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BlogAmerican Express Preview and Picks

The American Express

January 21st – 24th, 2021

PGA West TPC Stadium Course

La Quinta, CA

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,113

Purse: $6.7 million

with $1,340,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Andrew Landry

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

There are 35 players in the top-100 and 11 of the top-50 in the latest Official World Rankings. Those in the top-100 are: #10 Patrick Cantlay, #11 Patrick Reed, #12 Brooks Koepka, #15 Matthew Wolff, #18 Sungjae Im, #22 Tony Finau, #23 Kevin Na, #26 Abraham Ancer, #27 Paul Casey, #33 Scottie Scheffler, #40 Gary Woodland, #52 Russell Henley, #55 Erik van Rooyen, #56 Lanto Griffin, #57 Kevin Streelman, #60 Rickie Fowler, #62 Adam Long, #63 Chez Reavie, #64 Joel Dahmen, #67 Phil Mickelson, #71 Cameron Champ, #74 J.T. Poston, #75 Martin Laird, #77 Byeong Hun An, #79 Adam Hadwin, #84 Talor Gooch, #85 Brendan Steele, #88 Sunghoon Kang, #90 Doc Redman, #92 Alex Noren, #93 Jim Herman, #96 Siwoo Kim, #97 Brian Harman, #99 Brandt Snedeker and #100 Cameron Tringale.

Last year there were 11 top-50 players in the field.

The field includes 9 players in the top 25 on this year’s FedEx point standings.  Those players are #7 Patrick Cantlay, #10 Kevin Na, #14 Matthew Wolff, #15 Martin Laird, #17 Hudson Swafford, #19 Sungjae Im, #20 Brian Gay, #21 Peter Malnati, and #24 Aaron Wise.

The field includes 11 past champions: Andrew Landry – 2020, Adam Long – 2019, Hudson Swafford – 2017, Jason Dufner – 2016, Bill Haas – 2015 & ’10, Patrick Reed – 2014, Brian Gay – 2013, Mark Wilson – 2012, Pat Perez – 2009, 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 Desert Classic in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Desert Classic.

