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BlogAmerican Express Preview and Picks

The American Express

January 16th – 19th, 2020

PGA West TPC Stadium Course

La Quinta, CA

Par: 72 / Yardage:

Purse: $6.7 million

with $1,206,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Adam Long

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

There are 26 players in the top-100 and 11 of the top-50 in the latest Official World Rankings. Those in the top-50 are #15 Tony Finau, #17 Paul Casey, #20 Francesco Molinari, #22 Rickie Fowler, #27 Kevin Na, #30 Kevin Kisner, #35 Scunge Im, #6 Billy Horschel, #37 Chez Reavie, #39 Abraham Ancer and #44 Byeong Hun An.

Last year there were 6 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 12 players in the top 25 on this year’s FedEx point standings.  Those players are #2 Brendon Todd, #4 Sebastian Munoz, #8 Cameron Champ, #9 Sungjae Im, #11 Kevin Na, #13 Tyler Duncan, #16 Carlos Ortiz, #17 Harris English, #20 Byeong Hun An, #21 Danny Lee, #23 Adam Long and #24 Scottie Scheffler.

The field includes 10 past champions: Adam Long – 2019, Hudson Swafford – 2017, Jason Dufner – 2016, Bill Haas – 2015 & ’10, Brian Gay – 2013, Mark Wilson – 2012, Jhonattan Vegas – 2011, D.J. Trahan – 2008, Charley Hoffman – 2007 and Phil Mickelson – 2004 & ’02.

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the American Express field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the American Express in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the American Express. 

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Desert Classic

Player Sony Hawaii Sentry TofC Australian PGA DP World Dubai RSM Classic Mayakoba Classic WGC HSBC Champions Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Houston Open Shriners Hospitals Safeway Open
Brendon Todd
(165.33 pts)
T21
(29)
29
(21)
DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
Win
(44)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Kevin Kisner
(120 pts)
T4
(80)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T76
(0)
T28
(7.33)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Cameron Champ
(106.67 pts)
DNP T14
(36)
T27
(15.33)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
CUT
(-3.33)
Win
(44)
Brendan Steele
(103.33 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T41
(3)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T29
(7)
T60
(0)
Charles Howell III
(102.67 pts)
T12
(38)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T20
(10)
T36
(4.67)
DNP T8
(16.67)
T20
(10)
DNP T68
(0)
T4
(26.67)
Cameron Davis
(91.67 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Vaughn Taylor
(87.67 pts)
T12
(38)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T41
(3)
T60
(0)
DNP DNP T60
(0)
Sungjae Im
(76 pts)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T11
(13)
DNP T3
(30)
T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP T49
(0.33)
Henrik Norlander
(73.67 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
T41
(3)
DNP T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Tyler Duncan
(73 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T48
(0.67)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T56
(0)
Scottie Scheffler
(71.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
T18
(10.67)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
T74
(0)
DNP
Kevin Na
(70 pts)
DNP T32
(18)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
T20
(10)
DNP Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
Rickie Fowler
(70 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Bo Hoag
(70 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP 75
(0)
T20
(10)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP T51
(0)
73
(0)
T44
(2)
Carlos Ortiz
(67.67 pts)
T53
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T37
(4.33)
T40
(3.33)
Adam Long
(65.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T23
(27)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T51
(0)
T46
(1.33)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
Matthew Wolff
(62 pts)
DNP T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
74
(0)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP
Paul Casey
(62 pts)
DNP T19
(31)
DNP T18
(16)
DNP DNP T38
(4)
DNP T17
(11)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brian Stuard
(60 pts)
T53
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T23
(9)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP T72
(0)
DNP T4
(26.67)
T17
(11)
Sebastian Munoz
(59.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP 3
(30)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T33
(5.67)
Denny McCarthy
(59 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
T48
(0.67)
DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP T9
(15)
T9
(15)
DNP
Brian Gay
(58.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T14
(12)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP DNP T42
(2.67)
T7
(18.33)
T23
(9)
J.T. Poston
(57 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
T41
(3)
T24
(8.67)
DNP T27
(7.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Russell Knox
(54.67 pts)
T32
(18)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(10)
T33
(5.67)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
T48
(0.67)
DNP
Harris English
(52.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
5
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T33
(5.67)
Abraham Ancer
(51.67 pts)
T38
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
T4
(26.67)
DNP T41
(3)
T57
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Danny Lee
(51.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
2
(33.33)
DNP T71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
D.J. Trahan
(49 pts)
T28
(22)
DNP DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP
Xinjun Zhang
(47.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T48
(0.67)
T38
(4)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T16
(11.33)
T7
(18.33)
Harry Higgs
(46.33 pts)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T35
(5)
T33
(5.67)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T23
(9)
Ted Potter, Jr.
(45 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Scott Harrington
(44.67 pts)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T43
(2.33)
T72
(0)
DNP T53
(0)
DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP T23
(9)
Rory Sabbatini
(43.33 pts)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP T53
(0)
T33
(5.67)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
T31
(6.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Alex Noren
(43 pts)
T32
(18)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Nick Taylor
(43 pts)
T32
(18)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T26
(8)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T29
(7)
T10
(13.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Desert Classic

