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    Best bets for the PGA Tour American Express


    The American Express

    Grayson Murray, at a pre-tournament price of as high as 400-1, sank a 39-footer on the first playoff hole at Waialae Country Club to beat Ben An (who had a four-footer to match Murray’s birdie but could not convert) and Keegan Bradley (who was tipped in this PGA Tour best bets column at 60-1 last week) at the Sony Open last weekend. Murray earned his first PGA Tour win in 6 1/2 years but did win twice on the Korn Ferry Tour last year. In fact, he has now won twice in his last 13 starts since he had the following exchange with Rory McIlroy:

    More on McIlroy later in this week’s DP World Tour Hero Dubai Desert Classic preview. 

    Back to Murray, who has come a long way since last April when his career and life nearly hit rock bottom at the Mexico Open. After his first round of 68, Murray went on a bender the night before his second round and shot 79, missing the cut, which led to a four-day anxiety attack. He now resides in the OWGR Top 50 and is eligible for all the designated events on this year’s tour schedule. 

    The PGA Tour now returns to the mainland, Palm Springs to be exact, and Murray is 175-1 in this week’s event at The American Express, which features the strongest field in its history, including 10 of the Top 25 and 22 of the OWGR Top 50 players. 

    World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (+650), who was third here in 2019, is the headliner. Patrick Cantlay (10-1) was the runner-up here in 2020 and has two other top-10 finishes in four appearances. Cantlay’s best friend Xander Schauffele (10-1) was third last year in his inaugural appearance.

    Sungjae Im (20-1) has never finished outside the top 18 in the last five years at the AMEX while Justin Thomas (25-1) makes his 2024 season debut this week along with new PGA Tour member Min Woo Lee (33-1). 

    Tom Kim (25-1) finished top 6 here last year, tying with J.T. Poston (33-1), who has started the 2023 season with two top-6 finishes on the “Aloha Swing.”

    In addition to Scheffler, Cantlay and Schauffele, the other OWGR Top 10 player in this field is Wyndham Clark (40-1). 

    Several others are in the 35- to 40-1 range this week, including Tony Finau, Eric Cole, Jason Day, Sam Burns and Rickie Fowler. 

    Daniel Berger (66-1) also makes his long-awaited return to play this week. Berger has not played because of injury since the 2022 U.S. Open.

    Jon Rahm, the defending champion, will not be in Palm Springs as he joined LIV Golf in December. 

    The Event

    The American Express has had many names since its inception in 1960 when it was established as the Palm Springs Classic. Most remember and still refer to this event as “The Bob Hope” since it bore the entertainer’s name from 1965 to 2011. Hope served as the event’s host and chairman of the board for many years and the event carried his name eight years after his death at age 100. The tournament’s winners are a “who’s-who” of golfing legends including Arnold Palmer (1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1973), Jack Nicklaus (1963), Billy Casper (1965, 1969), Johnny Miller (1975, 1976) and Phil Mickelson (2002, 2004). In 1995, history was made as three U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford) teed it up in the pro-am with Hope and then-defending champion Scott Hoch. Until 2012, the event was played over five days on four courses before switching to a four-day event using three courses. The pro-am also returns along with the three-course rotation, which means the cut comes after 54 holes with the low 65 players and ties making it to Sunday. 

    The Field

    There are 156 players in this week’s American Express:

    • Raul Pereda and Hayden Springer are in on sponsor exemptions.
    • Bronson Burgoon replaces Denny McCarthy. 
    • Erik Barnes replaces Seamus Power. 

    The Courses

    This year’s American Express will be played on a three-course rotation: The PGA West Stadium Course, the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club.

    The PGA West Stadium Course is played by each player in one of the three early rounds and then on Sunday. The track was designed by the legendary Pete Dye in 1986. It is a par-72 of 7,187 yards (10th shortest on tour) and usually plays between 1-2 strokes harder than the Nicklaus and La Quinta courses. Water is in play on seven holes and there are 90 bunkers (sixth most on tour). Bermudagrass with Ryegrass comprise the fairways and rough while the greens feature TifDwarf Bermudagrass. However, the Bermudagrass is dormant and the fairways and rough will predominantly be overseeded Rye. The greens, at an average of 5,000 square feet (fifth smallest on tour), will also be overseeded Poa trivialis and run at an average speed of 11.5 on the stimpmeter.