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 The American Express

Player Sony Open Sentry T of C. Mayakoba RSM Classic Masters Houston Open Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms Corales U.S. Open
Sungjae Im
(176.67 pts)
T56
(0)
T5
(70)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T2
(66.67)
T50
(0.33)
DNP T41
(3)
T45
(1.67)
T13
(12.33)
T28
(7.33)
DNP 22
(18.67)
Kevin Na
(173.33 pts)
Win
(132)
T38
(12)
DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
T45
(1.67)
T43
(2.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Patrick Cantlay
(128.33 pts)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T38
(4)
T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP T43
(4.67)
Russell Henley
(113.67 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T30
(6.67)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP T4
(26.67)
T3
(30)
T27
(7.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Chris Kirk
(110.67 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP T46
(1.33)
T18
(10.67)
DNP T44
(2)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T53
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Peter Malnati
(102.67 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T48
(0.67)
DNP DNP T21
(9.67)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
2
(33.33)
T41
(3)
DNP
Abraham Ancer
(99.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T17
(33)
T12
(12.67)
DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
T28
(7.33)
4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T56
(0)
Patton Kizzire
(99 pts)
T7
(55)
DNP T32
(6)
T10
(13.33)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP DNP T24
(8.67)
T59
(0)
T41
(3)
DNP
Tony Finau
(98.67 pts)
DNP T31
(19)
T8
(16.67)
DNP T38
(8)
T24
(8.67)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
Adam Long
(94.33 pts)
DNP DNP T3
(30)
T30
(6.67)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP T66
(0)
74
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
5
(23.33)
T13
(24.67)
Matthew Wolff
(93.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
73
(0)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
Patrick Reed
(92.33 pts)
DNP T21
(29)
DNP DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
Charley Hoffman
(78.67 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP T46
(1.33)
T23
(9)
DNP T29
(7)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T6
(20)
T14
(12)
DNP
Martin Laird
(77.67 pts)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
T28
(7.33)
T65
(0)
DNP
Scottie Scheffler
(75.67 pts)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
T32
(6)
DNP T17
(11)
T52
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP
Zach Johnson
(73 pts)
T62
(0)
DNP DNP T6
(20)
T51
(0)
T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP DNP T19
(10.33)
T23
(9)
DNP T8
(33.33)
Lanto Griffin
(72 pts)
T41
(9)
T13
(37)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T58
(0)
DNP T11
(13)
T7
(18.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T43
(4.67)
Hudson Swafford
(70.67 pts)
T25
(25)
T35
(15)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T63
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Win
(44)
DNP
Brendan Steele
(70 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T70
(0)
T65
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Matt Jones
(69.67 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP T44
(2)
DNP 63
(0)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T52
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T14
(12)
CUT
(-6.67)
Michael Thompson
(67 pts)
T25
(25)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP 77
(0)
T65
(0)
DNP DNP DNP 48
(1.33)
Charles Howell III
(64.67 pts)
T19
(31)
DNP T23
(9)
T30
(6.67)
T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
30
(13.33)
Sepp Straka
(64.67 pts)
T25
(25)
DNP T52
(0)
T44
(2)
DNP T5
(23.33)
T21
(9.67)
DNP DNP T43
(2.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Brooks Koepka
(64 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T7
(36.67)
T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Nick Taylor
(64 pts)
T11
(39)
T29
(21)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T29
(14)
DNP DNP T63
(0)
T61
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Brian Gay
(61.67 pts)
72
(0)
T29
(21)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Aaron Wise
(58.67 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T11
(13)
T26
(8)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T17
(11)
DNP DNP
Si Woo Kim
(57.67 pts)
T25
(25)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
T8
(16.67)
T37
(4.33)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Kramer Hickok
(54 pts)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T58
(0)
T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T21
(9.67)
DNP
Emiliano Grillo
(52.33 pts)
T47
(3)
DNP T8
(16.67)
T18
(10.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T34
(5.33)
DNP DNP T34
(5.33)
T35
(5)
T21
(9.67)
DNP
Brian Harman
(52 pts)
T56
(0)
DNP T30
(6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP T26
(8)
T28
(7.33)
T13
(12.33)
T37
(4.33)
DNP T38
(8)
Wyndham Clark
(51.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
66
(0)
DNP DNP
James Hahn
(49.33 pts)
T41
(9)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP T6
(20)
DNP
Cameron Champ
(49 pts)
DNP T31
(19)
DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
T42
(2.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Cameron Tringale
(48.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP 3
(30)
DNP T29
(7)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T19
(10.33)
T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP
Denny McCarthy
(47 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T38
(4)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP 57
(0)
T6
(20)
T41
(3)
DNP
Talor Gooch
(42.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 4
(26.67)
DNP T35
(5)
5
(23.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP
Lucas Glover
(41 pts)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
T23
(9)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T17
(22)
Austin Cook
(38.33 pts)
T47
(3)
DNP T63
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Anirban Lahiri
(37.33 pts)
T62
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
T6
(20)
DNP
Alex Noren
(37 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T18
(10.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T17
(11)
76
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(22)
Maverick McNealy
(36.67 pts)
DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T20
(10)
T21
(9.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T17
(11)
DNP DNP
C.T. Pan
(36 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T7
(36.67)
T58
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T52
(0)
T12
(12.67)
T61
(0)
DNP
Cameron Davis
(35.67 pts)
31
(19)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 68
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T52
(0)
T6
(20)
DNP DNP
Tom Hoge
(34.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T3
(30)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T47
(1)
T38
(4)
T24
(8.67)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the The American Express

Player Sony Open Sentry T of C. Mayakoba RSM Classic Masters Houston Open Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms Corales U.S. Open
Bo Van Pelt
(-33.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Sam Ryder
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T52
(0)
DNP
Nick Watney
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Tim Wilkinson
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T61
(0)
DNP
Ted Potter, Jr.
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Jimmy Walker
(-22 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP 60
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T46
(1.33)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Michael Kim
(-21.67 pts)
T65
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
WD
(-1.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Brandon Hagy
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T40
(3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Hunter Mahan
(-20 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T67
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T65
(0)
DNP DNP T58
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Kevin Stadler
(-18.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DQ
(-1.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz

