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PGA Tour: The American Express Preview and Picks

The PGA Tour heads to the west coast this weekend, though it’ll play in the desert. The American Express tournament kicks off Thursday at PGA West in La Quinta, California.

PGA West is a player’s favorite, so we can safely expect long drives, short approaches, low scores and excellent golf. This year’s tournament will feature one of its deepest fields ever, making it a must-watch for golf fans.

New for this year, golfers will take on just two courses rather than the usual three: PGA West’s Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the field decreased to 156 players, with the annual Pro-Am canceled. The tournament will use a traditional 36-hole cut.

Historically, the key winning score has sat around a very impressive 22-under, so we can safely expect this year’s top player to finish around there. Andrew Landry, the tournament’s most recent winner, shot 26-under in 2020.

Oddsmakers don’t anticipate Landry (+16000) will replicate that performance, but his gritty win last year is the perfect blueprint for success on the Pete Dye-designed course.

Odds in this article are sourced by our betting partner, the FanDuel Sportsbook. New users can make a risk-free bet up to $1,000 for the American Express tournament. You can lock in this offer by clicking this link.

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HOW TO WIN THE TOURNAMENT

Like nearly all of Dye’s designs, there is a premium on approach shots, with an even larger one on putting. Landry nailed back-to-back birdies on the Stadium Course’s 17th and 18th holes, two of the most challenging tournament holes, to secure 1st place and a $1.2 million payday in 2020.

To win the American Express, a golfer must exhibit exceptional iron/wedge play and putting throughout all four days of the tournament. While driving distance matters, shorter hitters can manipulate the course by creating the best angles for their approach. This is due to its relatively short distance from tee boxes to green and low-cut rough. That said, the difference between playing an iron or wedge on the second shot is paramount to keep scores low.

Shaking off the rust is another ingredient to success. For many golfers, this weekend will be their first crack at competitive action in 2021, the majority of which should be ignored if you’re betting the tournament.

Eleven of the last 12 winners of the American Express played at least one of the two Hawaii events before the tournament. With that in mind, I’ve narrowed the field’s potential winner to a select group of golfers that should play well.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Patrick Reed – Reed loves this course and won the tournament in 2014. He’s the best putter on tour right now, ranking first in putting average, third in putts per round and tenth in strokes gained putting. He should continue the trend this weekend and compete for first place.

Russell Henley – Henley kicked his 2021 campaign with a bang, finishing 11th in the Sony Open. He ranks 3rd in scrambling, 11th in greens in regulation, and is an excellent putter. With approach shots coming at a premium, Henley is poised for plenty of birdie opportunities and a strong finish.

Patrick Cantlay – Cantlay is the current betting favorite to win the tournament at +1400. His last three tournament finishes were 13th, 17th, and 1st. He’s playing the best golf of anyone in the field, deserving of top billing.

Peter Malnati – For many golf fans, Malnati is an afterthought, but he has an ideal style for this course. He missed the cut last year but has the putting ability to make him a solid long-shot to finish high.

Matthew Wolff – Wolff is one of the more impressive golfers playing this weekend. He mashes the golf ball, ranking 11th in distance, and should benefit from wedge play on approach shots. Heed some caution, as he did not play in either Hawaii tournaments, but his elite putting ability makes him an excellent player to watch.

PLAYERS TO AVOID

Brooks Koepka – Koepka is one of my favorite golfers. I love his tenacity, swagger, and ability to turn the page on bad shots, but you can’t expect him to play at an elite level in his first tournament action since August. While I think he’s poised for a big year, at a hefty price (+1700), you can safely ignore betting on him this weekend.

THE PICKS

If this is your first time betting on golf, you can make a couple of different types of wagers. The most common are betting the tournament winner, where golfers finish on the leaderboard and one-on-one tournament matchups.

Below are my picks for all three categories. The FanDuel Sportsbook source all odds, subject to change.

Tournament winner: Patrick Reed (+1900)

Top-10: Patrick Cantlay (+160), Russell Henley (+360), Peter Malnati (+950), and pick above

Top-20: Matthew Wolff (+105), Scottie Scheffler (+105), Sam Burns (+240), Patton Kizzire (+300), and picks above

Matchups:

Russell Henley (-105) vs. Abraham Ancer

Sam Burns (+100) vs. Cameron Champ

Patton Kizzire (+100) vs. Adam Long

Peter Malnati (-110) vs. Wyndham Clark

Patrick Cantlay (-122) vs. Brooks Koepka

Best of luck, if betting this weekend. Enjoy the golf!

New users, don’t forget to lock in your first bet risk-free up to $1,000 in the FanDuel Sportsbook. You can take advantage of the offer by clicking this link.

For more betting tips, follow @ErickValenciano on Twitter. Make sure you’re following our sports betting account, too: @OutKickBets.

Written by Erick Valenciano

Erick Valenciano is a So Cal native who moved to Las Vegas to pursue a career in broadcasting and sports betting. A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Erick paid his way through betting on sports and selling event tickets. He's also a mid-90s golfer and insists nobody will ever break his heart worse than the Chargers have.

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