Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
CREDIT CARD ROULETTE
After two wonderfully dreamy weeks of golf coverage from Hawaiian paradise, the PGA Tour makes its mainland return for The American Express at PGA West (La Quinta) in the California Desert valley. This event was known to old-time golf fans forever as “The Bob Hope” and has memories riddled with celebrities from all walks of life playing alongside pros and even a famous round with the U.S. Presidents Ford, Bush, and Clinton in 1995. Since then, the celebrity pomp and circumstance has fizzled a bit but the pro-am format is there
The second stop on the Hawaii swing brought a fourth tour win for SI Woo Kim, an often streaky player that golf bettors know well as a bit of a spoiler. When streaky, pattern-resistant players win it often comes at a detriment, which was the case with my picks. Since I guess it’s not in the cards to pick the winner EVERY single week in 2023, I guess we’ll start a new streak this week in California.
BATTING AROUND THE ORDER
This week’s event is unique in that there is a rotation of THREE courses being played throughout the 72-hole event: La Quinta Country Club, the PGA West Nicklaus Course (a Golden Bear design), and the PGA West Stadium Course. This round-robin type format creates a frenetic handicapping system, and it’s infinitely harder to find course trends with so much variety playing out day by day. The focus has to be on who plays the event well ON THE WHOLE, and who’s trending out of Hawaii and ready to take their game to the mainland.
As for who is giving it a go this week, we’re quickly seeing the divide being the “designated” aka more important events versus the non-designated. Essentially the PGA Tour lifted the purse, intrigue, and PR around a set of about half of the events. The American Express is not one of them but the field is surprisingly solid at the top. Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Sam Burns, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and others are all out in the desert for the week. Last week’s winner Si Woo Kim is in the field as well and won here in 2021.
FORECASTING THE AMEX
With three courses on hand, it’s all a mixture of luck, timing, and daily form for who gets the best “draw” in this event. Brace for yet another birdie fest, as the winner has been at least -20 in each of the last 15 years. Find your hot putters and guys who hit lots of fairways, this is a batting average type of tournament where the winner will have the most birdie looks.
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for The American Express, I’m riding a couple of Hawaii heaters, and last year’s top performers at this wacky round-robin event.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At the Sony Open in Hawaii was sniffing around the league all week with my picks, but nobody closed on Sunday. Definitely a teaser of a week after picking the outright winner at Kapalua. Not very impressive to only get two in the top 20 so I give the picks a C-.
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Patrick Cantlay – He’s in my ONE spot this week because he’s a lock to finish high here and not ruin any roster this week. The runner-up a couple of years back is due to be a factor and seems to have an affinity to familiar Southern California tracks.
2: Will Zalatoris – The back seems to be on the mend, and Willy Z finished 6th here last year so I like the good vibes for him to be a factor as the sun sets over the mountains on Sunday.
3: Cameron Young – One of the more consistent finishers on tour has been a bit quiet as of late, but lots of analytical models have him playing well and competing here – the course particulars suit his ball flight and iron play nicely.
4: Taylor Montogmery – I may seem redundant, but Montgomery keeps the magic going with a sixth top 20, this time a tie for 12th at Waialae. Top 20 Taylor is back this week for more.
5: Rickie Fowler – Taking a quick flier on Rickie to start his 2023 campaign. You may have forgotten that Fowler notched two top tens in the fall and looks to continue to regain some younger form.
6: Denny McCarthy – Becoming a tour regular, McCarthy likes the valley and finished top 10 here last year. Due for a big week early in 2023.
RYP One and Done Pick: Patrick Cantlay
Where to watch: Golf Channel all weekend – shots of the mountains, The Valley, and loads of Palm Springs for the golf fans wasting away in a winter thaw.
Why to watch: The Amex is always a fun watch because birdies are everywhere and this event has a knack for wild finishes during crucial NFL Playoff moments.
What to eat: Avocado Toast and Eggs, everyone’s on a January diet there in PS.
Purse: $8 million
Winner’s Share: $1.44 million