another track he hadn't played before, and some of the others in this price range have proven ineffective at the Amex.
Rickie Fowler - $8,500 (+5000)
Well, here we go again. Another year of: "Fowler has to turn it around now, right?" In the early going of this season, his greens-in-regulation numbers are up from last year's disaster, but his putting is still dicey. Fowler has played well here the past two years – 21st a year ago, 10th in 2020 – even while his game was going south elsewhere.
Tier 3 Values
Adam Hadwin - $7,900 (+6500)
If there's a Mr. Amex, or a Mr. CareerBuilder or Mr. Humana, it's probably Hadwin, even though he hasn't won here. From 2016 to 2019 he finished sixth, second, third and second. Last year he dipped to 32nd as the rest of his game dipped as well. But he's still pretty darn good with his wedge and putter, especially the flat stick, and the weakest part of his game – off the tee – is mitigated here.
Brian Harman - $7,900 (+9000)
We're not gonna sugarcoat it: Harman had a miserable second half of 2021, and 2022 didn't get off to a great start with a tie for 48th at the Sony. But his record here is just too strong to bypass. Harman has finished in the top-21 four of the past five years, including eighth last year and third back in 2017. He's another guy who is short off the tee but should be able to overcome it on this trio of short tracks.
Michael Thompson - $7,500 (+9000)
We're a little hesitant to turn to Thompson a week after he tied for fifth, because he has great difficulty in string together back-to-back good weeks. Candidly, he also has trouble stringing together one good week. But his best showing before last week's showing came at last year's Amex, where he also finished fifth. And three years ago he had another top-10.
Hayden Buckley - $7,200 (+13000)
A wave of young talent arrived this season via the Korn Ferry Tour, and Buckley is on the short list of the best of them. After turning in a pair of top-10s during the Fall Swing, he just missed another to commence his 2022 campaign, tying for 12th at the Sony Open. He ranks 23rd in greens-in-regulation, 55th in Strokes Gained: Putting and 39th in par-scoring.
Andrew Putnam - $7,100 (+15000)
This certainly has been one of Putnam's favorite spots to visit year after year. He's made the cut four years running with one top-10 and two top-25s, including lat yar's T21. He's done it despite not being a big hitter who can take advantage of the par-5s. Outside of Off-the-Tee, all of his strokes gained numbers are better than average. Putnam tied for 27th last week at Waialae.
Adam Svensson - $7,000 (+15000)
There's a history of those named Adam playing well here – Hadwin, Long – so why not one more? Svensson popped up on our radar last week with a tie for seventh at the Sony. The Korn Ferry grad won twice last season to get a promotion, including in one of the playoff events. What also caught our eye is that he's played the Amex before, and well, with a tie for 18th in 2019.
Wesley Bryan - $6,600 (+25000)
Bryan has battled injuries the past couple years and is in the field on a major medical extension. He played only 11 tournaments in 2020 and eight in all of 2021. But he returned late in the year to make the cut at the ZOZO, then opened 2022 with a quality showing at the Sony with a tie for 27th. Bryan has four more tournaments to earn about 95 FedEx Cup points – certainly doable. With his masterful putting stroke, he can compete on shorter tracks. He has played the Amex twice before, but not since 2018, when he made the cut.
Trey Mullinax - $6,300 (+30000)
The good news is, Mullinax got his 2022 underway with a start in Hawaii. The bad news is, he missed the cut. But that's never happened to him at the Amex, where Mullinax is three for three. And he's ranked 27th on Tour in par-5 scoring. Clearly, Mullinax is a big long shot (hence, being in the long-shot category). But the fact that the the cut comes after 54 holes makes us feel better on going out on a limb for a very low priced guy.