Player Sony Hawaii Sentry TofC Australian PGA DP World Dubai RSM Classic Mayakoba Classic WGC HSBC Champions Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Houston Open Shriners Hospitals Safeway Open
Bo Van Pelt
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T62
(0)
Vince Covello
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Mackenzie Hughes
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T65
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T55
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
J.J. Spaun
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T80
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 73
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jason Dufner
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Anirban Lahiri
(-18 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Sam Burns
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Doug Ghim
(-16.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T65
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Nelson Ledesma
(-16 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP T74
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Vincent Whaley
(-15 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T65
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz

The good news for this event which has had a decade of change, in September it was announced that American Express signed up to a multi-year sponsorship deal that will completely re-brand the desert event as The American Express Championship.  For years this event was known as the Bob Hope Classic and 30 years between the 70s and 2000s was a prime event on the PGA Tour.  With tournament host Bob Hope it blended the best of golf with Hollywood in a pro-am format in which along with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am was the two events in which amateurs actually play during the competition.

For years the event was one of the top events and never had to worry about sponsorship as Chrysler was a part of the event since it’s early years.  But when Chrysler dropped sponsorship in 2008 it left the tournament very venerable.  It no longer had the footage of Bob Hope, who grew too old to participate in the 90s and when he died in 2003 the event was in chaos.  With Hope, the event had a firm footing as players loved to be a part of the event and they got the best of stars playing with the players.  But just after Hope died the stars didn’t show up and players found participating in a five-day, 90 hole event to much.  The difference of this event was that it was played in five days on three different courses and the pro was paired with four amateurs.  The AT&T Pebble Beach was over four days over three courses, but it paired the golfer with a celebrity for the 3 days in which each pairing was two professionals with two amateurs.  So this was more of a team event between the player and amateur.  But the Hope had a professional with four different amateurs over four days, players hated this more and more.

This went on for three years after Chrysler left and after the 2011 event, many thought the tournament was finished. That wasn’t the case, Tim Finchem and the Tour worked an arrangement with Bill Clinton to get his foundation involved and then got Humana to take over sponsorship.  The format changed from a 90 hole tournament to 72 holes which help coax more players to attend.  Humana stuck around for four years before leaving as the sponsor, but the tour was able to get CareerBuilders to step in and take over through 2021, so it was thought that the event was on a very firm foundation.  But CareerBuilder’s stepped away after 2018 and things got foggy again.  The event went on in 2019 without a sponsor while another was found, which just happened to be American Express.

One of the reasons that a sponsor was easier to find was what the tournament did after the 2014 event was played.  The most popular home venue for the tournament was the Palmer Course, which for 14 of the 17 years between 1999 and 2015 was the home course.  But after 2015, the Palmer private along with Nicklaus private didn’t want to be a part of the tournament. For tournament officials, it was a terrible deal because they realized the importance of the Palmer course after a disastrous change in 2006 when the event was played at the Classic Club for three years.  Tournament officials along with the PGA Tour made what could have been a very controversial decision to bring the Stadium Course out of retirement, the Pete Dye design course which held the event 30 years before.

Back then the course was stunning on television, but the players hated it.  In the age of persimmon drivers and balata balls, the players thought the Dye track was too hard, and “gimmicky”  with its island green, 20-foot-deep bunkers, a green surrounded by a nine-foot moat style bunker.  Hitting drives was demanding because if the fairways were missed, the chances were high the ball is in a bush or behind a tree.  The course was the most penal course in the Palm Springs area and the country.  On top of that, the players hated how long it took to play.  Playing with amateurs, it took over six hours to get around.

