Last week, Kevin Na (80-1) re-entered the winner’s circle, shooting a final round 65 to claim the Sony Open title over former winner, Chris Kirk, and bright, young star, Joaquin Niemann. It seems like every year Na finds a way to win an event through some combination of great iron play and spectacular putting. And every year I seem to miss that win for one reason or another. At least we got it out of the way for 2021. Next up, the American Express.
The course: This year’s American Express is different than years prior. Although it will still be at its usual location in La Quinta, California, the event is no longer being played as a pro-am due to Covid-19. Additionally, this year’s tournament will not be played on the La Quinta course as golfers will only be playing the Stadium and Nicklaus courses. There has also been word that the greens on the Stadium Course, where the weekend golf is played, have been redone with a new type of Bermudagrass that is both faster and more challenging. Both the Stadium and Nicklaus Course measure in just over7,100 yards for par 72’s and were designed by course architect Pete Dye.
Matthew Wolff (25-1)
We haven’t seen Matt Wolff tee it up in 2021, but something tells me the break did him well. Last year was his first full year playing a tour schedule and it showed down the stretch with finishes of 73rd, 50th, and an MC at Augusta. Prior to that bad form, Wolff was dominant, gaining at least 12 strokes total in 3 of 5 tournaments per Fantasynational.com. I think Wolff can do some damage here in a shootout event that has some correlation to the Shriners, where Wolff lost in a playoff.
Cameron Champ (35-1)
Cameron Champ is another young star who often gets lost in the mix. All the attention goes to guys like Wolff, Morikawa, and Hovland. But why? Champ is a two-time PGA Tour winner for crying out loud! He also has shown an ability to contend at Majors. As it pertains to the American Express, Champ thrives on shorter, bermudagrass courses like the ones he’ll see this week. And remember those two wins I mentioned earlier? Yep, both came on short, bermudagrass courses at the Safeway and Sanderson Farms.
Sam Burns (50-1)
Burns will round out the last of our outrights this week. Like the guys mentioned before him, Burns is a beast off the tee, something you need to contend at the American Express. Burns fits the mold in more ways than one: he ranks 3rd in the field in strokes gained total on courses shorter than 7200 yards with bermudagrass greens over the past 24 rounds and he ranks 11th in the filed in strokes gained total on Pete Dye designed courses over the same period. The golf community has been waiting a breakout win for Burns. Given the above and his 6th place finish here last year, this could be his week.
Patrick Cantlay T5 (3.5-1)
The picks in this section will be much more straightforward. Simply put, after Rahm’s withdrawal, Cantlay is the best player in this field. He is also the best player in the field on Pete Dye designed courses over the past 36 rounds. We’ve also seen him thrive in the desert, with a win and a second-place finish at the Shriners, another event comparable to the American Express.
Adam Hadwin T10 (6.5-1)
I promised to keep this section simple so I will. The five times Adam Hadwin has played this event, he has finished inside the top ten four times. An 80% ROI at 6.5-1 odds? Yes, please.
Longshots/Cheek(s) of the Week:
Sepp Straka (80-1) & Nate Lashley (250-1)
The Cheek(s) of the Week are back and better than ever. For this week’s cheeks, we are going with Sepp Straka and Nate Lashley. These two longshots are similar in that they have a nice combination of course history and statistical backing. Both golfers have only teed it up twice here but have shown promising return – Straka finished T4 in last year’s contest whereas Lashley has T29 and T12 at the event. Statistically, both guys rank inside the top 30 in strokes gained total over the past 24 rounds played on Pete Dye. Given that six of the last ten winners here were 80-1 or higher, I think they’re worth a shot.
All PGA odds taken from BetMGM Sportsbook