Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's The American Express Tips

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We didn’t snag 55/1 winner Cameron Smith last week – congratulations if you did. The wind certainly made things intriguing at the Sony Open coming down the stretch, with Brendan Steele blowing a 2 shot lead with 2 holes to play. It’s rarely easy to win on the PGA Tour as we have seen from both perspectives so far in 2020, with Thomas snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and vice-versa with Steele at Waialae.

Low scoring is the key this week as the PGA Tour reaches California for the freshly sponsored The American Express at PGA West. It was latterly known as the Desert Classic or CareerBuilder Challenge, but I’ll always remember this as the Bob Hope Classic. It used to be played over 4 courses and 5 days, but thankfully this Pro-Am now takes in 3 resort courses over a traditional 4-day format. Low scoring yet again will be the order of the day and, with light winds forecast, we could well see something similar to Adam Long’s 2019 total of -26/262 being needed to grab the $1,062,000 first prize and a coveted Masters invite for those who haven’t received a letter through the post recently.

Before we go into the detail surrounding The American Express, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private Facebook Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

2020 Majors Competition Sponsored By bet365: bet365

Following on from the success of the last 8 annual GBS Majors competitions, bet365 have kindly offered to sponsor the 2020 edition with a massive £250 CASH prize fund! Our 2020 winner will receive £150 (or currency equivalent) in cash with additional £75 and £25 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2020 Masters and get those 4 names entered into the competition by one of the methods detailed on our rules page here. Best of luck all!

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Course Guide: A 3-course rotation always makes the Desert Classic a unique proposition on the PGA Tour. The PGA West facility hosts 3 of the 4 rounds at the TPC Stadium Course (Host Course) and Tournament courses. The TPC Stadium course hosts 36 holes including the final round. A 5 mile drive is required to the 3rd course in the tournament rotation, namely La Quinta Country Club. This tournament is the ultimate resort course challenge with 3 short Par-72 courses featuring extremely receptive and pure TifDwarf Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis green complexes.

TPC Stadium, PGA West, Palm Springs, California: Designer: Pete Dye, 1986; Course Type: Desert, Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,113 yards; Fairways Bermudagrass with Ryegrass; Rough: Bermudagrass with Ryegrass, 2″; Greens: TifDwarf Bermudagrass with Poa Trivialis; Stimpmeter: 11ft; Course Scoring Average 2016: 70.82 (-1.18), Difficulty Rank 41 of 50 courses. 2017: 71.59 (-0.41), Difficulty Rank 30 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.18 (-0.82), Difficulty Rank 36 of 51 courses. 2019: 70.24 (-1.76), Difficulty Rank 40 of 49 courses.

Tournament Course, PGA West: Designer: Jack Nicklaus, 1987; Par: 72; Length: 7,159 yards; Greens: TifDwarf Bermudagrass with Poa Trivialis; Tournament Stimp: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2016: 68.94 (-3.06), Difficulty Rank 49 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.74 (-1.26), Difficulty Rank 39 of 50 courses. 2018: 69.45 (-2.55), Difficulty Rank 50 of 51 courses. 2019: 69.06 (-2.94), Difficulty Rank 48 of 49 courses.

La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta: Designer: Lawrence Hughes, with Pascuzzo re-design, 1999: Par 72; Length: 7,060 yards; Greens: 4,000 sq.ft Bermudagrass with Ryegrass and Poa Trivialis; Tournament Stimp: 11; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.68 (-1.32), Difficulty Rank 41 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.49 (-2.51), Difficulty Rank 41 of 43 courses. 2017: 69.64 (-2.36), Difficulty Rank 49 of 50 courses. 2018: 68.83 (-3.17), Difficulty Rank 51 of 51 courses. 2019: 68.72 (-3.28), Difficulty Rank 49 of 49 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Stadium (Host Course) and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 53 yards wide; 275:58; 300:63; 325:58; 350:62.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 39 yards wide; 275:38; 300:33; 325:29; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:26; 325:25; 350:24.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:27; 300:28; 325:28; 350:24.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:25; 300:24; 325:23; 350:22.
  • Conway Farms: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:29; 300:29; 325:26; 350:28.
  • TPC Boston: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:34; 300:32; 325:31; 350:32.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus designs include:

Pete Dye:

  • Whistling Straits (2010 and 2015 PGA Championship)
  • Ocean Course – Kiawah Island (2012 PGA Championship)
  • TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
  • TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship
  • Harbour Town – RBC Heritage
  • TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
  • Crooked Stick (2012 and 2016 BMW Championship).