The players demonized the course as being too hard, and it was.  Over the course of 25 years, all the courses that held the Desert Classic ranked very easy and knew as places to make lots of eagles and birdies.  But that wasn’t the case with PGA West in 1987. The field played two rounds on the course in 1987 and they didn’t like it at all.  For the week it played to a 74.157 average,  two shots over par for the field.  It ranked as the 7th hardest course that year with the players loudly voicing their displeasure a couple of days after Corey Pavin won.  So many players were mad that the Tour dropped the TPC Stadium Course and it was thought that it would never have another PGA Tour event.

In 1987 of the 18 holes played at PGA West, 16 of them were over par.  The only ones under were the par 5, 8th and the par 4, 12th. Hard to believe that three of the four par 5s were over par and the 11th hole played to a 5.308 average.  In the 30 years since only ten par 5s played harder with the 14th at Pebble Beach playing the hardest.

So the question in 2016 was if players thought that PGA West, which was impossible 29 years previous would possibly play differently?  Over the three decades, the course was softened.  Bushes and small trees that use to line the fairways had been removed making the fairways more generous.  The moat bunker at 12 is gone and with golf equipment better and the course gaining only 190 yards, it still looked speculator on TV but didn’t kill the pros  When the course returned in 2016 it played to an average of 70.818 making it the 41st hardest of 50 courses.  In 1987, 16 of the 18 holes played over par.  In 2016 only seven played over par.  More importantly, the players loved playing the course and many thought it was one of the best courses of the year.  So going into the 2017 event, the course was again the star.  Things didn’t change that year as the course played to an average of 71.588 and was the 30th hardest course of the year (mostly because of the wet weather all four days).  Despite it being harder, there was nothing but praise as players loved the Stadium Course.  In 2018 things were more of the same, it played to a 71.18 average and was the 36th hardest course for the year.  Last year the course played to a 70.84 scoring average and was the 40th hardest course for 2019.  More importantly, players have loved the course so it’s now become a fixture for this event

For many, you ask them who Bob Hope was unfortunately many don’t realize how important he was in the entertainment world.  He was probably the most significant comedian between the 1930s and 90s and hosted this event between 1965 and his death in 2003 at age 100. Hope’s name was the fixture until it was dropped in 2012.

Yes Bob Hope, who the tournament was named after between 1965 and 2011, would be proud that the event is still popular today.  Of course, this event has competition as it’s played the same week as the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour and the SMBC Singapore Open on the Asian Tour.  Both of those events have an excellent field of marquee players like Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi while in Singapore marquee names like Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, and Henrik Stenson are playing. The Desert Classic has a solid base of good players but unfortunately, the highest rank player is #15 Tony Finau so it just won’t have the star appeal.

American Express fantasy golf news

The biggest disappointment has to be that Adam Hadwin would not tee up this week.  He and his wife Jessica had a baby girl on January 8th and Adam decided not to play this week.  His next start will be in Phoenix in two weeks.  The disappointment was that he completely dominated this event since it moved to PGA West Stadium.  In 1016 he was T-6th, 2nd in 2017, T-3rd in 2018 and runner-up again last year.  Over those four starts he was 84 under par and the event was his little annuity when you consider that of the $11 million he has won on the PGA Tour, $1,66,736 of it came in just five American Express starts.

Beware of bad swings after the Hawaiian swing

One of the reasons that more players don’t like playing in Hawaii is the wind.  If you get four terrible days it could set your swing back for weeks as many that played last week in Hawaii will experience.  To make it even harder it was also windy four days in Kapalua so for the player that experienced both weeks they may have some problems in the week ahead.  Look at the poor final rounds by Brendan Steele, Mark Anderson, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa and Russell Knox as players that could face problems.  Here is a list of those that played in both the Sentry TofC and Sony and is playing this week.  They may have problems at the American Express.  J.T. Poston was 4 under for both events, Kevin Kisner was 13 under and finished T-4th at the Sony, Sebastian Munoz was 1 under for both events, Tyler Duncan was 3 over for both events, Nate Lashley was even par for both events, Adam Long was 1 over for both events, Chez Reavie was 4 over for both events, Brendon Todd was 3 under for both events and Martin Trainer was 23 over for both events.

