Pari offers his preview and cheat sheet for the American Express!
THE AMERICAN EXPRESS OVERVIEW
My least favorite week is upon us this week, as we head back to the continental United States for my least favorite event of the year. There are three courses in play this week, but only the Stadium Course will be played twice. The courses are short and easy, as PGA West & La Quinta consistently rank as the two easiest courses played year after year. The Stadium Course ranked more towards the middle of the pack as far as all courses played is concerned, which makes it the toughest of the three, but we’re not going to be concerned with guys struggling to break par by any means.
Four of the last six winners placed inside the Top 20 in either of the two Hawaiian events prior to winning. Rahm placed 2nd at the Sentry in 2018 before winning, Swafford finished 13th at the Sony in 2017, Dufner finished 9th at the Sony in 2016, and Patrick Reed finished 16th at the Sentry in 2014 before winning. Adam Long missed the cut at Sony AND held off a charging Adam Hadwin and Phil Mickelson to capture his first win last year. He played great, but following trends isn’t something we have to do just because other people see something in it.
It makes sense that winners of this event in the past had performed well in the two weeks leading up to it. The first event is usually around 50 players. A Top 20 in a field of 50 isn’t all that impressive these days. I think there’s something to be said about how players played last week, but as Adam Long proved – last week means nothing.
THE AMERICAN EXPRESS TOURNAMENT BACKGROUND
o The Courses
- PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Course, La Quinta Country Club
- Par: 72 (all)
- Yardage: 7,100 (Stadium), 7,200 (PGA West), 7,000 (La Quinta)
- Greens: Bermuda (all)
o Location: La Quinta, California
o Corollary Tournaments/Courses: Waste Management (TPC Scottsdale), Valspar (Innisbrook), Sony (Wai’alae)
o Past Champions:
- 2019: Adam Long -26 over Phil Mickelson & Adam Hadwin
- 2018: Jon Rahm -22 in a playoff over Andrew Landry
- 2017: Hudson Swafford -20 over Adam Hadwin
- 2016: Jason Dufner -25 in a playoff over David Lingmerth
- 2015: Bill Haas -22 over Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, SJ Park, Brendan Steele & Steve Wheatcroft
KEY STATS TO TARGET
o Strong Emphasis – SG: APP, SG: P, P4 Scoring 350-400 yards, Birdie or Better
o Important – P5 Scoring, Scrambling
THIS WEEK’S SUGGESTIONS FOR THE AMERICAN EXPRESS
COURSE HORSES (All Formats – Cash & GPP)
Phil Mickelson (DK $8,700)
- History: 2nd – MC – 21st – 3rd
- Form: No recent form in last four weeks
- Stats: 165th – SG: OTT, 122nd – SG: APP, 139th – SG: P, 143rd – SG: T2G
Why I like him: He’s dropped some weight over the offseason so it’s yet to be seen whether or not he’s more accurate off the tee. Either way, he knows his way around the course, and he needs to have a good year if he wants to make the Ryder Cup on merit. Winning this week would help his cause.
Brendan Steele (DK $7,500)
- History: 57th – 20th – 6th – 34th
- Form: 2nd
- Stats: 15th – SG: OTT, 158th – SG: APP, 176th – SG: P, 119th – SG: T2G
Why I like him: I really don’t, but coming off last week’s impressive play, paired with his great history here means we shouldn’t ignore him, especially because of the similarities in the courses this week and last.
Charles Howell III (DK $10,100): CH3 continues his early-season dominance in the articles, and this week is no different. He’s a pretty boring golfer, but boring keeps you out of trouble and keeps you playing four days. He’s fine for all formats this week.
Lucas Glover (DK $8,200): Supreme ball-striker who has been putting well on bermuda lately. This is his first action since last year, but it usually is so I’m not too concerned with the rust (though I will be right around consensus ownership when making my teams).
VALUE PLAYS (All Formats – Cash & GPP)
Brian Harman (DK $8,600)
- History: MC – 20th – 3rd – 11th
- Form: 32nd
- Stats: 39th – SG: OTT, 156th – SG: APP, 76th – SG: P, 79th – SG: T2G
Why I like him: Played well last week despite the conditions. His strong putting usually masks any tee-to-green deficiencies when looking at his finishing results. If he can play like he did last week, I think he’ll have a better result this week, considering the pressure is off to get it together before Saturday.
Jason Kokrak (DK $9,100): 18th – 8th his last two years, solid ball-striking with some sketchy putting. Good news is he’ll have three rounds to knock the dust off the clubs. The bad news is, we wish he would’ve done that last week instead. 8th in his last event (last season).
Sebastian Munoz (DK $7,400): Last week’s chalk miss becomes this week’s value play for the same reasons people liked him last week. Two missed cuts here in two appearances should keep people off of him, especially following last week’s disappointment. Preferred GPP value play.
Honorable Mentions: Alex Noren (DK $8,400), Nate Lashley (DK $7,200), Kevin Streelman (DK $6,900)
TOURNAMENT ONLY PLAYS
Billy Horschel (DK $9,700)
- History: DNP – DNP – DNP – MC
- Form: None last two months
- Stats: 75th – SG: OTT, 74th – SG: APP, 16th – SG: P, 70h – SG: T2G
Why I like him: Years removed from any good finishes here (10th in 2013). Didn’t play last week so he’ll be off people’s radars and has been vocal about playing more courses that setup like the Stadium Course. Excellent on bermuda greens.
Francesco Molinari (DK $9,200): 12th – 62nd – 10th in his only three starts from 2015-2017. His recent finishes date back two months ago, and they weren’t very good (all outside the Top 20). Excellent at keeping it in play, and when he gets hot with the putter, watch out. Great upside play who will come in much lower owned than Finau, Rickie, Casey or Im.
Rory Sabbatini (DK $7,600): Statistically, he’s an anomaly, as he doesn’t do anything really well, but the eye test checks out on Sabbs, as he finished T21 last week in his 2020 debut. None of his finishes here in the past are inspiring, which tells me people will play others in this price range with similar upside.
Honorable Mention: JT Poston (DK $8,500),Andrew Putnum (DK $7,800), Si Woo Kim (DK $7,000),Bo Hoag (DK $6,800), Scott Harrington (DK $6,500)
CORE PLAYS (Of Those Not Listed)
Sungjae Im (DK $11,100): If price allows for it, I’m going to have him at core exposures every week. He finished last season making the Top 10 in 20% of his starts, and he’s 2/7 already this season while presenting a ton of upside every week.
Matthew Wolff (DK $9,000): He teed it up in Maui, took last week off and is ready to get things started. The rust has been knocked off, and this seems like a great layout for Wolff to display his great ball striking.
Abraham Ancer (DK $8,900): Played surprisingly well last week considering skillset and conditions. He’s now made the cut in his last six events and has made his last two here improving each time since missing the cut in 2016.
Thanks for reading and good luck this week from the FGI team!
See my predictions for the Sony Open!