    The Stadium Course played an average round of 70.24 for the ninth easiest of 44 courses last year on tour.

    Pete Dye courses are prevalent throughout the PGA Tour. Here are some other Dye designs on the schedule:

    Austin Country Club: WGC Dell Match Play since 2016

    Crooked Stick: 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship

    Harbour Town: RBC Heritage

    Ocean Course, Kiawah Island: 2012 and 2021 PGA Championship

    TPC River Highlands: The Travelers

    TPC Louisiana: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

    TPC Sawgrass: The Players Championship

    Whistling Straits: 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship

    TPC Sawgrass is arguably the most comparable of the Dye designs. Other similar courses that are not Dye designs include TPC Summerlin, TPC Scottsdale, Silverado, Torrey Pines North and Narashino.

    The PGA West Tournament Course was designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1987. It plays as a par-72 of 7,147 yards (ninth shortest on tour). Water is in play on six holes and there are 78 total bunkers on the Nicklaus layout. The fairways and rough are overseeded Ryegrass as the Bermudagrass is dormant. The greens, which will roll at a slow 10.5 on the stimpmeter, are the slowest of the three courses and are also overseeded with Poa trivialis. The greens are also larger than the others at 7,000 square feet on average (10th largest on tour).

    The Nicklaus Tournament Course ranked as the fifth-easiest course on tour in 2023 with an average round score of 69.65.

    There are also plenty of Nicklaus designs on the PGA Tour schedule if looking for any designer correlation possibilities:

    Annandale Golf Club: Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013

    Glen Abbey: RBC Canadian Open, 2008, 2013, 2015-2018

    Montreux Golf & Country Club: Barracuda Championship through 2019

    Muirfield Village: Memorial Tournament

    Old Greenwood GC: Barracuda Championship 2020

    PGA National: Honda Classic

    PGA West, Nicklaus Private: Humana Challenge through 2015

    Sherwood Country Club, Thousand Oaks: World Challenge through 2013

    Valhalla Golf Club: 2014 PGA Championship

    Sherwood is the most comparable Nicklaus design. Other non-Nicklaus designs that are comparable to the Tournament Course include TPC Summerlin, TPC Scottsdale and Summit Club.

    La Quinta Country Club is the third of three courses at The American Express. The private course designed by Lawrence Hughes and opened in 1959 was redesigned by Damian Pascuzzo in 1999. La Quinta is also a par-72 and the shortest (sixth shortest on tour) of the three courses at 7,060 yards. Water is in play on seven holes and there are 82 bunkers total. Like the other courses in the rotation, Bermuda is the primary surface for this course; however, it is dormant and overseeded with Ryegrass in the fairways and rough and Poa trivialis on the greens. The greens, which roll 11 on the stimpmeter, are the fourth smallest on tour at an average of 4,773 square feet.

    Last year, La Quinta played as the third-easiest course on the PGA Tour with a round average of 69.25 (-2.75 under par).

    Sherwood, Pebble Beach and TPC Summerlin are comparable designs to La Quinta.

    Recent History/Winners

    2023: Jon Rahm (-27/261); 13-2

    2022: Hudson Swafford (-23/265); 150-1

    2021: Si Woo Kim (-23/265); 55-1

    2020: Andrew Landry (-26/262); 200-1

    2019: Adam Long (-26/262); 600-1

    2018: Jon Rahm (-22/266); 10-1*

    2017: Hudson Swafford (-20/268); 66-1

    2016: Jason Dufner (-25/263); 40-1**

    2015: Bill Haas (-22/266); 30-1

    2014: Patrick Reed (-28/260); 135-1

    2013: Brian Gay (-25/263); 80-1***

    2012: Mark Wilson (-24/264); 125-1 

    Playoff win over Andrew Landry – *

    Playoff win over David Lingmerth – **

    Playoff win over Charles Howell III and David Lingmerth – ***

    Here are some winning trends for The American Express:

    • 10 of the last 14 winners had odds of 55-1 or higher.
    • 14 of the last 16 winners played in one previous American Express, and 12 of the last 15 had played the event at least twice.
    • 12 of the last 16 winners played in the Sony Open before the American Express.
    • 13 of the last 17 winners were age 32 or younger.