Course information:

A unique event uses three courses.
  • PGA West TPC Stadium Course is the home and holds one round during the first three days and host Sunday’s action:
  • 7,113 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • The course has a 76.1 rating and slope rating of 150 from the championship tees making it one of the hardest in the country.

The course was designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1986.  Dye was hired by the Landmark developing company, which were big in the 80s with over a dozen courses around the country.  Landmark owners Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser gave Dye the task to build them the toughest course in the World.

Along with the 1987 Desert Classic, the Skins Game was held on the course between 1986 and 1991.  PGA Tour qualifying school was held six times, the last being 2008 but the hint that the course was becoming more playable was when the Champions Tour held the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on it in 1995 and ’96.  The seniors took a liking to the course, which was softened for that event.

The average green size is 6,500 square feet, and the course has close to a hundred bunkers around it.  Water comes into play on nine of the holes, and the Desert Classic course record is 67 which Corey Pavin shot in the final round in 1987.

Last year the course played to a 70.24 average and was the 40th hardest course on tour.

Now the course may be one of the most intimidating courses on the PGA Tour but thanks to some work is still manageable.  In 2019, 229 rounds were played on it with 93 rounds in the 70s, 153 under par rounds and only 46 rounds over par.

Other courses used in the Rota:
  • La Quinta C.C.
  • La Quinta, Calif.
  • 7,060 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • The course has a 74.2 rating and slope rating of 136 from the championship tees
  • The course is private and not open to the public

La Quinta was designed by Billy Bell and Lawrence Hughes and opened in 1959.  In 1999, Robert Muir Graves and Damian Pascuzzo came in, rebuilt all the greens, bunkers, and tees.  He has also taken all the water hazards on the course and made them all come into play. The flagpole at the first tee is the official flagpole from the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. It was given to La Quinta Country Club by the Novotny family in memory of Frank Capra.

The average green size at La Quinta is 5,500 square feet, and the course has 101 bunkers.  There are five water hazards as eight holes are affected.  La Quinta was first used as a tournament course in 1963 and has been a part of 47 of the 59 Desert Classic and historically been the hardest of the courses used.  It was the host course in 1970, 1977, 1980, and 1983.

Here is the scoring average of the La Quinta course compared to other courses that hold events on the PGA Tour:

  • 2019 – 68.718 average, easiest of the 49 courses used for the year
  • 2018 – 68.831 average, easiest of the 51 courses used for the year
  • 2017 – 69.635 average, 2nd easiest of 50 courses used for the year
  • 2016 – 69.148 average, 3rd easiest of 50 courses used for the year
  • 2015 – 70.083 average, 6th easiest of 52 courses used for the year
  • 2014 – 69.768 average, 4th easiest of 48 courses used for the year
  • 2013 – 69.487 average, 3rd easiest of 43 courses used for the year
  • 2012 – 70.678 average, 41st hardest of 49 courses used for the year
  • 2011 – 70.024 average, 43rd hardest of 51 courses used for the year
  • 2010 – 69.969 average, 47th hardest of 52 courses used for the year

Of the 156 rounds played on the course, 101 were in the 70s while 137 rounds were under par.  Only 12 rounds ever over par.

Other courses used in the Rota:
  • PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course
  • La Quinta, Calif.
  • 7,159 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • The course has a 75.3 rating and slope rating of 143 from the championship tees
  • The course is open to the public

The course is a tamer version of its neighbor the Stadium course.  Look for lots of birdies to be made as the fairways are generous and the greens should be easy to hit.  The Nicklaus course held final PGA Tour qualifying tournament on the course in 1988, ’90. ’93, 2000, ’02, ’04, ’06, ’08, ’12 and ’13 so many of the players in the field will have played it.

Last year the course was used for the third straight year and had blended very well into the tournament.  The course had a 69.058 average making it the 2nd easiest of the 49 courses used on the PGA Tour in 2019.

COURSE KEYS

We won’t have course keys since the event is played on three different courses.

 

DraftKings Tips

Looking for some good picks at the Desert Classic

*Of the 156 in the field, 122 have played at least once at the Desert Classic in the four years that the new rota with PGA West TPC Stadium Course as the home course.  In those 4 years of the 122 that played, 93 played more than one year.

