American Express outrights and matchups betting preview

The Hawaiian swing comes to a close with Kevin Na claiming the Sony Open title after a battle down the stretch on Sunday. At one point there were around a dozen golfers in contention, including the three that I wrote up last week. Unfortunately, none of them could finish strong and our three golfers posted finishes of 4th, 7th, and 14th. Still a solid showing with a sweep in matchups and a Joaquin Niemann top-20. We now move on to California for the West Coast stretch of golf, which begins at the La Quinta resort in Palm Springs.

The American Express is typically the first of two Pro-Am tournaments but this year, due to the Covid pandemic, there will not be any amateurs competing. What this means for the pro golfers is that instead of the traditional three courses this event is spread across, only two will be used this year; The Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament course at PGA West. The first two days will be split between the two and the weekend rounds will both be played at the Stadium Course. 


The field

This week’s event is being played alongside a premier European Event in Dubai so a lot of the strong international players are overseas. However, this has not stopped a number of top players from making their way to Palm Springs. The field was planned to be headlined by World #2, Jon Rahm, but he has since withdrawn. The favorites are now Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, and Tony Finau.

Another notable name at the top of the board is Brooks Koepka making his first start of 2021. He is looking to stay healthy this season after injuries limited him throughout 2020. A few other premier names are Scottie Scheffler, Matthew Wolff, and Sungjae Im. Phil Mickelson, who’s foundation donated a million dollars towards the tournament non-profit fund, will also be competing.

The courses

As mentioned prior, this event will be split between two courses with three of the rounds being played at the Stadium Course. The golfers will play either their Thursday or Friday round at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. I’ll put my focus into the Stadium Course due to the three rounds being played there. The Nicklaus Course is the easier of the two anyways.

TPC Stadium Course

The Stadium Course at La Quinta resort was designed by the legendary Pete Dye, most known for TPC Sawgrass. This course was built as a counterpart to that course and the similarities can be found throughout, including the par-3 17th which features an island green that closely resembles the famous hole at the Players Championship. 

This par-72 measures roughly 7,100 yards. The par-3s offer the biggest challenges with one of them, the 6th hole, stretching to over 230 yards. The par-5s are by far the easiest holes and will need to be taken advantage of in order to move up the leaderboard. 

The Stadium Course features overseeded Bermuda which technically is not Bermudagrass. This closer resembles Bentgrass, which is the surface type I’ll be focusing on. 

In recent years, distance off the tee has been a big advantage around this course. It has allowed the golfers to take a more aggressive approach into the par-5s. Typically this event comes down to driving and putting but approach shouldn’t be forgotten. Many of the par-4s feature dogleg fairways that require golfers to focus more on placement off the tee than just driving. In the end, this tends to turn into a birdie fest. The winning score will almost certainly be better than 20-under par and the cut typically comes in around 6-under. 

Notable stats

  • Driving Distance
  • Strokes Gained: off the tee
  • Strokes Gained: approach
  • Proximity 150-175 yards
  • Proximity 200+ yards
  • Putting (bentgrass)

The American Express Betting Preview from Geoff Ulrich

Outright value

Brooks Koepka +2100

Player NameSG: OTTSG: APPProx: 150-175SG: PDr DistProx: 200+
Brooks Koepka23273778116
Koepka stats

I’m buying low on Brooks to start the year. He showed some signs of life near the end of the 2020 season, a season that was riddled with injuries. If healthy, Brooks is a top-10 golfer in the world every time he tees it up. Put him at a course where distance matters and he becomes that much better. 

His recent stats really are not as bad as some people make them out to be. He is gaining 3.6 strokes on approach over his last five starts. During that span, he also gained 4.5 strokes tee to green. The four time major champion will certainly be looking for a bounce back season and if healthy, 21/1 against this field is not giving him the respect he deserves.