Jack Nicklaus:

  • Valhalla Golf Club (2014 PGA Championship)
  • Glen Abbey (2008, 2009, 2012, 2015 – 2018 RBC Canadian Open)
  • Montreaux GCC – Barracuda Championship
  • PGA National, Champions Course – Honda Classic
  • Muirfield Village Golf Club – The Memorial
  • Sherwood Country Club – Thousand Oaks – (World Challenge through 2013)
  • Annandale Golf Club – (Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013)
  • PGA West – Nicklaus Private (Humana Challenge through 2015)

Course Overview: Since 2012, this tournament has played a 3-course rota over 72 holes. 2016 saw the TPC Stadium Course added to the rota as the host course (36 holes including the final round) and the Nicklaus Tournament Course was also added for the very first time. TPC Stadium hosted a round of the Bob Hope Classic back in 1987 and has been home to the PGA Tour Q-School numerous times including 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012. The Nicklaus-designed Tournament Course shared hosting duties across these Q-Schools as well.

The TPC Stadium host course is a Pete Dye design and is viewed by many as the sequel to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. The course features its own island 17th hole which will play as a 165 yard par-3 this week. As per last year, TPC Stadium will play as a 7,113 yard, Par 72 and has plenty of water in play. With a scoring average of 70.24 in 2019 it had a difficulty rank of 40 of 49 courses on the PGA Tour last season, in comparison to 48th for the Tournament Course and 49th for La Quinta.

Statistically TPC Stadium is an interesting course where flagrant power is seemingly negated a little. The par-5s played tough – 13th hardest on Tour for Birdie or Better Conversion – 12 months ago, especially compared to both the par-3s and par-4s which yielded plenty of birdies. That comes across in the Going for the Green statistics where TPC Stadium ranked in the lowest 10 courses on Tour where players were aggressive. Those that went for the green saw little success – Hit Green %: 12th lowest – Birdie or Better: 5th lowest. Brute power alone doesn’t work here – instead crisp wedge play from within 125 yards is critical. Scrambling on the course is easy for these PGA Tour pros and the TifDwarf Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis greens are pure enough that One-Putt Percentages have been the best, 6th best, 2nd best and 6th best on the PGA Tour over the course of its opening 4 appearances on the Tour.

With warm and calm conditions forecast, both the Tournament Course (look for Nicklaus course experts) and La Quinta Country Club are there to be taken apart. Both of these courses ranked as the easiest and 2nd easiest courses on the whole of the PGA Tour in 2019. And as we know, the PGA Tour likes low scoring.

The Desert Classic follows a pro-am format similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach but with the pro-am being played across the first 3 days of competition as opposed to all 72 holes. A cut is then made for the final round at the TPC Stadium Course venue on Sunday. If more than 78 golfers survive the scheduled cut then only the top 60 players and ties will play. A 156 player field allied to the pro-am nature makes for painfully slow play which some players can’t handle.

This tournament is a testament to US resort-style golf – go low or go home, it’s that simple. Since 2012 when the tournament moved to a conventional 72-hole format, -24/264, -25/263, -29/259, -22/266, -25/263, -20/268, -22/266 and -26/262 have been the winning totals. Birdie or better conversion rates at 36% (2012), 38% (2013), an astonishing 44% (2014 by Patrick Reed), 32% (2015), 42%, 36%, 38% and 36% (Adam Long12 months ago) are traditionally some of the highest we see all year.