Here are the players that have played in two or more Desert Classic’s and had the most under par totals since 2016:

  • Phil Mickelson is -61 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Bud Cauley is -59 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Charles Howell III is -59 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Chez Reavie is -56 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Brendan Steele is -54 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Lucas Glover is -54 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Hudson Swafford is -53 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Brian Harman is -50 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Kevin Streelman is -45 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Andrew Landry is -44 under in 11 rounds playing 3 years
  • Jason Dufner is -44 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Nick Taylor is -44 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Jason Kokrak is -39 under in 11 rounds playing 3 years
  • Bill Haas is -39 under in 14 rounds playing 4 years
  • Scott Piercy is -38 under in 12 rounds playing 3 years
  • John Huh is -37 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Luke List is -37 under in 14 rounds playing 4 years
  • Zach Johnson is -37 under in 14 rounds playing 4 years
  • Kevin Na is -36 under in 12 rounds playing 3 years
  • Ben Crane is -35 under in 14 rounds playing 4 years
  • Jhonattan Vegas is -35 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

  • Si Woo Kim is -32 under, playing 2 years (-16.0)
  • Talor Gooch is -31 under, playing 2 years (-15.5)
  • Phil Mickelson is -61 under, playing 4 years (-15.3)
  • Nate Lashley is -30 under, playing 2 years (-15.0)
  • Bud Cauley is -59 under, playing 4 years (-14.8)
  • Charles Howell III is -59 under, playing 4 years (-14.8)
  • Andrew Landry is -44 under, playing 3 years (-14.7)
  • Andrew Putnam is -29 under, playing 2 years (-14.5)
  • Harris English is -29 under, playing 2 years (-14.5)
  • Russell Knox is -29 under, playing 2 years (-14.5)
  • Chez Reavie is -56 under, playing 4 years (-14.0)
  • Brendan Steele is -54 under, playing 4 years (-13.5)
  • Lucas Glover is -54 under, playing 4 years (-13.5)
  • Hudson Swafford is -53 under, playing 4 years (-13.3)
  • Jason Kokrak is -39 under, playing 3 years (-13.0)
  • Kevin Chappell is -26 under, playing 2 years (-13.0)
  • Scott Piercy is -38 under, playing 3 years (-12.7)
  • Brian Harman is -50 under, playing 4 years (-12.5)
  • Kevin Na is -36 under, playing 3 years (-12.0)
Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week looking at those making the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that are very costly this week:
  • Rickie Fowler – $11,500
  • Sungjae Im – $11,000
  • Paul Casey – $10,700
  • Tony Finau – $10,500
  • Byeong Hun An – $10.300
  • Charles Howell III – $10,100
  • Kevin Kisner – $9,900
  • Billy Horschel – $9,700
  • Scottie Scheffler – $9,500
  • Cameron Champ – $9,300
  • Francesco Molinari – $9,200
  • Jason Kokrak – $9,100
  • Matthew Wolff – $9,000

