This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
The American Express Betting Preview
The West Coast Swing gets underway with The American Express in southern California.
Unlike your traditional Tour stop, this week's event also includes a pro-am competition that returns after a one-year hiatus. The tournament is played at three different courses, and also unlike your regular event, the cut will occur after the third round. Players will rotate between the PGA West Stadium Course, La Quinta County Club – which was skipped last year without the pro-am – and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, with those making the cut all playing the final round at the Stadium Course. World No. 1 and tournament favorite Jon Rahm headlines a field that includes six of the top 25 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Last year, Si Woo Kim, at 55-1 odds, picked up his third career PGA Tour victory with a one-stroke win over Patrick Cantlay.
All three courses play between 7,050-7,200 yards as par-72s, with the Stadium Course being the only one of the three that tracks ShotLink data. La Quinta is the easiest of the three and the one the golfers will need to take advantage of. While the Stadium Course is the most difficult with water in play on half the holes, the four par-5s can all be reached, and solid ball striking will provide birdie opportunities on a track with moderate length. There's certainly not a one-size-fits-all method to winning here, as we've seen both shorter and longer hitters play well. Adam Long chipped and putted his way to victory here in 2019.
I will be targeting players that have a good combination of length and accuracy off the tee and also excel with their wedges, as there will be ample approach shots in the 50-to-125 yard range.
All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 4:00 PM ET Tuesday.
American Express Aficionados
The following five golfers, with a minimum of eight rounds played, have the lowest scoring average at The American Express since 2017:
SoCal native Cantlay has played the event sparingly but has recorded a top-10 in both of his trips during the stretch. Last year, he fired an 11-under 61 in the final round to come up one shot short of a playoff. That has the attention of the oddsmakers, who have him listed as the second favorite at 9-1. Cantlay enters in with good form off a fourth place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Those looking strongly at the course history angle will want to keep their eye on Hadwin, who has never missed a cut in his six appearances here. Four of those have resulted in a finish of T6 or better, and on a per-round basis, he has gained a whopping 1.01 strokes on approach in La Quinta during his career. He's an attractive long shot at 65-1 odds, and also a good mid-range option in daily fantasy sports contests.
In the Right Form
These players, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes off the tee over their last 20 rounds:
Three of the last five winners finished top-5 for the tournament in Srokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, and nobody in the field has been more dominant in that area recently than Rahm. He took home the trophy here in 2018 and followed that up with a sixth-place result before skipping the event the last two seasons. Rahm's odds are about as short as they come at 5-1 but there's little reason to think he won't play well this week. Further down the board is List, who has gone through his share of ups and downs but quietly played much better over the last year, notching four top-10s since July. List is one of the longest drivers on Tour and recorded a T6 here back in 2016. He's a dark horse to break through for his first PGA Tour victory.
Tony Finau (20-1)
Finau was one of just three players to post four rounds in the 60s here last year and also sat just two shots back heading into the weekend in 2020, so he clearly likes this event. He typically plays well both early in the year and during the West Coast Swing, and after breaking his five-year winless drought in last year's playoffs, confidence is no longer a concern.
Cameron Tringale (45-1)
Speaking of players still searching for that first PGA Tour victory, Tringale was right there heading into the final round in two of his last three appearances. Eventually it's going to go his way. It would be fitting for him the California native to finally seal the deal close to home at a place he's very familiar with. Tringale is gaining strokes in every category this season and excels with his wedges and putter.
Brian Harman (90-1)
Although Harman is far from playing his best golf, he also hadn't recorded a top-10 in over a year before finishing tied for eighth here last year. The two-time PGA Tour champion knows how to win and nearly did just that at PGA West in 2017, when he finished two shots back. Harman is extremely accurate off the tee and has one of the best short games on Tour.
Charles Howell III (11-2)
Howell is coming off a disappointing year in which he only recorded one top-10, but he seems to be turning a corner lately, making the cut in six of his last seven starts while notching a pair of top-25s. It's just a matter of time before he contends again over the weekend, and if his runner-up finish here in 2013 is any indication, this could be the spot.
Phil Mickelson (6-1)
Motivation can at times be a question mark for Mickelson, but that shouldn't be the case this week, as The American Express is organized by his foundation. Mickelson nearly won here three years ago and this is a place that fits his game well, as driving distance and wedge play are key factors.
Adam Schenk (12-1)
Schenk has made his last three cuts at The American Express. He posted a top-15 finish in 2020 while carding four rounds in the 60s, and he's playing better golf now than he was in any of those previous three appearances. With three top-5 results over his last 13 events, he feels a bit mispriced in what is only an average field.
Coming off a 2-0 H2H record last week, I'll look to keep the momentum going with Zalatoris, who will be making his first start in the event. He cooled off last summer but played well during the West Coast Swing, and the time off to reset should provide a big boost. Noren has had only average results here, so I like laying the extra juice on Zalatoris, who is a much better ball striker.
Kim may be the defending champion, but he's a risky proposition in one-on-one matchups, having withdrawn three times last year alone and also in this event back in 2020. Fowler showed signs of life in the fall, recording a T3 at The CJ Cup, and he also has back-to-back top-25s in the event.