the american express tips

Winners: 2019: Adam Long (-26); 2018: Jon Rahm (-22); 2017: Hudson Swafford (-20); 2016: Jason Dufner (-25); 2015: Bill Haas (-22); 2014: Patrick Reed (-29); 2013: Brian Gay (-25); 2012: Mark Wilson (-24).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Kevin Kisner, Brendan Steele, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Brendon Todd, J.T. Poston, Vaughn Taylor, Brian Gay and Phil Mickelson.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the ZOZO Championship and Portugal Masters, which includes PGA Tour, European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Golf Tour) events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Scott Brown / Nick Taylor; 4) Lucas Glover; 5) Tyler Duncan / Chase Seiffert / Kyle Stanley / Brian Stuard / D.J. Trahan; 10) Vaughn Taylor; 11) Billy Horschel / Chez Reavie / Josh Teater; 14) Doc Redman; 15) Henrik Norlander; 16) Ryan Armour / K.H. Lee; 18) Ben Crane / Wyndham Clark; 20) Adam Long.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Daniel Berger; 2) Nick Taylor; 3) Danny Lee; 4) Paul Casey / D.J. Trahan; 6) Cameron Champ / Sungjae Im / Henrik Norlander; 9) Matthew NeSmith; 10) Abraham Ancer / Max Homa; 12) Kyle Stanley / Brendon Todd; 14) Tony Finau / Brendan Steele / Aaron Wise; 17) Billy Horschel / Russell Knox; 19) Adam Long / Matthew Wolff.
  • Scrambling: 1) Byeong Hun An; 2) Brendon Todd; 3) Matthew Wolff; 4) Francesco Molinari; 5) Jason Dufner / Denny McCarthy; 7) Cameron Champ; 8) Maverick McNealy / Adam Schenk; 10) Scottie Scheffler / Vaughn Taylor; 12) Alex Noren; 13) Nate Lashley / Chez Reavie; 15) Sebastian Munoz; 16) Abraham Ancer / Daniel Berger / Zach Johnson; 19) Harris English / Martin Laird / Danny Lee / Rob Oppenheim.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Bronson Burgoon; 2) Sungjae Im / J.T. Poston / Brendon Todd; 5) Ricky Barnes; 6) Byeong Hun An / Brian Gay; 8) Aaron Baddeley / Paul Casey; 10) Vaughn Taylor / Matthew Wolff; 12) Kevin Na; 13) Max Homa; 14) Scottie Scheffler; 15) Danny Lee; 16) Harry Higgs / Francesco Molinari / D.J. Trahan; 19) Billy Horschel; 20) Kevin Kisner / Ben Martin.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the ZOZO Championship and Portugal Masers, which includes both PGA and European Tour events where recorded. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Matthew Wolff; 2) Cameron Champ / Byeong Hun An; 4) Sungjae Im; 5) Scott Harrington; 6) Daniel Berger / Max Homa; 8) Cameron Davis / Maverick McNealy / Chase Seiffert; 11) Rickie Fowler; 12) Scott Brown / Harry Higgs; 14) Paul Casey; 15) Tony Finau; 16) Brendon Todd; 17) D.J. Trahan; 18) Kramer Hickok / Cameron Tringale / Vincent Whaley.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Scott Stallings; 2) Byeong Hun An; 3) Cameron Tringale; 4) Paul Casey / Carlos Ortiz / Scottie Scheffler; 7) Abraham Ancer / Jimmy Walker; 9) Rickie Fowler / Vaughn Taylor; 11) Max Homa; 12) Alex Noren; 13) Cameron Champ / Chesson Hadley / Russell Knox; 16) Francesco Molinari / Brendan Steele / Matthew Wolff; 19) Kevin Na; 20) Tom Hoge.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Ricky Barnes; 2) Rickie Fowler; 3) Denny McCarthy; 4) Kevin Na; 5) Byeong Hun An / Sepp Straka; 7) Rob Oppenheim; 8) Bill Haas; 9) Alex Noren / Tim Wilkinson; 11) Martin Laird; 12) Kramer Hickok; 13) Cameron Champ; 14) Matthew Wolff; 15) Roger Sloan / Ben Taylor; 17) Kevin Streelman; 18) Scott Harrington / Max Homa  D.J. Trahan.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Byeong Hun An; 2) Rickie Fowler; 3) Cameron Tringale; 4) Scottie Scheffler; 5) Paul Casey / Alex Noren; 7) Daniel Berger / Matthew Wolff; 9) Cameron Champ; 10) Bill Haas; 11) Max Homa / Russell Knox; 13) D.J. Trahan; 14) Abraham Ancer; 15) Vaughn Taylor / Jimmy Walker; 17) Scott Stallings; 18) Chase Seiffert; 19) Francesco Molinari; 20) Brendon Todd.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Denny McCarthy; 2) Rhein Gibson / Nick Watney; 4) Matthew Wolff; 5) Rickie Fowler / Austin Cook; 7) Dominic Bozzelli; 8) Scottie Scheffler; 9) J.T. Poston; 10) Henrik Norlander / Patton Kizzire; 12) Sungjae Im / Nate Lashley / Brendon Todd; 15) Cameron Champ; 16) Tyler Duncan / Billy Horschel / Andrew Putnam / Cameron Tringale; 20) Mark Anderson.