After a couple of close calls with our Sony Open picks last week, where Russell Henley played in the penultimate pairing and Marc Leishman - a long shot we liked - came up two shots short, it's time to move on to The American Express. Plus, close calls don't cash tickets.
The event formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic will be a bit different this year. There's no pro-am due to COVID-19, which means it'll only be played on two courses with a cut coming after Round 2 instead of Round 3. However, the field remains at 156 as it has in previous editions.
Let's get to it.
Nicklaus Tournament Course
Stadium Course at PGA West
2020: Andrew Landry (-26) over Abraham Ancer
2019: Adam Long (-26) over Phil Mickelson, Adam Hadwin
2018: Jon Rahm (-22) in a playoff over Andrew Landry
2017: Hudson Swafford over Adam Hadwin
2016: Jason Dufner (-25) in a playoff over David Lingmerth
2015: Bill Haas (-22) over five players
2014: Patrick Reed (-28) over Ryan Palmer
2013: Brian Gay (-25) over Charles Howell III, David Lingmerth
Koepka is making his first start of the year and is tough to back as the favorite without knowing anything about his current form.
Cantlay is intriguing after a solid tied-for-13th showing at the Tournament of Champions and placing inside the top 10 at his only start at The American Express in 2019.
|Charles Howell III||+4000|
|Si Woo Kim||+4500|
You could make a strong case for the first four names at the top of this range to walk away with the hardware Sunday.
Sungjae Im's form at the Sony Open wouldn't have blown you away, but he was great off the tee and putted very well. Plus, he's finished no worse than tied-for-12th in two starts at this event.
Matthew Wolff is making his first start of the year, and like Koepka, there are concerns about offseason rust that don't exist with a lot of the other top-tier talent. But Wolff is No. 15 in the world and has the upside to compete in every event he plays in.
Henley carried his ball-striking form from 2020 into the new year with a strong showing at the Sony Open. All he needs to do is put four rounds together of solid putting and he'll win, which doesn't seem like a lot to ask of someone who used to roll it very well, especially on Bermudagrass.
Finally, if you want to take a shot on Paul Casey in a field of this strength at +4500, go for it. He's one of the best players in this field, but you're getting a large discount on him because he hasn't played since the Masters.
Historically, this tournament has treated long shots very well, with plenty of winners coming from above +5000. Here are a few that could continue the trend:
Charley Hoffman (+6000): He gained 8.3 strokes tee to green at the Sony Open to rank fourth in the field. He also has three top 10s, including a runner-up, at The American Express in his career.
Adam Long (+7500): He could easily recreate his winning magic from 2019 since he's become a much more complete player. His last result was a tied-for-third showing at Mayakoba to cap 2020.
Aaron Wise (+8000): The 24-year-old was a runner-up in Mexico during his last start. His game turned a corner late last year and should continue into 2021. This is a play on winning upside at a very juicy number.
Gary Woodland (+8000): This number is massive for a former U.S. Open champion. However, it's his first start in a while after dealing with a torn labrum in his hip.
Francesco Molinari (+10000): Again, these odds are crazy for a major winner. After struggling for a while, Molinari finished 15th two starts ago and has two top-12s at The American Express in his career.
Patrick Cantlay (+1300)
Cantlay fits the bill of a winner in La Quinta to a tee. He won the Tour's previous start in California (Zozo Championship in October 2020) and has found success at desert venues in his career (won the Shriners in 2017). Additionally, he's looking to become the third player since 2016 to win both the Memorial Tournament and The American Express, joining Rahm and Jason Dufner.
Typically, backing one of the favorites isn't recommended, but there are too many signs pointing toward Cantlay to ignore.
Abraham Ancer (+2800)
Expect Abraham Ancer to give Cantlay a run for his money this week. The 29-year-old Mexican is coming off a tough cut at the Sony Open, where he missed three putts on Friday inside of 5 feet to fall one shot short.
He's averaging 1.45 strokes gained on approach shots over his previous four rounds and is an incredibly accurate driver of the ball, which is why he finished as the runner-up last season. If one of those putts from last Friday drops, Ancer's price this week would be around +2000.
Doc Redman (+7000)
The one long-shot pick of the week is Doc Redman. If you've tracked these picks for a while, you'll know Redman is hard to ignore any time he tees it up at long odds.
He ranks seventh in the field in strokes gained: long game (driving plus approach) over the past 50 rounds, ahead of players like Im and Tony Finau. He's also beginning to show signs of improvement with the putter and has gained nearly 0.5 strokes on average in his past 10 events.