The PGA Tour begins the West Coast Swing this week with The American Express, the Palm Springs pro-am that has once best known as the Bob Hope Classic but has had many names in more recent times.
In addition to the format, there is also a multi-course element with the tournament using PGA West’s Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus Stadium Courses in addition to La Quinta Country Club. The first of those tracks also plays host to the final round (the cut comes after 54 holes rather than the more typical 36).
The inclusion of amateurs in the tournament means that the courses are set up relatively easily so low scoring is something of an essential (maintaining a theme of the new year, perhaps, after the two birdie barrages in Hawaii).
Patrick Reed said: “Unlike at Q-School (previously hosted by PGA West), the pins are a little bit more accessible. They’re not going to put pins three paces from the edge, because then you might not finish (with amateurs playing).
“So, the pins are a little bit more accessible, that’s why you see a little lower scores. If they were to tuck the pins like they normally do on PGA TOUR weeks, the score would get cut in half. Because now you’re hitting some 6-irons and 5-irons and 7-irons into greens and you’re able to go flag hunting.”
Phil Mickelson, who plays host to the event, added: “My game plan ... is bomb it down there as close to the greens as you can. The fairways are tight in a lot of areas (but) if I miss fairways, I have wedges or short irons in.”
Each of the three courses is a par 72, short and with plenty of vulnerable holes. The grass on the greens is Bermuda, but overseeded with Rye and Poa.
It's a tricky event to call and yet last year we did ok, highlighting the winner Kim and our other selections making the top eight. Hopefully we can get a repeat.
Angles to consider
1/ Not making a 2022 debut
The last six winners had all played in Hawaii. They might not necessarily have thrived there, but they knocked the rust from their game.
2/ Dye form
It is arguably less of a factor than last year, when the Dye Course was used for 54, rather than 36, holes, but players who have played good golf on his other tracks have also played well here (the likes of TPC Sawgrass, TPC Louisiana, Harbour Town, TPC River Highlands, Crooked Strick, Whistling Straits, Kiawah Island).
Andrew Landry and Adam Long highlight that poor form can be overcome in style this week (they had both missed seven cuts in their previous eight starts), but 12 of the last 15 winners had a top 25 for the season.
The above angles have been used to create a shortlist from which the following players are selected.
To some degree this week is a face off between the top two players of last year: World No. 1 Jon Rahm and FedExCup champion Cantlay. Rahm has the needle of knowing he missed out in the Player of the Year vote, Cantlay might just have the edge in iciness. A head-to-head would be rather fun and there really is very little in it. Rahm deserves favouritism, but Cantlay maybe should have been closer to him. Played well in Hawaii, loves Dye’s Harbour Town, and has finished tied ninth and second in his only two tournament starts.
Knocked the rust free last week with T27th (tied fifth at halfway), has played Sawgrass solidly down the years and had a good Dye year in 2021: T16th in this event, briefly led THE PLAYERS midway through the week, T7th at Harbour Town. Playing this rotation he has finished T21st in 2017 (top ten with 18 holes to play) and T16th 12 months ago.
Has top six finishes on Dye designs (Louisiana and Harbour Town) and is in superb form. He won off the back of five straight top 20s last summer, now he’s made six top 30s in seven starts. Closed last weekend with a pair of 65s. Has finished T21st and T11th in two event outings.
2pt win Patrick Cantlay at 9/1 (Bet365, MansionBet, SportNation)
1pt e.w. Chris Kirk at 80/1 (PaddyPower, BF Sportsbook, 888Sport 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
1pt e.w. Seamus Power at 40/1 (Bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)