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 its early years.  But when Chrysler dropped sponsorship in 2008, it left the tournament very venerable.  It no longer had Bob Hope’s influence, 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 too much.  This event’s difference 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 could get CareerBuilders to step in and take over through 2021, so it was thought that the event was on a substantial 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 reason why 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 was the home course for 14 of the 17 years between 1999 and 2015.  But after 2015, the Palmer private, along with Nicklaus private, didn’t want to be a part of the tournament. It was a terrible deal for tournament officials 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.  Along with the PGA Tour, Tournament officials 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 ball’s chances are 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 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.  In 2019 the course played to a 70.84 scoring average and was the 40th hardest course for 2019.  Last year it played to a 70.36 average and was the 36th hardest (out of 40 courses).  So the course went from one of the difficult courses in golf to one that was very manageable.  More importantly, players have loved the course, so it’s now become a fixture for this event.

Major changes for 2021

With the solid footings of American Express, the event looked like it would have a bright and fun future for many more years.  But with the Pandemic out of hand in California, significant changes were made.  The most brutal change for the tournament was the pro-am portion was dropped, so no amateurs partners.  With the amateurs being dropped, that meant that 624 players wouldn’t be playing, so the sponsors illuminated one course, and it will now be played on just two courses.  Because the Nicklaus course shares the same clubhouse with the Stadium course, they had to drop LaQuinta, which has been a regular course since it joined the rota in 1963.  In the 58 years since it’s only missed nine events in 1980, 1987, 1989, 1990,1993, 1996,1999, 2002, and 2009.

But the big deal is that players will now get to play the Stadium Course for three of the four days and television, which means getting more marquee players on TV.

So how many of you know who Bob Hope is???

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.  Abu Dhabi has an excellent field of marquee players like Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, and Tommy Fleetwood. But the Desert Classic has a solid base of good players, but unfortunately, the highest rank player is #10 Patrick Cantlay since #2 Jon Rahm dropped out.

But there is one bit of good news out of this week.

Brooks Koepka is playing this week, which makes sense since he is spending a lot of time in San Diego, he has a rented home there and has been undergoing intensive rehab on his knee and hip ailments.  Things must be going well, he had planned on playing in the Farmers, Phoenix, and Genesis at Riviera and added Palm Springs, an event he has never played in.  I think it’s going to be interesting seeing him this week, the Stadium Course is one that he should eat up, so I expect him to contend.  Yes, he missed the cut at Mayakoba, probably a tournament that wasn’t right for him.  But before that, he was T-5th in Houston and T-7th at the Masters, so I feel he should be ready to go

Who will be the Kevin Na of the American Express

Monday quarterbacking is easy to say how Kevin Na was a great choice at the Sony Open, but let’ be realistic.  How many of you first of all thought about him, and how many of you picked him?  On DraftKings, in which he is one of six picks, only 8.1% of the selections had Na.  Even lower runner-up Chris Kirk only had the support of 2.92% of the people.  So for this week, who is the off the wall picks?

One has to be Adam Hadwin, who presently is 158th in the FedExCup standings and has missed his last three cuts.  In the previous year, he has finished in the top-25 just once, his T-4th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.  As Hadwin told Bob Weeks in TSN.Com, he wasn’t satisfied with last year.  He felt that he was just one up-and-down, one shot or one putt from a top-ten finish, and the year was frustrating.  So after missing the cut at the Mayakoba, he took the next six weeks to reassess and retool things.  Hadwin parted ways with long-time coach Ralph Bauer and began working with Mark Blackburn.  He’s also spent some time in the gym trying to add some muscle, joining many of the PGA Tour’s members as they look to add some distance.  He’s not expecting amazing things right out of the gate but hopes to get into a rhythm and play good golf again.  Still, he is looking forward to the American Express as a place he has had a great run at.  The last four times he’s played this event, he’s finished T-6th, 2nd, T-3rd, and T-2nd.  Unfortunately, he missed last year’s American Express following the birth of the girl of the couple.  Over those four starts, he was 84 under par, and the event was his little annuity when you consider that of the $12.5 million he has won on the PGA Tour, $1,66,736 of it came in just five American Express starts.  So look for some good things out of Hadwin.