    Statistical Analysis

    With La Quinta and the Nicklaus Tournament Course being two of the easiest on the tour, players will have to take advantage and make a lot of birdies to get themselves in position for Sunday on the Stadium Course.

    Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Eric Cole 51.6
    2. Scottie Scheffler 44.5
    3. Xander Schauffele 40.7
    4. J.T. Poston 38.5
    5. Will Zalatoris 37.1
    6. Patrick Cantlay 35.6
    7. Tom Kim 30.8
    8. Rickie Fowler 28.9
    9. Wyndham Clark 28.8
    10. Justin Suh 27.1
    11. Taylor Montgomery 25.5
    12. Stephan Jaeger 24.5
    13. Sungjae Im 24.2
    14. Cam Davis 21.8
    15. Sam Ryder 20.3

    Opportunities Gained are defined as Birdie opportunities inside 15 feet from green or fringe PLUS Greens/Fringe Under Regulation. 

    Opportunities Gained (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Scottie Scheffler 59.9
    2. Chris Kirk 42.9
    3. Alex Smalley 38.8
    4. Justin Thomas 38.1
    5. Eric Cole 36.1
    6. Xander Schauffele 33.4
    7. Kevin Yu 32.7
    8. Tom Hoge 31.6
    9. Akshay Bhatia 28.7
    10. Rickie Fowler 28.5
    11. Patrick Cantlay 28.4
    12. J.T. Poston 28.3
    13. Sungjae Im 27.9
    14. Michael Kim 27.8
    15. Ryan Palmer 25.5

    The AMEX winner has ranked in the top 9 for Strokes Gained: Approach in six of the last seven years here during their respective winning weeks.

    Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Scottie Scheffler 66.1
    2. Xander Schauffele 44
    3. Daniel Berger 43.2
    4. Mark Hubbard 38.5
    5. Adam Schenk 38.3
    6. Sam Ryder 37.2
    7. Eric Cole 35.6
    8. Patrick Cantlay 34.8
    9. Alex Smalley 34.1
    10. Tony Finau 33.2
    11. Rickie Fowler 29.7
    12. Aaron Rai 29.6
    13. Chez Reavie 29.1
    14. Will Zalatoris 26.8
    15. Shane Lowry 26.8

    The three courses in this week’s rotation all rank in the top 9 out of 44 in terms of easiest courses on the PGA Tour.

    Strokes Gained Total: Easy Scoring Conditions (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Daniel Berger 86
    2. Patrick Cantlay 85.2
    3. Tom Kim 72.4
    4. Scottie Scheffler 68.5
    5. Xander Schauffele 67.7
    6. Eric Cole 67
    7. J.T. Poston 64.4
    8. Justin Thomas 56.9
    9. Taylor Pendrith 56.2
    10. Taylor Montgomery 53.6
    11. Ryan Palmer 52.8
    12. Alex Smalley 49.1
    13. Tony Finau 48.7
    14. Ben Griffin 46
    15. Alex Noren 45.9

    Two of the four par-5s are at or near 600 yards on the Stadium Course and the quartet of par-5s on the layout are a bit more challenging. 

    Strokes Gained Par-5s (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Stephan Jaeger 28.2
    2. Patrick Cantlay 24.2
    3. Aaron Rai 22.2
    4. Scottie Scheffler 21.8
    5. Rickie Fowler 20.8
    6. Will Zalatoris 20.5
    7. Davis Thompson 20.4
    8. Garrick Higgo 20.4
    9. Tom Kim 20
    10. Doug Ghim 19.8
    11. Erik van Rooyen 18.6
    12. Wyndham Clark 18.3
    13. Paul Barjon 16.9
    14. Cam Davis 16.7

    Although the greens are overseeded with poa trivialis, these are not the typical poa greens. Many players and caddies have commented that these greens are like carpet and are fairly easy to putt. 

    Strokes Gained: Putting (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Maverick McNealy 49.7
    2. Taylor Montgomery 45.9
    3. J.T. Poston 40.4
    4. Eric Cole 37.5
    5. Xander Schauffele 30.9
    6. Wyndham Clark 27.9
    7. Justin Suh 27.9
    8. Adam Hadwin 27.1
    9. Sam Burns 25
    10. Ben Griffin 23.9
    11. Alex Noren 23.4
    12. Dylan Wu 22.4
    13. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 20.5
    14. Michael Kim 20

    PGA West Stadium Course is a Pete Dye design, so we can take a look at who has played well recently on Dye designs.

