This article is part of our Yahoo DFS Golf series.
The American Express
La Quinta, California
PGA West (Stadium Course) - Par 72 - 7,147 yards
PGA West (Nicklaus Tournament Course) - Par 72 - 7,181 yards
Field - 156 entrants
Purse - $6.7M
Cancellations and alterations to events have caused headaches since the PGA Tour resumed in June, but this week's changes to the format of the American Express are certainly welcomed with open arms. The Pro-Am portion of the tournament has been completely ditched, improving both the playing-time aspect and overall moodiness among a full 156-entrant field. The AmEx, which normally features a three-course rotation, has also scrapped the use of La Quinta Country Club as better television coverage and more accurate ShotLink data become greater possibilities. Only one round will be played on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, allowing the layout to become a bit more formalized with 54 holes on the Stadium Course. The subtraction of amateurs will give the Tour a chance to mess around with tee-box positioning and, more importantly, pin placement as the pros are usually able to take advantage of easy putting conditions that have led to winning scores nearing the 30-under mark. The event is still likely to become a birdie fest on such short par-72 courses by today's standards, though trouble looms in the desert as driving accuracy plays a factor this week.
Key Stats to Victory
Proximity: 150-175 yards
SG: Putting (bermuda)
Birdie or better percentage
Yahoo Value Picks
Based on $200 salary cap
Cream of the Crop
Patrick Cantlay - $42
Rising to the top of the odds board, the California native became the betting favorite this week following the withdrawal of World No. 2 Jon Rahm, who tweaked something in the gym back home in Scottsdale prior to his originally planned trip to La Quinta. Cantlay tied for ninth at the 2019 American Express in his only appearance at the event since the Stadium Course was featured. Additionally, Cantlay is on the positive side of each Strokes Gained subcategory this season, but he's also top-12 among the AmEx field in both SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Off-the-Tee over his last 24 rounds. Cantlay's salary coming in at $4 less than Sungjae Im's doesn't make a ton of sense, especially given the latter most recently lost three strokes on his approaches en route to a finish outside the top-50 at the Sony Open.
Abraham Ancer - $40
Especially when you dive into the metrics, Ancer's missed cut in Honolulu last week actually aids in the decision to include him here as casual gamers may simply view the recent MC and deflate his rostership as a result. Those who examine his performance through a different lens, however, will notice that Ancer failed to advance to the weekend by just one shot despite losing nearly three strokes putting in 36 holes. He also lost over 1.5 strokes around the green, but these abominable short-game numbers are unlikely to continue at PGA West. Ancer is a collective 40-under-par across two American Express showings since 2019, notably earning runner-up honors here last year. He's 10th in driving accuracy over his last 50 rounds and 14th in GIR percentage over his last 36.
Russell Henley - $37
The course history buffs will be all aboard the "fade Henley" train this week, having racked up three consecutive missed cuts and no historical finish better than a T49 at the American Express. But Henley's recent form speaks for itself, actually grading No. 1 in my mixed condition custom model via Fantasy National. He's second in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green over his last 24 rounds, fifth in overall proximity and sixth in proximity: 150-175 yards over his last 36 rounds, and ninth in driving accuracy over his last 50 rounds. Henley is at his best with the flat stick on bermuda surfaces and he's gained an impressive average of 4.2 strokes per event on his approaches throughout his last 10 measured starts.
Cameron Champ - $35
Champ's length off the tee has allowed him to rank top-10 in SG: OTT over his last 24 rounds, and that power lets him get selective and take less than driver when precision is favored. This is key for the Sacramento native, who'll be able to choose when to deplore the driver-wedge vs. fairway-iron strategy at PGA West. Champ's putting has been fairly horrendous since The Northern Trust in August, but he gained an average of 2.9 strokes per event from tee-to-green over his last five tournaments and he's 13th in birdie-or-better percentage this season. Champ tied for 21st in his AmEx debut last year.
Erik van Rooyen - $34
Much like the aforementioned Ancer, van Rooyen was terrible on and around the greens en route to a missed cut at the Sony Open, but the South African was stellar with his irons as he gained 3.6 strokes on approaches in 36 holes. EVR is top-10 in both overall proximity and proximity from over 200 yards throughout his past 36 rounds, so he should be at an advantage on the par-3s at PGA West despite this being his maiden appearance at the venue. He's also 10th in SG: Off-the-Tee over his last 24 rounds and 16th in par-breaker percentage over his last 50.
Keegan Bradley - $28
Even after a missed cut at the Sony Open, Bradley jumps off the page from a ball-striking perspective as he paces this week's field in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green over his last 24 rounds. He's also second in proximity from 150-175 yards and 22nd in proximity from over 200 yards throughout his past 36 rounds. Bradley's putting is a major concern, but he's gained 2.3 or more strokes on his approach shots in six consecutive measured events and he's 4-for-4 in made cuts at the AmEx.
Emiliano Grillo - $28
Grillo is similar to Bradley in the sense that lousy putting can hinder their floors, but it hasn't impacted Grillo to the same extent as of late. The Argentinian has managed to make the cut in 12 of 13 starts dating to a T3 at the 3M Open in late July. He's even gained an average of 0.3 strokes with the flat stick through his past five measured tournaments. Grillo leads this week's field in proximity over his past 50 rounds as well as opportunities gained over his last 50, which measures the accumulation of legitimate birdie/eagle chances.
Sepp Straka - $25
Straka, who tied for fourth at 20-under-par here last season, ranks seventh in SG: Approach over his last 24 rounds and 13th in birdie or better percentage over his last 50. The upside is evident if Straka can keep it in play off the tee. He just posted a scoring average of 65.67 throughout his final three rounds at the Sony Open where he ultimately tied for 25th and gained nearly four strokes on his approaches.
John Huh - $20
Huh will be making his 2021 debut after stringing together results of T20-T12-T48-T19 from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open through the Mayakoba Golf Classic to close out his 2020 calendar year on a high note. The $20 minimum salary is related more-so to his Official World Golf Ranking of 360th rather than his solid combination of recent form and course history. He tied for third at the 2018 American Express and he's top-30 in SG: Approach, driving accuracy, GIR percentage and birdie average this season.