Sungjae Im is starting to pick up some momentum, and he was T-10th last year and T-12th in 2019 at the American Express.  Watch him.

We also should watch to see how Rickie Fowler is going to play. He had a terrible 2020, and when we last saw him at the Mayakoba, he had a dreadful finish on Friday to miss the cut.  We will understand if he is working hard on his game and trying to turn things around.  He was T-10th last year at the American Express, and his previous win came at Phoenix, so he plays well in the desert, so we should see if he can turn things around.  I would place my money on Hadwin over Fowler, but you never know what will happen.

Course information:

A unique event that will only use two courses this year.

PGA West Stadium Course is the home and will play three rounds, including  Saturday and 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 country’s hardest.

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 worldwide.  Landmark owners Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser gave Dye the task to build them the most challenging 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 had 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 63, which has been done several times, including last year in the final round by Abraham Ancer and Sam Burns.

Last year the course played to a 70.36 average and was the 36th hardest course on tour.

Now the course may be one of the most intimidating courses on the PGA Tour, but thanks to some work are still manageable.  In 2020, 228 rounds were played on it, with 89 rounds in the 70s, 164 under par rounds, and only 49 rounds over par.

Other course 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 the 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 fourth straight year and had blended very well into the tournament.  The course had a 69.23 average making it the 2nd easiest of the 41 courses used on the PGA Tour in 2020.

COURSE KEYS

We won’t have course keys since the event was played on three different courses in previous years.

DraftKings Tips

Looking for some good picks at the Desert Classic

*Of the 156 in the field, 146 have played at least once at the Desert Classic since 2015.

Here are the players that have the best under par average:
  • Adam Hadwin is 96 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Brendan Steele is 87 under in 24 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Phil Mickelson is 79 under in 22 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Lucas Glover is 79 under in 23 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Charles Howell III is 76 under in 23 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Andrew Landry is 70 under in 15 rounds, playing 4 years
  • Sean O’Hair is 69 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Chez Reavie is 68 under in 22 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Hudson Swafford is 66 under in 22 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Kevin Streelman is 66 under in 22 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Bill Haas is 66 under in 21 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Brian Harman is 65 under in 19 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Kevin Na is 64 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • John Huh is 62 under in 23 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Scott Piercy is 61 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Jason Dufner is 60 under in 22 rounds, playing 6 years
  • Nick Watney is 60 under in 22 rounds, playing 6 years
*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)
  • Adam Hadwin is 96 under, playing 5 years (-19.2)
  • Andrew Landry is 70 under, playing 4 years (-17.5)
  • Sam Burns is 35 under, playing 2 years (-17.5)
  • Sungjae Im is 35 under, playing 2 years (-17.5)
  • Adam Long is 32 under, playing 2 years (-16.0)
  • Talor Gooch is 47 under, playing 3 years (-15.7)
  • Brendan Steele is 87 under, playing 6 years (-14.5)
  • Cameron Davis is 29 under, playing 2 years (-14.5)
  • Sean O’Hair is 69 under, playing 5 years (-13.8)
  • Lucas Glover is 79 under, playing 6 years (-13.2)
  • Phil Mickelson is 79 under, playing 6 years (-13.2)
  • Brian Harman is 65 under, playing 5 years (-13.0)
  • Kevin Na is 64 under, playing 5 years (-12.8)
  • Charles Howell III is 76 under, playing 6 years (-12.7)
  • Sam Ryder is 37 under, playing 3 years (-12.3)
  • Scott Piercy is 61 under, playing 5 years (-12.2)
  • Andrew Putnam is 48 under, playing 4 years (-12.0)
  • Hank Lebioda is 24 under, playing 2 years (-12.0)
  • Russell Knox is 47 under, playing 4 years (-11.8)
  • Tony Finau is 35 under, playing 3 years (-11.7)
  • Kyoung-Hoon Lee is 23 under, playing 2 years (-11.5)
  • Wyndham Clark is 23 under, playing 2 years (-11.5)
  • Chez Reavie is 68 under, playing 6 years (-11.3)
  • Abraham Ancer is 45 under, playing 4 years (-11.3)

