• Steve Kennedy

Resurgent Rickie to Return to the Winners Circle in California

After back to back weeks in Hawaii which saw Cameron Smith and Hideki Matsuyama get early season wins, the PGA Tour returns to the mainland this week with The American Express which is hosted at PGA West in La Quinta , California.


The event has been a staple on tour since 1960 and has gone through multiple name changes since it's inception. The event is a pro-am tournament with a cut after 54 holes played across three different courses at PGA West which is very similar to the Alfred Dunhill Links event on the DP World Tour.


The American Express has been in it's current format since 2012 and has seen some prestigious winners in that time with the likes of Jon Rahm and Patrick Reed picking up wins on their way to becoming major champions.


The field this week is an exciting one with the aforementioned Rahm and Reed teeing it up this week. Rahm is joined by his FedEx Cup rival from last season in Patrick Cantlay as well as defending champion Si Woo Kim. Other players in the OWGR Top 20 at PGA West include Tony Finau , Scottie Scheffler as well as Abe Ancer .


Betting Market - Front Runners (Bet365) - Please Gamble Responsibly

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  • Rahm 6/1

  • Cantlay 9/1

  • Im , Finau , Scheffler 20/1

  • Conners 22/1

  • Ancer 25/1

  • Reed , Wolff , Power , Gooch 30/1

  • Henley 33/1

  • Noren , Zalatoris , Rose 40/1


The Course


1(7th Hole at TPC Stadium Course at PGA West)


The American Express is a unique event on the PGA Tour in the fact that it is played across three different courses at PGA West . The three courses involved this week are La Quinta Country Club, Nicklaus Tournament Course and TPC Stadium course which will host two of the four rounds and is the course to focus on. However all three courses are under 7,200 yards and have Bermuda Grass Greens.


The Stadium Course is a 7,158 yard Par 72 designed by Pete Dye which contains four Par 3's , ten Par 4's and four Par 5's. As with last week at Waialae Country Club , the Stadium Course at PGA West contains Bermuda Grass greens . Targeting players who had a strong putting week last week in Hawaii will definitely help up to narrow down the shortlist.


The course is visually stunning with deep undulations in the fairways . Water and other hazards come into play off the tee on the majority of holes which will require a strong off the tee game. As with many Pete Dye designs , a large emphasis will be placed on accurate approach play - not only because of small targets to aim at but also due to large slopes on the greens guarded by many penalising hazards . It is no surprise that accurate drivers and exceptional approach players such as Abe Ancer have excelled at the event in recent years.


The signature hole is undoubtedly the 17th hole which is known as 'Alcatraz'. It is sure to provide great drama on Sunday afternoon. Despite it being just 165 yards the 17th is an island green offering very little margin for error. Pete Dye's quote "Golf is not a fair game, so why build a course fair?" sums the challenge up perfectly at PGA West's Stadium Course.



Past Results

Year

Winner

Runner-Up

2021

​Si-Woo Kim (-23)

Patrick Cantlay (-22)

2020

Andrew Landry (-26)

Abe Ancer (-24)

2019

Adam Long (-26)

Phil Mickelson/Adam Hadwin (-25)

2018

Jon Rahm (-22) Playoff

Andrew Landry (-22)

2017

Hudson Swafford (-20)

Adam Hadwin (-19)

2016

Jason Dufner (-25) Playoff

David Lingmerth (-25)


(A jubilant Si Woo Kim following his one stroke victory over Patrick Cantlay last year)


The Stats:

Here is a breakdown of the strokes gained stats from our winner and runner(s) up over the last 3 years here at the American Express:


2021

  • Kim: Off Tee: 10th Approach: 2nd Around Green: 16th Tee2Green: 1st Putting: 8th

  • Cantlay: Off Tee:13th Approach:14th Around Green: 4th Tee2Green: 5th Putting:3rd

2020

  • Landry: Off Tee: 5th Approach: 9th Around Green: 65th Tee2Green: 13th Putting: 6th

  • Ancer Off Tee:19th Approach: 12th Around Green: 9th Tee2Green: 2nd Putting: 2nd

2019

  • Long Off Tee:40th Approach: 43rd Around Green: 30th Tee2Green: 46th Putting: 9th

  • MickelsonOff Tee:8th Approach: 9th Around Green: 9th Tee2Green: 2nd Putting: 64th

  • HadwinOff Tee:6th Approach: 3rd Around Green: 60th Tee2Green: 3rd Putting: 20th


It is difficult to conclude one stat that stands out this week. A mix of fairways , strong approach play and putting are must haves to feature at PGA West. How Adam Long managed to win in 2019 with those stats is beyond me.


A trend on Pete Dye courses more than any other designer is that players who play well on one Pete Dye design tend to consistently turn in good showings on other Dye designs. Here is a list of the top 10 players from a Strokes Gained perspective on Pete Dye tracks over the last two years:

  1. Abe Ancer

  2. Corey Conners

  3. Brian Harman

  4. Patrick Cantlay

  5. Jon Rahm

  6. Si Woo Kim

  7. Patrick Reed

  8. Sung Jae Im

  9. Will Zalatoris

  10. Charley Hoffman

The other stat to explore is Stokes Gained Tee to Green. For this stat here is the top 10 players SG: Tee 2 Green over their last 24 rounds played:

  1. Jon Rahm

  2. Taylor Gooch

  3. Luke List

  4. SungJAe Im

  5. Patrick Cantlay

  6. Jhonattan Vegas

  7. CT Pan

  8. Russell Henley

  9. Aaron Rai

  10. Will Zalatoris

Last but not least - SG Putting on Bermuda grass over the last 6 months

  1. Adam Long

  2. Adam Schenk

  3. Denny McCarthy

  4. Martin Trainer

  5. Sung Kang

  6. Nate Lashely

  7. Hank Lebioda

  8. Adam Hadwin

  9. Chesson Hadley

  10. Harry Higgs


Conclusion: The variety of courses we are playing this week as well as the pro-am aspect to the event makes it a very tricky one to call. Stick to either the guys with strong event form or take the guys that have a strong tee to green game. A week for small stakes!



The Picks:

Rickie Fowler 66/1: 1 Unit Each Way (LeoVegas) 6 Places E/W



Rickie Fowler has a lot going for him this week. He is back in his home state of California , a new daddy bounce and a return from a winter break suggest that all roads lead to a strong Rickie showing. He turned in an excellent performance at the CJ Cup in October where he lead the field in strokes gained tee to green. Fowler is also ranked 8th on Tour for strokes gained tee to green this season. Another huge factor in Fowler's favour this week is that four of his five PGA Tour events have come on Bermuda Grass greens. 66/1 about Fowler looks like excellent value.



Will Zalatoris 45/1: 1 Unit Each Way (LeoVegas) 6 Places E/W


Another Californian in the form of Will Zalatoris is the 2nd and final selection this week. Despite being a PGA tour maiden Zalatoris' main strength comes in the form of his tee to green game. Zalatoris ranked 9th on tour last season in strokes gained tee to green and is currently ranked 9th this season. Zalatoris is a strong performer on Pete Dye designs and will fancy his chances on his reappearance. He hits it straight off the tee and within close proximity on approach , the consistent question mark about Zalatoris is around his putting , particularly in that 4-8ft range. A win is coming for Zalatoris this year and this week's event will offer him as good an opportunity as any. 45/1 is too big of a price to miss out on.

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