The good news after two weeks of poor weather including lots of wind, players will have perfect conditions in which making eagles and birdies will be what is expected.  For gambling purposes a lot of choices will have to be made in picking your team as the lack of marquee names will making choosing a team hard. When you look at the list above, don’t be so surprised to see names that normally aren’t worth that much.  For example, Kevin Kisner is $9,900 which in the last year has been his highest value, last week at Sony he was $8,700 and the week before was $7,700 at the Sentry.  In Jason Kokrak’s last start at the WGC-HSBC Champions, he was $6,700, this week $9,100.  So to be honest I can see only a couple of players worth the value, Sungjae Im at $11,000 and Paul Casey at $10,700.  As for Rickie Fowler at $11,500, sorry but not this week.  Yes his last start at the Sentry T of C he was T-5th, but Fowler hasn’t played in the American Express since 2014 and he was T-33rd.  Many will take Fowler thinking he does well in the desert, his last win was in the desert at the Phoenix Open a year ago, but I just have my doubts for this week and remember this if you pay $11,500 he has to be in the top-five to gain any real value out of him.  As of Sungjae Im at $11,000 he has played well, last year was T-12th and that was with a final round 71.  One thing to think about if you’re serious about him he played last week at Sony and looked terrible in the final round, shooting 71.  Have to worry about any bad habits he may have picked up playing in the terrible weather so I will take a pass on him.  Many will like Paul Casey at $10,700 but again he hasn’t shown us much in his play in past American Express’s, his last start was in 2017 he shot 67-69-71-75 to finish T-58th.  I say no to him.  The same with Tony Finau at $10,500, his record isn’t good at this event the last he played in it was in 2016 and he missed the cut.  One other thing, he finished 5th last week but in the Hong Kong Open so he will be seriously jetlag, another reason to avoid him.  Byeong Hun An is at $10,300 and despite playing in this event for the first time he may be ok.  Hasn’t played since the Presidents Cup, he won a match but lost twice and halve two other matches. Before that, his last start was the WGC-HSBC Champions in October and finished T-14th.  So we have no idea what he has been doing of late, he is playing the next three weeks but his wife is due to have the couples, first child, in February, so his mind could be someplace else, I would pass on him.  We get to Charles Howell III at $10,100. It’s the second-highest price he has been in 18 months and he is a good possibility.  He played good in Hawaii finishing T-12th, I am not worried about his start at the Sony, he seemed to get stronger and finished up with rounds of 67-66-69.  He has played a lot in the American Express and was T-2nd in 2013.  Again his value is very high, but in the last four starts in the American Express is 59 under.  I say it’s your choice, it’s a toss-up for me.  Kevin Kisner is at $9,900 which is the highest he ever has been in DraftKings for the last 16 months.  He has never played great in the American Express which is a problem but he was T-14th at the Sentry and T-4th at the Sony Open.  He could be a bit tired and his swing could be out of sorts but for his 8 rounds in Hawaii, he was under par in 7 of those rounds.  He shot 76 in his final round at the Sentry, again I am not convinced that this could be a good week for him.  So he is a toss-up.  Billy Horschel is another tough choice at $9,700, his record in the American Express is not great and hasn’t played it since missing the cut in 2016.  He hasn’t played since the RSM in November and to be frank I like his chances more next week at Torrey Pines.  So this week could be a week to work the kinks out of his game and get ready, sorry he is another no-go for me.  Next up is Scottie Scheffler at $9,500 and he could be a good pick despite the high price.  He is a rookie this week and I like the way he has played since joining the Tour in September.  He was T-7th at Greenbrier, T-3rd at Bermuda, T-18th at Mayakoba and T-5th in his last start at the RSM Classic.  Have to think he is one of these young guys looking to make a mark and this could be perfect for him.  I also like Cameron Champ at $9,300, he has never played in the American Express but he hits it far and makes a lot of birdies, he says yes on him.  Still don’t understand why Francesco Molinari is starting his year in America, he is priced at $9,200 and he could be worth the gamble.  He hasn’t played since China the first of China and we don’t know what he has been doing in the last couple of months.  But for him to start to play in America means he is serious so I can him a toss-up.  Of all the players on the top of the list, I like Jason Kokrak the most.  He is $9,100 and has the length to hit it far in the desert.  He also has been in the top-ten twice int he American Express and he is going to be my top choice.  Last is Matthew Wolff at $9,000, he is a rookie this week and has only played in 12 professional events with a win.  He was T-11th at the Sentry, he is too expensive to take a chance on.

Here are those players with costs between $7,500 and $8,900 that are worth the price:

These are now the players you’re going to have to pick.  They fit our price range.  Right at the start is Abraham Ancer at $8,900, he played ok in Hawaii and showed some success at PGA West last year with a final round 66.  Then we get to Phil Mickelson at $8,700.  He has lost a lot of weight and says he has practiced hard.  2020 is an important year for him since he is turning 50 in June and we know not much time left.  As for Mickelson you never know what he will do and I think he will surprise us all this week with great results.  Brian Harman at $8,600 is also one to watch, he finished T-3rd in 2017 and has played well of late.  He was at Sony and shot 74 in the third round but followed it up with a 67 on Sunday which is a good sign for this week.  Chez Reavie at $8,000 is a great buy, he has been ok in the American Express and I like that he plays well at PGA West.  He can be sneaky and sneak up on you, disregard missing the cut at the Sony or his poor finish at Sentry, new ball game for him this week.  Vaughn Taylor at $7,900 is one that everyone should take.  He has played well at the American Express and has played well in 2020.  I like him a lot, even over guys like Rickie Fowler.  Harris English is a good buy at $7,700, has played ok at the American Express and was good in the fall.