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

DraftKings Tips

*Here are the guys that are very costly this week:

  • Patrick Cantlay – $11,500
  • Brooks Koepka – $10,800
  • Tony Finau – $10,500
  • Patrick Reed – $10,200
  • Sungjae Im – $9,900
  • Matthew Wolff – $9,700
  • Scottie Scheffler – $9,500
  • Rickie Fowler – $9,300
  • Kevin Na – $9.200
  • Abraham Ancer – $9,100
  • Russell Henley – $9.000

Have to say in looking at the prices, it’s going to be a hard time picking.  The top players are risky propositions, so it’s probably worth your while looking for those in the 7,700 to 9,000 range for your picks.  A perfect example is Patrick Cantlay, at $11,500.  Yes, I like Cantlay, who was T-9th in this event in 2019 and plays well on desert courses.  But the price is too high for him, I would rather see him $1,500 lower.  So it’s up to you, but I am going in a different direction and not taking him, the same with Brooks Koepka at $10,800.  A year ago, I would have said yes, but now with all of the injuries around him and never playing the course, I have to say no even though I think he will play well this week.  As for Tony Finau, I believe that at $10,500, he is way overpriced and, despite him probably playing ok, will not take him at this price.  At $10,200, Patrick Reed is a past winner of this event but hasn’t done well since his victory in 2014.  Last we saw him in Kapalua, he had sore shins and blisters on his feet, I don’t think he is a good pick this week.  Now Sungjae Im is a good choice at $9,900.  I think he is playing well now, and his T-10th last year and T-12th in 2019 shows he can play on these desert courses.  Another good player who should do well this week is Matthew Wolff, but at $9,700, he is overpriced and just not worth the money.  Scottie Scheffler at $9,500 is a borderline choice, he had done well finishing 3rd last year, and his game is ok right now.  Rickie Fowler at $9,300 is too much of a gamble, he has played ok at the Stadium Course, just think we have to watch him for a few events to see if he can break out of this terrible streak of golf.  Kevin Na at $9,200 is priced right for a guy that won last week.  Has had some success in this event finishing T-3rd in 2016 and T-8th in 2019.  I say no, don’t let his win in Hawaii put an abundance of confidence in this guy, who will be still celebrating his victory while playing in the early rounds.  Abraham Ancer at $9,100 is reliable and fair, he was 2nd last year in this event but missed the cut in Hawaii the week before.  He didn’t play very well the week early at the Sony and still managed to finish 2nd last year.  Russell Henley at $9,000 hasn’t shown us that he can play well at the Amex, so best to sit him out, even though he has been ok in other events.

Last week we introduced a new feature in which we help you decide which guys make the cut the most in a tournament.  The importance of picking six players that play 72 holes is vital in playing well in Draftkings, and this list will help.  It’s a look going back to the 2010 American Express on who has made the most cuts.  Of course, those who make a lot of cuts and are priced low are very helpful.  To get on this list, you have to make at least three American Express starts.  One last thing, in all these years, each participant had to play three different golf courses, with four different amateurs, so the task was a lot harder:

