The PGA Tour begins its California Swing with the American Express. The American Express is normally a ProAm, and normally features a 3-course rotation. Both of these will be different this time around. Due to COVID restrictions there will be no amateurs, and there will only be a 2-course rotation.
The two courses will be the PGA West Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Golfers will play one round on PGA West, one round on the Nicklaus Course and then there will be a cut. Top 65 and ties will make the cut, and the weekend will be played on PGA West. Both courses are a Par 72 with Bermuda Greens.
My handicapping process started this week by reviewing winning scorecards from previous winners. In doing so, I found that SG Off-the-Tee, SG Approach, Greens-in-Regulation, Par 5 Scoring, and Par 4 Scoring were the key stats for this week. There are four Par 5s, ten Par 4s, and four Par 3s. The Par 5s will be very scoreable, scoring on the Par 4s will be critical to keeping up with the field, and Pars on the Par 3s are good scores. Over the last 5 years the winner has averaged 27 birdies in victory, and the winning score will be -20 or better.
Pete Dye designed PGA West Stadium Course, so I looked at other Pete Dye designs to see which golfers have fared well on his courses. Recent Pete Dye designs on the PGA Tour are the RBC Heritage, Travelers Championship, and the Players Championship (2018, 2019).
Pebble Beach is another correlated course I looked at because it is also a ProAm under normal circumstances. Pebble Beach is also a California course, and there is course rotation as well.
Key Stats: SG Off-the-Tee, SG Tee-to-Green, SG Approach, Greens-in-Regulation, Putting Average, SG Putting
Scoring Stats: Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 3 Scoring Average, Bogey Avoidance, and Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards).
American Express Tips
Scottie Scheffler 19-1 (Fanduel)
Scheffler did not play at the Sony Open last week, but he played at the Sentry Tournament of Champions where he finished T13th at -17. In his debut at the American Express last year, Scheffler finished T3rd. Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Scheffler ranks: 3rd Off-the-Tee, 2nd Tee-to-Green, 19th Putting Average, 20th Approach, 1st in Birdie or Better Percentage, 1st Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, 1st Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards), and 16th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage. The cherry on top is a T4 at the Players Championship in 2019, a Pete Dye designed course. An elite scorer, at a course where it will be a birdie-fest. Scheffler’s game sets up well for this type of event and I expect him to be at the top of the leaderboard.
Abraham Ancer 33-1 (Fanduel)
Ancer is coming off a Missed Cut at the Sony Open, an event where he drove the ball well but struggled on the Greens. Ancer does not usually miss cuts so I’ll be “buying low” on a golfer who is consistent, and is normally a decent putter. In this field, Ancer is 16th Off-the-Tee, 19th Tee-to-Green, 25th Putting, 5th Par 3 Scoring Average, 6th Bogey Avoidance, and 25th Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards). Ancer has played this event three times and he has made the cut each time. In 2019, Ancer finished T18th and in 2020 Ancer finished 2nd. At Pete Dye designed courses, Ancer has fared well. A 2nd place finish at the RBC Heritage in 2020, back-to-back Top 20 finishes at the Travelers Championship, and a T15th at the Players Championship in 2019. Ancer will need to play error-free golf and he will find himself in the hunt come Sunday.
Brian Harman 75-1 (Fanduel)
This is a great number for a relatively consistent golfer, and I’ve seen him as low as 50-1 at other books. Harman played in the Sony Open where he didn’t play exceptionally well. He shot under Par every day which is encouraging. He’ll need to be more consistent on the Greens this week in order to achieve the low score that will be required to win this event. In this field, Harman is 4th in Putting Average, 24th in Birdie or Better Percentage, 9th in Bogey Avoidance, 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 16th in Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards). Over his last 5 appearances at the American Express, Harman has 4 made cuts. He missed the cut in 2019. The other four finishes were: T21, T20, T3, and T11. Harman finished T8th at the Players Championship in 2019, T8th at the Travelers Championship in 2019, and a T6th in the Travelers Championship in 2018. On the last 8 Pete Dye designed courses that have been played on Tour, Harman has 5 Top 30 finishes.
Doc Redman 110-1 (DraftKings)
This is a hugeee number on a guy who has shown Top 10 upside. Doc has not played since the RSM Classic in November. During the Fall Swing, Doc played 6 total events and notched 2 Top 5 finishes. In this field, Doc is 5th Approach, 7th Greens-in-Regulation, 14th Off-the-Tee, 15th Tee-to-Green, 19th Bogey Avoidance, 6th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 13th Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards). Redman played on two Pete Dye courses in 2020, notching a T11th at the Travelers Championship, and a T21st at the RBC Heritage. In his debut at the American Express last year, Doc finished T29th. Doc is a great ball-striker who will find himself with plenty of birdie opportunities.
Kevin Streelman 120-1 (Fanduel)
Streelman is a longshot but he is a guy who has played well on Pete Dye courses, at Pebble Beach, and has decent course history at this event. In this field, Streelman is 24th Tee-to-Green and 10th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage. Streelman’s Pete Dye course history was the major component of this handicap. At the RBC Heritage in 2019, Streelman finished T6th and finished T7th in 2018. At the Travelers Championship from 2018-2020, Streelman has finished: T33rd, T15th, and 2nd. 3 Top 10s on Pete Dye courses in recent years makes him worth consideration, but his performance at Pebble Beach is what solidified him on my betting card. From 2016-2020 at Pebble Beach, Streelman has finished: T17th, T14th, T6th, T7th, and 2nd. 120-1 is a great number for a golfer who has legitimate top 5 upside. He will also be a big part of my Top Finishing betting card.