Who are the “Bargains” out there?

Off the bat, people will see Brendan Steele at $7,500 and think that last week’s runner-up will be a good buy.  I say no to it, he faltered badly down the stretch and in the playoff, have a feeling he is probably tired and his swing needs some rest after the poor weather at the Sony.  A better buy is Daniel Berger at $7,500 because he played well over the weekend at the Sony and was good last year in his first try around the new rota that included PGA West.  I also think that Bud Cauley could be good at just $7,300.  Yes, he missed the cut last year but was 51 under the other three trips before last year.  Hard to believe that the defending champion Adam Long is so cheap at $7,200 but he hasn’t done much since (did finish T-2nd at the Mayakoba) and defending champions have a tough time in defending.  Still, his price is cheap.  Henrik Norlander is someone to consider at $7,100, in his last two starts was T-5th at the RSM and T-9th at the Sony.  Nate Lashley is also at $7,100 and is a good buy, finished T-12th last year.  One last $7,100 player is Talor Gooch who has been ok this year and finished 4th last year with a final round 64 at PGA West.  After that, there is no one worth the money.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Desert Classic

The key stat for the winner:

With the addition of PGA West TPC Stadium Course, it now gives the tournament a bit more of a challenge.  You won’t find any 59s shot on this course, in its first year 2016, 65 was the lowest round shot at the Stadium Course.  In 2017 Dominic Bozzelli shot 64 in the first round making it the lowest round shot at the Stadium Course which was one of the 50 rounds shot at the Stadium Course.  In 2018 Kevin Chappell shot 64 in the second round and Sam Saunders shot 64 in the final round, the low at the Stadium Course.  Last year several 64s were shot at PGA West but still, the possibility of someone shooting 63 or lower are small.  The key here is that low scores aren’t shot on this course like the others.

The most important stat is how many birdies are allowed on the three courses.  Last year players teed it up on two of the four rounds at PGA West Stadium Course and made just 22 eagles and 980 birdies.  Remember that this course had each player go around twice on the course, while the other two courses held one round for each player.  La Quinta had 20 eagles and 763 birdies while Nicklaus Tournament had 15 eagles and 762 birdies. So a key stat, to look at for this week, is Par Breakers on tour.  Of the top-15 on that list playing this week is Scottie Scheffler, Denny McCarthy, Maverick McNealy, Dominic Bozzelli, Bronson Burgoon, Sungjae Im and Harris English so they could also be good picks.