    Strokes Gained Total: Pete Dye Designs (Last 50 rounds)

    1. Patrick Cantlay 91.7
    2. Scottie Scheffler 70.2
    3. Sungjae Im 69.5
    4. Jason Day 58.5
    5. Xander Schauffele 56.9
    6. Daniel Berger 54.4
    7. Shane Lowry 52.4
    8. Justin Thomas 52.4
    9. Cam Davis 51.9
    10. Sam Burns 47.2
    11. Tony Finau 45
    12. Kevin Streelman 44.8
    13. Matt Kuchar 37.3
    14. J.T. Poston 34.5
    15. Si Woo Kim 33.6


    Sungjae Im (20-1, DraftKings)

    Im is already off to a good start this season with a fifth at Kapalua, where he set a PGA Tour record for a 72-hole event by making 34 birdies. 

    While he has never been right there for the victory here, Im has a good run of form at the AMEX, recording finishes of 12th, 10th, 12th, 11th and 18th in his five visits to these venues.

    Im has also played well on Pete Dye designs and ranks third over the last 50 rounds on said designs for Strokes Gained: Total, plus has a victory at TPC Summerlin, which has had a strong correlation to this trio of courses over the years. 

    Tom Kim (28-1, FanDuel)

    Speaking of TPC Summerlin, how about the man who has won the last two tournaments (2022 and 2023 Shriners Children’s Open) held there?

    Kim finished sixth on debut here last year and rates behind only Cantlay (taking out Berger who has not played a competitive event in 18 months) for Strokes Gained: Total in Easy Scoring Conditions. 

    Tony Finau (35-1, DraftKings)

    Along with last year’s AMEX champion Jon Rahm, Finau was the other major name most speculated about to join LIV Golf. He elected to remain on the PGA Tour. 

    Finau did not play at all during the fall schedule save for a couple of top-4s during the December silly season at the Hero World Challenge and the Grant Thornton Invitational. Nonetheless, those finishes showed his game to be in pretty good shape heading into 2024. 

    Finau finished fourth here in 2020. 

    Taylor Montgomery (53-1, Circa Sports)

    Montgomery finished fifth here on debut last year. 

    He was on the first page of the leaderboard most of last weekend at the Sony Open before finishing 13th. However, he ranked No. 2 in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach. 

    The Las Vegan is also an excellent putter, ranking second on the PGA Tour last season for Strokes Gained: Putting.

    Adam Hadwin (55-1, Circa Sports)

    Hadwin also fits into the TPC Summerlin correlation like Im and Kim as he finished runner-up in the Shriners last year. 

    He missed the cut last week by one at the Sony but closed the Sentry with a final round of 64 the week prior. 

    The Canadian has also finished runner-up at the AMEX twice (2016, 2018). 

    Justin Suh (130-1, Circa Sports)

    Suh ranks in the top 10 over the last 50 rounds in this week’s field for both Birdie Or Better Gained and Strokes Gained: Putting. 

    He missed the cut last week at the Sony, but the opening-round 73 could be attributed to rust as he shot 67 in the second round. 

    The former No. 1 amateur finished 2023 with two top-10 finishes in his final three starts, so he is not far removed from good form.

    Patton Kizzire (150-1, Circa Sports)

    Kizzire has only conditional status on the PGA Tour, so he needs to take advantage of the starts that he can get to rise in the FedEx Cup standings. 

    He finished T-13 last week and was top 15 in Mexico at the end of 2023. 

    Kizzire also fits the TPC Summerlin link having finished second there in 2015 and fourth in 2017.

    Note: Placement markets and matchups will be available Wednesday at VSiN.com/picks

    Wes Reynolds
    Wes Reynolds
    Wes Reynolds writes a weekly golf column and contributes NFL and college football best bet write-ups throughout the season. He is the co-host of VSiN Tonight (9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET, M-F), The Lookahead (Sunday nights), and the Long Shots golf podcast. He has a Masters in Athletic Administration and Sport Management from Indiana University and previously worked in sales and marketing for the Indiana Pacers, Indiana U., and the Indiana Firebirds (AFL).

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