THE AMERICAN EXPRESS: After a couple of weeks in the Hawaiian sun the PGA Tour now skips across the Pacific to Southern California, where a strong field that includes 5 of the world’s top 7 players will do battle at an event that has been a fixture on the schedule for over 60 years.

Formerly the Bob Hope Classic, the tournament now known as The American Express has always been a pro-am held on multiple courses scattered throughout the Coachella Valley. It’s been a 3-course rotation in recent years, with PGA West Stadium serving as the primary host, meaning the players will see it once over the first three rounds and then again on Sunday.

The other two courses in use this week are PGA West Nicklaus and LaQuinta Country Club, which are both a bit easier than the Stadium and will be set up with the amateurs in mind, so scoring will be low. It’s taken 20-under or better to win this tournament in each of the past 16 years, with 200/1 longshot Hudson Swafford getting the job done last year at minus-23, and with four days of perfect Southern California weather in the forecast it’s difficult to imagine any of these courses putting up much of a fight, even the Stadium, where all the trouble and severity off the tee is mitigated by wide fairways and straightforward green complexes. The easiest of the bunch is LaQuinta, a shortish par-72 with minimal trouble and reachable par-5s that the players absolutely destroy. One thing’s for sure this week: there will be birdies, and lots of ’em.

2018 champion Jon Rahm, fresh of a victory at Kapalua, heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 7.9, and he’s a tough man to bet against these days. That said, we’ve gone a bit further down the board for our selections this week:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Tony Finau (18.0)- Though he’s played sparingly these past three months, Finau has been at peak form, winning the Houston Open back in November, finishing 7th at the Hero World Challenge in December, and then 7th again at Kapalua a couple of weeks ago, where he broke 70 all four rounds and finished the week at 21-under. He’ll need a similar type of performance to contend this week, but of course he knows that, and he seems awfully comfortable with the courses and laid-back pro-am format considering his past results in this event, which include a T14 in 2020 and solo 4th in 2021. It’s worth mentioning that, though the season is young, Finau currently ranks 7th in strokes gained putting and 9th in strokes gained tee-to-green, so he’s truly clicking on all cylinders at the moment. He’s worth a bet at 18.0.

Si Woo Kim (52.0)- I have to admit being taken aback by Kim’s price here. Not only did he just win the Sony last week, chasing down Hayden Buckley with a final round 64, but he also has an excellent record in this event that includes a victory in 2021 and a T11 last year. I realize it’s difficult to pull off back-to-back wins on the PGA Tour, but Kim has always been the streaky sort, and when we do see players go back-to-back, it oftentimes occurs in this early part of the season (at least it seems that way…). And Kim’s strong form isn’t just a 1-week thing, either– he played four Fall Series tournaments and didn’t miss a cut, logging a top-10 at the Shriners. You won’t find a better value in the 50/1 range.

Byeong Hun An (76.0)- After a year spent toiling in the wilderness of the Korn Ferry Tour, Benny An is back in the big leagues, and the form he displayed during his strong Fall Series run seems to have carried over to 2023 based on what we saw last week, when he closed with rounds of 65-66-67 to finish T12 at the Sony. Now he looks to keep it going at a tournament that has been good to him in the past– when An last teed it up here, in 2021, an opening-round 65 carried him to an 8th-place finish, his best result of that year. He’s a true dark horse contender this week, as nobody, and I mean nobody, is picking him to win or even contend, and yet he’s in excellent form, is very experienced, and logged a top-10 in this tournament just two years ago. Don’t be surprised if you see An on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.


DAQMAN Weds: Kempton NAP
DAQSTATS Weds: Kempton NAP
THE STRIKER Weds: MAN U v LEEDS
THE STRIKER Weds: Sunderland v Fulham (FA Cup)
THE EDGE Thurs: India v Australia 1st Test
PAT HEALY blog: The Perfect Festival!
THE WEEK AHEAD: Super Bowl week !!
previous arrow
next arrow