Here are some more key stats to look for this week:
  • This week the pros will play over three courses in four days, quite a learning scale with very little time to prepare and learn two new courses.  Making it even harder for those coming from Hawaii unless they took red-eyes on Sunday Night or missed the cut; they won’t get to start practicing until Tuesday.  Still, it’s better than the days when this event was played over five days.
  • Another problem for the pros, the first three days they play with four amateurs.  So patience is needed to tolerate those five-plus hour rounds.  Look for experienced players to do well, those with a long track record at the Desert Classic should be your favorites. Since 1984, the champion has averaged winning in his 6th start.  But things have changed over the years, last year Adam Long was playing in his first American Express, in 2018 Jon Rahm won on his second try in the event.  In 2017 Hudson Swafford won on his fourth start while in 2016 Jason Dufner won on his 7th try.  In 2015 Bill Haas won on his 11th try while the year before Patrick Reed won in only his second start.  In 2013, Brian Gay won on his 12th American Express start while 2012 winner Mark Wilson was making his fourth start when he won.  Experience is a must in this event.  Yes, Adam Long won last year, Jhonathan Vegas won the first time around in 2011, and Charley Hoffman in 2007 was the first player to make his Hope debut a victory since Donnie Hammond did it in 1986.  Still consider Long, Hoffman, Vegas, and Reed are exceptions to the rule.
  • As we said before, the winner will have to make lots of birdies and eagles to win. When it was played over 90 holes, Phil Mickelson made 37 birdies in 2004 while Justin Leonard made 33 in 2005.   D.J. Trahan made 35 in 2008 along with Pat Perez in 2009,  Bill Haas made 34 in 2010, and Jhonathan Vegas made 34 in 2011.  When the event changed to 72 holes in 2012, Mark Wilson made 24 birdies while Brian Gay made 27 in 2013  In 2014 Patrick Reed went crazy with 30 birdies, along with two eagles while in 2015 Bill Haas made one eagle and 22 birdies.  In 2016 on new courses Jason Dufner went low and had 30 birdies.  In 2017 Hudson Swafford had 26 birdies.  In 2018 Jon Rahm had an eagle and 26 birdies, while last year Adam Long made 3 eagles and 24 birdies so to win they will have to birdie at least 3 out of every ten holes played.
  • Look at someone who destroys the par 5s.  The last 23 winners have averaged a bit under 14 under on them with Phil Mickelson playing them in 14 under in 2002.  Mike Weir played them in 15 under in 2003, and Phil Mickelson played them in 12 under in 2004.    Justin Leonard played them in 10 under in 2005; Chad Campbell played them in 18 under in 2006, Charley Hoffman played them in 15 under in 2007 while D.J. Trahan was 13 under on them with Pat Perez setting the record for playing them in 19 under in 2009.  Bill Haas played them in 16 under in 2010 while Jhonathan Vegas was 11 under the last year it was held at 90 holes.  In 2012, Mark Wilson was 15 under while Brian Gay was 10 under in 2013.  In 2015 Patrick Reed was 14 under on them.  Jason Dufner went low in 2016 playing the par 5s in 12 under.  In 2017 Hudson Swafford broke tradition as he played the par 5s in 8 under, the first time since 1997 that someone was in single figures on the par 5s.  In 2018 Jon Rahm played the par 5s in 13 under par while last year Adam Long played them in 11 under par.
  • Now over the course of the last month, the Southern California area has been hit with a lot of storms and rain.  It rained over the weekend, but forecasters as saying it will be a perfect week of golf with no rain and winds below 6 mph each day.  A change of pace after two weeks of dodgy weather in Hawaii.

 

Who to watch for at the Desert Classic

Best Bets:

Sungjae Im

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T12

Played well last week, yes he played in the wind at Sony but I think he will be fine this week and will be in contention.

Abraham Ancer

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T18 76 CUT

Like his final round of 66 at PGA West last year, his game has drastically improved and I see him playing well this week.

Vaughn Taylor

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T7 CUT T41 CUT T25 T10 T34 T8

Has played well in this event and having a good 2020.

Best of the rest:

Rickie Fowler

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T33 CUT

Plays well in the desert, his last win came in Phoenix. Played well at the Sentry and you never know he could put together four good rounds this week.

Paul Casey

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T58 CUT

He plays well on courses like PGA West, worried that he isn’t a birdie machine for the other courses.

Harris English

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T51 T11 T30 T33 T65 T19

High in par breakers which is an important stat to win this week.

Tony Finau

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
CUT T59

Normally I would like him a lot, just worried that his trip from Hong Kong may take a toll on him.

 

Solid contenders

Phil Mickelson

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T2 CUT T21 T3 T24 T37 T49

You never know with Phil, has lost a lot of weight getting ready for 2020.

Kevin Kisner

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T57 T50 T25 CUT T48 T66 CUT

Played well at the Sony, is a good player looking to break out early in 2020.

Francesco Molinari

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T12 T62 T10

Just have to wonder why he is playing the desert in Palm Springs, instead of the desert of Abu Dhabi. We will see what kind of start his season has.

Byeong Hun An

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

Playing in this event for the first time, played well at the Presidents Cup and at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Jason Kokrak

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T18 T8 CUT T48 CUT T8 CUT

Think he will have a great year starting off with this week.

Daniel Berger

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T12 CUT

Played well over the weekend at the Sony, could be good this week

Long shots that could come through:

Scottie Scheffler

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

Rookie this week, shouldn’t matter because he is a birdie machine.

Bud Cauley

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
CUT T14 T3 T14 CUT T37 T30

He was 51 under in three years at PGA West before missing the cut last year.

Maverick McNealy

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
CUT

High up in par breakers means that he should be good for this week as a rookie.

Comments

  1. matthewgolsson@gmail.com says:

    update the name from the desert classic to the american express

  2. thanks, thought I did that.

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