  • Adam Hadwin made 5 cuts in 5 starts for a 100.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 8,000.
  • Keegan Bradley made 4 cuts in 4 starts for a 100.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,300.
  • Kevin Stadler made 7 cuts in 8 starts for a 87.5%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,000.
  • Phil Mickelson made 13 cuts in 15 starts for a 86.7%.  His DraftKings cost is 8,800.
  • James Hahn made 5 cuts in 6 starts for a 83.3%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,100.
  • John Huh made 5 cuts in 6 starts for a 83.3%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,200.
  • Lucas Glover made 10 cuts in 12 starts for a 83.3%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,500.
  • Jason Dufner made 9 cuts in 11 starts for a 81.8%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,500.
  • Brendan Steele made 8 cuts in 10 starts for a 80.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,300.
  • Cameron Tringale made 8 cuts in 10 starts for a 80.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,400.
  • Charles Howell III made 12 cuts in 15 starts for a 80.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,800.
  • Kevin Na made 12 cuts in 15 starts for a 80.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 9,200.
  • Nick Watney made 8 cuts in 10 starts for a 80.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,300.
  • Vaughn Taylor made 8 cuts in 10 starts for a 80.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,800.
  • Matt Jones made 7 cuts in 9 starts for a 77.8%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,100.
  • Rory Sabbatini made 10 cuts in 13 starts for a 76.9%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,000.
  • Abraham Ancer made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 9,100.
  • Andrew Landry made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,000.
  • Andrew Putnam made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,500.
  • Anirban Lahiri made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,500.
  • Bill Haas made 12 cuts in 16 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,200.
  • Brian Harman made 6 cuts in 8 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 8,100.
  • Bronson Burgoon made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,200.
  • Francesco Molinari made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,000.
  • Grayson Murray made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,300.
  • J.T. Poston made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,300.
  • Mark Hubbard made 3 cuts in 4 starts for a 75.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,700.
  • Hudson Swafford made 5 cuts in 7 starts for a 71.4%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,000.
  • Josh Teater made 5 cuts in 7 starts for a 71.4%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,200.
  • Martin Laird made 9 cuts in 13 starts for a 69.2%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,900.
  • Patrick Reed made 4 cuts in 6 starts for a 66.7%.  His DraftKings cost is 10,200.
  • Russell Knox made 4 cuts in 6 starts for a 66.7%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,200.
  • Scott Piercy made 6 cuts in 9 starts for a 66.7%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,100.
  • Pat Perez made 9 cuts in 14 starts for a 64.3%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,800.
  • Chez Reavie made 7 cuts in 11 starts for a 63.6%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,200.
  • Kevin Streelman made 7 cuts in 11 starts for a 63.6%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,200.
  • Aaron Baddeley made 5 cuts in 8 starts for a 62.5%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,500.
  • Brandt Snedeker made 5 cuts in 8 starts for a 62.5%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,900.
  • Sean O’Hair made 5 cuts in 8 starts for a 62.5%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,400.
  • Brice Garnett made 3 cuts in 5 starts for a 60.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,600.
  • Michael Thompson made 3 cuts in 5 starts for a 60.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,100.
  • Patton Kizzire made 3 cuts in 5 starts for a 60.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 8,400.
  • Steve Stricker made 6 cuts in 10 starts for a 60.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 6,600.
  • Zach Johnson made 6 cuts in 10 starts for a 60.0%.  His DraftKings cost is 7,900.

(The ones in bold are what I think is a great bargain.)

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.  First, you have Phil Mickelson at $8,800, in the past, he was suitable for this event but in his last three starts missed the cut, with a 2nd place wedged in between in 2019.  I say he is on his last grasp on the PGA Tour, still has a lot of life left in him, and I think now that it’s only pros playing, he will do great.  Adam Long at $8,500 is worth the price, he won this event in 2019 and, despite missing the cut last year, had a good 2020, which spilled over to fair play in 2021.  Sam Burns at $8,300 is another good choice, played solid on this course with a lot of substantial offensive numbers, he has played well in 2021 and should step forward and play well this week.  Adam Hadwin at $8,100 is exceptional, we wrote about him in our buzz section, so you can see why you should pick him.  Charles Howell III is $7,800 and worth the money since he plays well on the west coast swing and makes a lot of cuts in this event.  Alex Noren is $7,600 and worth the money, plays well on the west coast, and was T-14th last year in this event.  Lastly, don’t forget about Lucas Glover at $7,500, his record has been solid at the Amex, he makes a lot of cuts.

Who are the “Bargains” out there?