Matthew Wolff +2300

Player NameSG: OTTSG: APPProx: 150-175SG: PDr DistProx: 200+
Matthew Wolff15414301113
Wolf stats

A course that combines distance and approach should suit perfectly for Matt Wolff. He is starting to form a reputation of inconsistency but certainly has winning upside. We still are not that far removed from his runner up finish at the US Open and his top-5 finish at the PGA. A missed cut at the Masters wasn’t a great way to end the year but he is teeing it up this week for the first time since then and hopefully is in good form.

He is top-5 in this field in Strokes Gained: Approach and 11th in length off the tee. He also tends to be dialed in from the two distances that we are focusing on: 150-175 yards and over 200 yards. The stats line up this week better than anyone else at the top of the betting board and he has certainly shown his ability to close out tournaments. You never really know which Wolff you will get but when his game is on, 23/1 is great value against this field.


Sam Burns +7000 (+1200 top-5)

Player NameSG: OTTSG: APPProx: 150-175SG: PDr DistProx: 200+
Sam Burns3658314319
Burns stats

Sam Burns is known for his ability to bomb it off the tee. What most people don’t think of with Burns is his ability to putt but he has actually gained strokes putting in 6 of his last 9 starts and a total of almost a full stroke on the field during that stretch. He is also starting to come around with his irons. Over the last 10 tournaments, he has gained 1.4 strokes on approach. 

He is coming off a top-10 finish in Houston to close out his 2020 season and is looking to make noise entering the new year. He has played this event each of the last two years and has posted finishes of 6th and18th. A driving and putting course that clearly Burns has an eye for. 70/1 is great value as well as 12/1 for top-5. I’m looking to invest in Burns early in the season and this is a great place to start.


Rickie stares into the distance
Rickie Fowler tees off from the 15th during the third round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament at the Detroit Golf Club in Detroit, Saturday, July 4, 2020.

Tournament matchups

Abraham Ancer -140 vs Kevin Na +117

I’m sticking with the “fade last week’s winner” strategy until it doesn’t work. Abe Ancer last week was locked in with his ball striking. He gained 2.5 strokes off the tee, 1.7 on approach, and 2.7 tee to green. He was abysmal on the greens but I expect him to get some putts to drop this week. Keven Na was clutch down the back nine on Sunday. This is something we have seen from him in the past, but not consistently. Fade the previous week’s champ. Plan for positive regression with the putter. Take Abe Ancer.

The pick: Abraham Ancer -140


For our guide to matchup betting in golf, read here.


Rickie Fowler -135 vs Lanto Griffin +113

Rickie Fowler has been struggling in a way that we have never seen throughout his career. The former Player’s champ, of course, has winning upside but we have not seen signs of that in the last few months. Shockingly, he has not posted a top-10 finish in his last 18 starts. And during this run, he has actually fallen out of the top-50 in the world rankings. I’m a big Rickie fan but until he shows any sort of form, I will gladly keep fading him. Lanto on the other hand made both cuts while in Hawaii. He is also top-30 in this field in approach and putting. These odds are clearly being skewed by Fowler’s name value. Not recent form.

The pick: Lanto Griffin +113


Finishing positions

Doc Redmon Top-10 +1200

Redmon was pretty inconsistent to end the 2020 calendar year but when he was on, he was on the first page of leaderboards. Looking closer into the events, the shorter courses is where he seemed to have more success (Bermuda, Wyndham, etc). Doc has specific lengths that he is better than others. He is 3rd in this field in proximity from 150-175 yards and also in the top-20 from approach over 200 yards. Both distances will come into play this week. This combination is good enough for me to see a top-10 in his future. I’ll be tempted into betting the 100/1 odds to win being offered by most books as well.


Tony Finau Top-10 +250

In theory, this course should set up perfectly for Tony Finau. He’s in the top-30 in all major stat categories, including 13th in strokes gained: off the tee, and 5th in driving distance. The ongoing theme of his career is his inability to close out tournaments and find the winners circle. That doesn’t stop him from being in contention. He finished inside the top-10 in 6 of his last 12 starts. He had a pretty poor showing to start the year with a 31st place finish at the Tournament of Champions, but hopefully has shaken off the rust and will be back in form for this week.


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