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Denny McCarthy / Scottie Scheffler; 3) Rickie Fowler; 4) Cameron Tringale; 5) Byeong Hun An / Henrik Norlander; 7) Matthew Wolff; 8) Vaughn Taylor; 9) Cameron Champ; 10) Nick Watney; 11) Brendon Todd; 12) Abraham Ancer / Paul Casey / Sungjae Im; 15) Scott Stallings; 16) Matthew NeSmith; 17) Max Homa / Sebastian Munoz; 19) Chase Seiffert; 20) Charles Howell III / Russell Knox / Alex Noren.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Adam Long 600/1; 2018: Rahm 10/1; 2017: Swafford 66/1; 2016: Dufner 40/1; 2015: Haas 30/1; 2014: Reed 135/1; 2013: Gay 80/1; 2012: Wilson 125/1; 2011: Vegas 200/1; 2010: Haas 100/1. Past 6 Renewals Average: 146/1. Overall Average: 139/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Mostly cloudy and rainy. High of 66. Wind SE 6-12 mph. Due to fog, play at La Quinta Country Club was delayed one hour (9:30 a.m. start) and delayed at the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament Courses one hour, 15 minutes (9:45 a.m. start). Friday: Sunny. High of 74. Wind NW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny. High of 75. Wind light and variable 4-8 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 74. Wind SE 4-8 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 78. Wind variable 4-8 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 78. Wind variable 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 65. Wind NW 20-30 mph, with gusts to 40 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 66. Wind variable 4-8 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Overcast, with light morning rain. Mostly sunny in the afternoon, with a high of 64. Wind W 8-15 mph. Friday: Overcast, with intermittent rain throughout the day. High of 61. Wind NE to SSE 8-15 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 63. Wind NW 10-15 mph, with gusts of 25 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with intermittent rain throughout the day. High of 61. Wind SSE 8-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Clear skies with an afternoon high of 74 degrees. Wind SE 4-8 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 73 degrees. Wind SE 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 71 degrees. Wind SE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with an afternoon high of 82 degrees. Wind NW 7-15 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for La Quinta, California is here. Weather in the main looks okay for The American Express, despite little rain in the Californian desert, greens are always watered and responsive here. No rain is expected for tournament week, and expect minimal breeze. The only twist could be cold temperatures. 15-17 degrees Celsius is on the cool side for this tournament, with 19 degrees Celsius forecast for Sunday.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2019, Adam Long (-26). 291 yards (28th), 69.6% fairways (12th), 70.8% greens in regulation (41st), 29’5″ proximity to hole (30th), 85.7 % scrambling (7th), 1.51 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2018, Jon Rahm (-22). 310 yards (5th), 64.3% fairways (28th), 72.2% greens in regulation (20th), 328″ proximity to hole (31st), 75.0 % scrambling (21st), 1.56 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2017, Hudson Swafford (-20). 307 yards (5th), 55.4% fairways (61st), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 30’2″ proximity to hole (27th), 71.4 % scrambling (30th), 1.66 putts per GIR (24th).
  • 2016, Jason Dufner (-25). 290 yards (49th), 75.0% fairways (5th), 75.0% greens in regulation (15th), 30’6″ proximity to hole (20th), 72.2 % scrambling (40th), 1.54 putts per GIR (5th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 22nd, Driving Accuracy: 27th, Greens in Regulation: 19th, Proximity to Hole: 27th, Scrambling: 25th, Putting Average 10th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, Adam Long (-26). SG Off the Tee: 40th, SG Approach: 43rd, SG Around the Green: 30th, SG Tee to Green: 46th, SG Putting: 9th.
  • 2018, Jon Rahm (-22). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 60th, SG Tee to Green: 12th, SG Putting: 28th.
  • 2017, Hudson Swafford (-20). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 71st, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 44th.
  • 2016, Jason Dufner (-25). SG Off the Tee: 26th, SG Approach: 42nd, SG Around the Green: 8th, SG Tee to Green: 23rd, SG Putting: 14th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 18th, SG Approach: 24th, SG Around the Green: 42nd, SG Tee to Green: 22nd, SG Putting: 23rd.