Charley Hoffman at $7,400 is worth looking at, he is steady and won of these guys that can pop up at any time.  They played well last week in Sony but was disappointed in shooting a final round 69.  A past winner at the Amex, the only thing that bothers me his record in the years in which the Stadium Course has hosted is dismal, which could be a problem.  Brendan Steele at $7,300 is a good choice due to his solid record at the American Express, plus he played great last year.  John Huh at $7,200 is a good choice this week, he is getting over an injury that we don’t know what was, but his game seems to be improving, and he is consistent, including making lots of cuts.  James Hahn, at $7,100, has been consistent in the desert and this event.  Hard to believe you can get Francesco Molinari for just $7,000, he has a couple of solid starts in this event and will be looking to get back on track.  One person to watch is Martin Laird at $6,900.  He hasn’t been very good in this event the last three years, missing the cut, but in 2017 he was T-9th, and before it went to the Stadium Course, he was very consistent.  I think things are different for him now, and I believe he will make the cut and give you some points for 72 holes.

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 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.  In 2019 several 64s were shot at PGA West, but still, the possibility of someone shooting 63 or lower is small.  Last year we saw a new course record was shot as Sam Burns and Abraham Ancer both shot 63. 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 Stadium Course and made just 16 eagles and 999 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 36 eagles and 697 birdies, while Nicklaus Tournament had 21 eagles and 765 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 are Patrick Reed, Peter Malnati, Cameron Davis, Anirban Lahiri, and Cameron Champ, 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 just two 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.

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 in 2019, Adam Long made 3 eagles and 24 birdies.  Last year Andrew Landry made 31 birdies and not eagles, which helps make the point that 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 in 2019, Adam Long played them in 11 under par.  Last year’s winner Andrew Landry also played the par 5s in 11 under.

This year has been relatively mild, with very little rain and a lot of sun. It’s going to be unusually cold for the week, each day will get into the high 60s, but other than early Saturday morning, it will be dry, and winds will be light at under 10 mph each day.  Saturday morning, there is a chance of early showers, but the rest of the time, it should be ok.

Who to watch for at the The American Express

Best Bets:

Patrick Cantlay

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T9 CUT

He was T-9th in his only start in 2019, he is a solid player that seems to play well on any course.

Sungjae Im

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T10 T12

He is starting to get into a groove so watch out for him, he could be a serious player in the next few months.

Adam Hadwin

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T2 T3 2 T6 T48

He has made this event his little annuity, playing well each time at the Stadium Course. Because of the birth of his daughter, wasn’t able to play last year.

Best of the rest:

Brooks Koepka

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
First time playing in this event

Playing in this event for the first time, think we will see how healthy he will be for 2021. Think he will be ready to go, should be able to figure out the Stadium course.

Matthew Wolff

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T61

Have a feeling he can be at home on these two courses.

Scottie Scheffler

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
3

Showed last year that he can play well on these courses.

Tony Finau

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T14 CUT T59

We will see if he is ready to play this year and win again. Desert courses should be good for him.

Solid contenders

Patrick Reed

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
CUT T12 T56 T24 Win CUT

If he is healthy and no problem with shin spilts, he can do very well on these courses.

Abraham Ancer

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
2 T18 76 CUT

This guy comes out and plays well on so many courses, these two should be good for him.

Adam Long

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
CUT Win

Think he will be ready to contend again, has had a good 2021.

Phil Mickelson

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
CUT T2 CUT T21 T3 T24 T37 T49

Has a great record in this event, we are going to see if he has any gas left and ready to play in 2021, which would include winning.

Rickie Fowler

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T10 T33 CUT

This is an important year and start of a season, we will see if he can regain the game that has been fading the last couple of years.

Long shots that could come through:

Sam Burns

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T6 T18

Played solid on this course with a lot of substantial offensive numbers, he has played well in 2021 and should step forward and play well this week.

Alex Noren

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T14

Another of those players looking to improve on his 2020 numbers, he played ok in his only start in 2020.

Sebastian Cappelen

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T6

Surprised a lot of people with his T-6th last year.

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