This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
The American Express
Courses: Stadium Course at PGA West (7,147 yards, par 71) [Host Course] and Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West (7,181 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,206,000 and 500 FedExCup points
The American Express will take on a different look this season. Formerly know as the "Bob Hope Classic," this will be the first season that the event does not have a Pro-Am portion due to COVID-19. Because of less traffic, the event will only be played on two courses. The Stadium Course at PGA West will remain the host course and each of the players will get a crack at the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West before a 36-hole cut is made. In past years, La Quinta Country Club was the third course used before a 54-hole cut was made. The Nicklaus Tournament Course should play about a shot easier than the Stadium Course, so taking advantage of your round there will be important to putting yourself in position to win on Sunday. Big names like Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, and Matthew Wolff will all be making their 2021 debut this week in the Coachella Valley. A total of five of the top-20 in the OWGR will be teeing it up. It's often said that playing golf in the California desert is like playing golf in a dome, but this week we may see a little more wind that we would typically be accustomed to. Relative to Hawaii or most any other place, however, it shouldn't affect shots into greens too much. Since the event went to 72-holes back in 2012, the winner has not posted a score any higher than 20-under-par.
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Putting
It's no secret that when you come out to play the Bob Hope Classic, you are going to have to make a lot of birdies. And while that should be the case again for the most part, there's something we have to consider. With no amateurs, there's a chance to the Tour could be a little more aggressive when their hole location placements than we have typically seen in the past. This combined with the fact that players will lose one round at the easiest course in the normal rotation (La Quinta CC), and add one more round at the most difficult course in the rotation (Stadium Course), and we may see the scoring be slightly higher than we have seen in past years at this event. There is still plenty of room off the tee at both of these courses, and the rough shouldn't be much of a factor at all. That will put more emphasis on the second shots, particularly at the Stadium Course where the green sizes are much smaller than the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Guys who can fill it up with the putter have also done very well at this event in years past. The greens should be on the slower end at about 11 on the stimpmeter. Lastly, because of some potentially tougher hole locations, that could add to the difficulty of getting the ball up and down when you miss a green. Players that have been sharp around the greens early in the season should carry some added value this week that we don't normally see at this type of event.
FanDuel Value Picks
Patrick Cantlay ($11,800)
For the last few years it's been really hard to find a fault in Cantlay's game. He drives it great, he controls his irons extremely well, he has a reliable putting stroke, and has an underrated short game. The UCLA product took home the crown at the Zozo Championship at was another birdie fest and is coming off a solid T13 at Kapalua. Cantlay finished top-10 at PGA West two years ago as well.
Sungjae Im ($11,100)
Im didn't have quite the week many expected from him at Waialae, but I don't think it's a reason to go away from the talented young Korean at PGA West. Im ranks top-35 this season in driving accuracy, GIR percentage, and SG: Tee-to-green. Wherever there are birdies that need to be made, the 22-year-old makes it look so effortless. Perhaps that's part of the reason he has finished T12-T10 in two starts here.
Kevin Na ($10,800)
I think this is a great chance to ride the hot hand after a win at Waialae last week. Na gained nearly nine strokes from tee to green in his win and didn't even drive the ball that well. He should have chances to spray it around PGA West and be able to use his great recovery game and putting to get around it. Na has a third place finish here back in 2016 and was top-20 last year.
Sam Burns ($10,300)
Burns has drastically improved his ball striking this season. He now ranks third in SG: Off-the-Tee, 20th in SG: Tee-to-Green, fifth in GIR percentage and 34th in proximity. The short game is still a work in progress for the 24-year-old, more you'd be hard pressed to find anyone else with more firepower in this field. In two attempts, Burns has taken well to PGA West, finishing T18 in 2019 and T6 in 2020.
Longer Shots with Value
Patton Kizzire ($9,900)
Kizzire was a player I zeroed in on last week and it paid off in the form of a T7 at Waialae behind some very balanced play across the board. The Auburn product really is playing some of his best golf this season, making his last seven cuts and posting top-12 finishes in three of his last four starts. Kizzire ranks top-25 this season in SG: Putting, putts per GIR, birdie average, and scoring average.
Adam Hadwin ($9,800)
This is by no means a pick based on Hadwin's record this season. This pick is based on his outstanding record in the Coachella Valley. Over his last four starts at PGA West, Hadwin went T6-2nd-T3-T2 and shot a 59. That record is too good to ignore for a player that is as solid on and around the greens as the Canadian usually is.
Doc Redman ($9,100)
In a field like this, I really like this as a buy-low option on a talented young player. His statistics aren't quite as impressive this season, but he still has a T3 at the Safeway Open and a T4 at the Bermuda Championship. At his best, Redman is a ball-striking machine. Last season he ranked 11th in SG: Approach, 13th in driving accuracy, 12th in GIR percentage, and seventh in proximity to the hole.
Peter Malnati ($8,700)
You want to talk about a guy putting the lights out right now? Malnati is gaining 1.3 strokes per round on the greens alone. That has him 11th this season in SG: Total and 10th in birdie average. Malnati is coming off a T14 last week at Waialae and already has a pair of top-fives this season. He also finished T18 at PGA West two years ago.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
With Jon Rahm ($12,300) deciding to pull out before the tournament starts, it's hard to see anyone else really jumping out as a favorite. Based on form, profile, and course history, I see most of the value this week coming between $9,000 and $11,000. Other than Cantlay and Im, there's nobody that really stands out in that top salary tier that I feel is worth spending the money on. Load up in that range mentioned above with players who are wielding a hot putter or players who typically are strong iron players.