So let’s take a view from players as to how the American Express sets up with the 3-course rotation and what skill sets the course favours:

Adam Long: “I had some pretty good hopes, I guess, because I played well in my practice rounds and made a lot of birdies and felt pretty good leading up to Thursday, so I would have been surprised had I not had a good start. But yeah, it’s three awesome golf courses and you hit fairways and greens and you can make a lot of putts because these greens on all three courses are just perfect. So you can make them from all over. I played here for Q-School in 2011, so, yeah, it’s been a bit. I think a junior tournament too before that. But been here a few times, but it’s a great place to play golf and, yeah, I’ve had good mojo here and hope to keep it going.”

Jon Rahm: “This area, the courses are always in really, really good shape, so it’s tough to pick one. But just because I’m familiar with it I would say the Nicklaus, just because I played it, I mean, this would be about my ninth round on this golf course, so I know it pretty good. But again, I feel like any other person, when you have a good day, any course is fit for you. It’s about making good shots. Well, yeah, I mean I’ve been living in this area for five years and most of the college tournaments we played was around here, so exactly, we played here – we played the Norman course as well – I’m just familiar with this type of golf course.

The Stadium Course, it’s a Pete Dye design, where I played four years of my life, it’s a Pete Dye design. Very, very similar type of golf. You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important. With the small greens, you have water in play, you need to be more precise, clearly the hardest golf course. If you can have 5- or 6-under there you’re going to pick up a lot of shots. So hopefully have an organized round like I did yesterday, not have to fight too much to shoot under par.

Hudson Swafford (TPC Stadium): “Absolutely, yeah, no, this is a tough golf course. When you come to the desert, all you think is birdies, usually the scores yield birdies. But this Stadium Course has kind of changed that. I know there is a lot of good rounds out here, but one errant shot, it’s very penalizing. So you got to be super patient on this golf course.

Jason Dufner: “I came out before I went to Sony and played these golf courses, both of them, twice. Spent some time out here practicing and playing. So I felt good. We have had some great weather, obviously that helps. The courses are in great shape. So I’m pretty comfortable right now.

The Stadium Course, it’s a difficult golf course. There’s a little bit of room to play off the tee, in my opinion, but if you get off the path a little bit, you can get into some trouble. He’s got some water out there, he’s got some tricky bunkers, you get some uneven lies here and there. The greens kind are difficult. They run on some angles and there’s some slope. So it’s definitely the most difficult of the courses we have played here in the desert area. But today it just was one of those days, but I had a wedge in my hand. So just be aggressive. I know that, if I miss, it’s a soft fade to the right, so I can manage that.

Kevin Na: “It’s quite a bit of a change. The Nicklaus, no. But the Stadium, yes. We get to play these courses every year and you get comfortable. You don’t even have to have play a practice round, you just want to go out and – we’re playing holes just to see how the course is playing, how it’s bouncing, the firmness or the wetness, whatever the rough might be. But it’s a big change. I think the Stadium’s going to play a lot more difficult than the Palmer Course, in my opinion. But the Nicklaus Course will be about the same.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the 4 winners since the tournament moved to the current course rota:

  • 2019 – Adam Long: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2018 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2017 – Hudson Swafford: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2016 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the 4 winners since the tournament moved to the current course rota and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Adam Long: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2018 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2017 – Hudson Swafford: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: level, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 2 ahead.

Form of winners since 2016:

  • Adam Long: MC Sony/MC RSM/MC Sanderson/63rd Safeway.
  • Jon Rahm: 2nd ToC/1st DPWTC/36th HSBC/MC Valderrama.
  • Hudson Swafford: 13th Sony/36th RSM/46th OHL/23rd HSBC/29th CIMB.
  • Jason Dufner: 9th Sony/1st Shark Shoot/9th RSM/40th OHL.

Course Rotation since 2016:

  • 2019 – Adam Long: Round 1: Tournament; Round 2: Stadium; Round 3: La Quinta.
  • 2018 – Jon Rahm: Round 1: La Quinta; Round 2: Tournament; Round 3: Stadium.
  • 2017 – Hudson Swafford: Round 1: La Quinta; Round 2: Tournament; Round 3: Stadium.
  • 2016 – Jason Dufner Round 1: Tournament; Round 2: Stadium; Round 3: La Quinta.

5 of the last 8 winners, namely Jason Dufner, Bill Haas (2015), Patrick Reed, Brian Gay and Mark Wilson, had all won PGA Tour titles on Bermudagrass greens prior to capturing the title here in La Quinta. Jon Rahm extends that trend to a degree, on the basis he’d won the DP Tour Championship on the European Tour at the Earth Course in November 2017, prior to winning this in January 2018.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 4 – Bill Haas, Zach Johnson.
  • 3 – Brian Gay, Billy Horschel.
  • 2 – Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Ben Crane, Jason Dufner, Matt Every, Rickie Fowler, Fabian Gomez, Russell Henley, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Kisner, Phil Mickelson, Scott Piercy, Jimmy Walker, Mark Wilson.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Aaron Baddeley, Cameron Champ, Austin Cook, Tyler Duncan, Harris English,  James Hahn, Max Homa, Charles Howell III, Mackenzie Hughes, Patton Kizzire, Martin Laird, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Francesco Molinari, Grayson, Murray, Sebastian Munoz, Seung-yul Noh, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, John Senden, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Steve Stricker, Brian Stuard, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd, D.J. Trahan, Jhonattan Vegas, Nick Watney, Aaron Wise.

Recent champions here include Vegas and defending champion Long (both Tour Rookies); Swafford, Perez, Hoffman (all 1st time PGA Tour winners); Trahan and Reed (1 Win at the time); Campbell (2 Wins); with Dufner, Gay (3 Wins) plus Wilson (4 wins). Bill Haas has won this title in both 2010 and 2015, being his 1st and 6th PGA Tour titles. The very elite Jon Rahm won this in 2018 – he had won 3 main Tour victories in 2017, one of which was a PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines. Pick the bones from that!

Defending champion Adam Long was a 600/1 shot prior to winning this. In 4 previous starts on the PGA Tour he had 3 Missed Cuts and a 63rd to his name. Again pick the bones from that! Rahm in 2018 had finished 2nd at Kapalua 2 weeks before winning this tournament. Hudson Swafford in 2017 finished 13th the week before at Waialae – he had been T3 after 54 holes. 2016 saw Jason Dufner win this after another positive showing the week before at Waialae. He ultimately finished 9th at the Sony Open, and had been 6th after 54 holes. He had also won the Franklin Templeton Shoot Out in late December with Brandt Snedeker.

So what’s the right recipe for success this week? In all honesty it’s very hard to gauge as it would be at a tournament where the average winning price over the past 6 renewals has been 146/1 and where the past 2 winners have been 600/1 and the 10/1 Favourite. If previous renewals are anything to go by then all types of player can thrive here, both the long bomber, accurate ball-striker and a player who has an incredible week with the putter. One thing to note since the tournament moved to its current 3-course rota is that no winner has started their campaign on the toughest TPC Stadium host course.

My The American Express Tips Are As Follows:

Scottie Scheffler 2pts EW 35/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Scottie Scheffler is a player I ‘ve been very impressed with since his promotion to the main Tour. It’s worth remembering that he led both the Regular Season and Finals points lists on the Korn Ferry Tour so is fully exempt this year. He’s undoubtedly tipped for great things.

Long off the tee, but far from flagrant, Scheffler ranks 30th for Greens in Regulation and 26th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, but it’s his scoring power that really excites. 5th for Birdie Average, 2nd for Total Birdies and 12th for Scoring Average are numbers that highlight a high class sort and in the top 55 for Proximity to Hole, he’s also more than equipped to create those conversion chances we need this week.

Form-wise, 7th at Old White TPC, 16th at the CC of Jackson, 3rd at Port Royal and 5th last time out at Seaside highlight a player who’s competitive at standard domestic PGA Tour stop-offs. He can also go low as -8/62 at Old White TPC, -9/62 at Port Royal and -7/63 at Seaside this season highlight more than adequately;  he also shot a -9/63 on Sunday at the Evans Scholars Invitational to win his first Korn Ferry title last May. Undoubtedly has the ability to go low and contend this week in an event littered with poor converters at the top of the market. Result: 3rd

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Vaughn Taylor 1.5pt EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Vaughn Taylor is playing some great stuff right now and I’m drawn to him on the basis he has such a stellar desert record. The 43 year-old who lives in Augusta, Georgia would like nothing more than an invite to The Masters, a tournament he finished 10th at in 2007 and last played in 2016, after he famously beat Phil Mickelson in a head-to-head at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He shot -17/270 to win that tournament and that is the deal with Vaughn, who loves to shoot low scores.

Back to his desert record which reads: TPC Scottsdale: 11th 2007, 7th 2010, 11th 2018. Montreux: 1st 2004, 1st 2005, 9th 2018. And he’s undoubtedly accomplished here at PGA West: 8th in 2008 came at -19/341, 10th in 2010 came at -22/338 and 7th here last year came with a total of -19/269. The sort who can navigate and strategise his way around a golf course, Taylor also has a handy record at Pete Dye designs finishing 3rd (2006) and 4th (2007) at Harbour Town; 8th in 2006 at TPC Sawgrass and 9th (2010) and 4th (2019) at TPC River Highlands.

With 18 holes at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tournament Course as part of this week’s tournament as well, his 2 wins at the Reno Tahoe Open were both on Nicklaus’s Montreux design. Last season was strong for the World Number 98, who as well as those aforementioned results here and at TPC River Highlands also finished 6th at TPC Deere Run and 16th at Medinah. But this season has really caught the eye with 2nd at El Camaleon (-19/265), 10th at Seaside and last week’s career-best 12th at Waialae. A first round +5/75 would have spelt curtains for many, but a -4/66 on Friday saw him make the cut on the number, and a weekend 66/67 weekend saw him jump 45 spots.

7th for Proximity to Hole, and 28th for Total Birdies so far this season is a combination I like with PGA West in mind this week. Result: T43

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Carlos Ortiz 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Very much upwardly mobile in the Official Golf World Rankings, Carlos Ortiz is another that shouts to be included for this week’s assignment. A very talented individual who won the 2014 Tour Player of the Year after winning 3 tournaments in his promotion season, Carlos has taken time to mature on the main Tour. But 2019 has undoubtedly seen the 28 year-old start to gain confidence and build momentum.

Progress actually started in the fall of 2018, when Carlos finished 3rd behind Cameron Champ at the Sanderson Farms Championship. From there the 2019 West Coast swing showed a little promise with 29th at Waialae and 9th at the high-class Riviera hosted Genesis Open. But huge strides have come from mid-summer onwards. 12th at Trinity Forest, 5th at TPC Twin Cities, 4th at the Country Club of Jackson, 4th at Golf Club of Houston and a hard charging 2nd behind Brendon Todd at his home event at El Camaleon, highlight a player who is growing before our eyes.

Most at home when eagles and birdies are attainable, 53rd last week at Waialae showed the ability to grind when a missed cut would have been the result previously, and I think the assignment this week will be very much more to Carlos’s liking. A -10/62 on Friday at La Quinta highlights exactly what this Mexican is capable of this week in the Californian desert. 13th for Scoring Average, 29th for Birdie Average and 22nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green so far this season, if the putter fires I think he has a huge chance this week. Result: T48

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Tom Hoge 1pt EW 200/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

All prices are in play this week at a tournament where 5 of the last 10 winners have been at triple-digit prices, and a long shot who caught my eye at a price last week at the Sony Open was Tom Hoge.

17 birdies in tough conditions at a tough Waialae was 6th best for birdie or better conversion alongside the likes of Corey Conners, Sungjae Im and Ryan Palmer, with Hoge shooting 68-67-68, after an opening 71. And when I compare courses where Tom has played well with the likes of 2017 winner here Hudson Swafford, there are plenty of similarities.

A journeyman sort who is now into his 6th season on the PGA Tour, Tom is at a career-high 215th in the OWGR and has produced results at the likes of Waialae, TPC Louisiana, Glen Abbey, Montreux, Old White TPC and Seaside. TPC Louisiana is a Pete Dye design where low scoring is a feature, and both Glen Abbey and Montreux are Nicklaus designs. 5th at the 2015 RBC Canadian Open hosted at Glen Abbey ties in well with 10th (2015), 4th (2017) and 6th (2019) at the Barracuda Championship, which is played at Montreux in the desert at Reno, Nevada. Played under Modified Stableford scoring rules, eagles and birdies are a huge currency at the Barracuda.

I also like another line of enquiry with Hoge, this time when it comes to green surfaces. The greens this week feature TifDwarf Bermudagrass base and that surface is shared with Waialae and Seaside (RSM Classic). Tom has finished 3rd (2018) and 12th (2020) at the former and 9th (2016) at the latter, making 7 cuts from 11 appearances. Form here is nothing to write home about, but neither was Swafford’s and I get the feeling with Tom Hoge that in a season where he has already landed his career best finish of 2nd at the Greenbrier Classic, this slow learner could be a feature with confidence boosted after from last week. Result: T6

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:00GMT 14.1.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.