It’s time for the PGA Tour to start its west coast swing of 2021 with the 2021 American Express Tournament. The PGA Tour will be in California and Arizona until late February, when they start the Florida swing.

I think it’s safe to say that low scores will be expected this week. Last year’s champion, Andrew Landry, won the tournament at 28-under par. The last time a winning score was worse than 20-under par was in 2007. Prior to this, the winning score worse than 20-under par was 1989. While a playoff this week is possible, only three tournaments since 2013 have gone to a playoff. It looks like the NFL will have another week to itself.

Although, take these scores with a grain of salt. Prior to 2012, the PGA Tour played this tournament in five rounds, rather than the typical four. As well, the PGA Tour made cuts after 54 holes, making sure only low scores will advance, but this year they changed the policy to make the cut after 36 holes.

Television Coverage

Round One

NBC Sports Gold’s PGA Tour Live Featured Groups: 11:30 AM-7:00 PM EST

Golf Channel: 3:00 PM-7:00 PM EST

Round Two

NBC Sports Gold’s PGA Tour Live Featured Groups: 11:30 AM-7:00 PM EST

Golf Channel: 3:00 PM-7:00 PM EST

Round Three

Golf Channel: 3:00 PM-7:00 PM EST

Round Four

Golf Channel: 3:00 PM-7:00 PM EST

The Field at the 2021 American Express

Here are the top players to watch for this week. Odds are courtesy of Vegas Insider, as of January 18th.

Patrick Cantlay (+1400)

Patrick Cantlay enters the American Express as the favorite. Cantlay has finished in the top 25 in four of his last five starts on tour, including one at the Masters and two weeks ago a the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He also has a win in the 2020-21 season already, coming at the Zozo Championship @ Sherwood.

Brooks Koepka (+1800)

The four-time major winner comes into this week for his first start of 2021. It will be his first start in over a month, since he missed the cut at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico. Prior to the missed cut, he had two consecutive top 10s at the Vivint Houston Open and the Masters last fall. Because of his major wins, Koepka is one of the favorites this week, but he only has three regular tour wins, suggesting that he is probably not the player to raise the trophy this week.

Matthew Wolff (+2000)

Matthew Wolff looks to cement himself in the conversation as the top young player on tour. With his only win on tour coming at the 2019 3M Open, Wolff looked great in two of the three 2020 majors. After a tied fourth finish at the PGA Championship and a second place finish at the U.S. Open, Wolff looked to take momentum into 2021. Well, after after a tied second finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Wolff finished in 73rd, tied 50th, and a missed cut at the Masters. While he didn’t have a great finish to 2020, if Wolff has his A-game, he will be hard to beat.

Patrick Reed (+2000)

The 2014 champion looks to become a two-time champion. It would be the first two-time winner of this event since Phil Mickelson accomplished it in 2002 and 2004. Reed enters the week with five straight top 25 finishes, including a tied 21st in his first start of 2021 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Look for Reed to compete this week, but he’s a longshot to win it all.

Tony Finau (+2200)

Similar to Koepka, Tony Finau doesn’t seem to win regular tournaments. Well, Finau doesn’t win tournaments at all. With one win coming at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, Finau looks to capture his second career win this week. With a top 10 coming at his final tournament of 2020, Finau will be trying to continue his hot streak of pretending, not contending. If you are able to find a bet to have Finau finish in the top 10, I would recommend that before taking him to win the tournament.

The Course

The PGA West resort is the host of the 2021 American Express, as it is every year. The resort consists of six courses, with the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Course being played throughout the tournament. A par-72 course, the Stadium Course has been ranked as one of the top 100 courses to play in 2016 and 2017, as well as fourth on the top 50 toughest courses to play in 2007. This is the course that is played on Sunday in the final round.

The course has one of the more difficult closes on the PGA Tour. A long par-five that plays 600 yards in length challenges players on the approach to the green. Missing left can ruin rounds and change the tournament thanks to the 19-foot deep bunker next to the green.

It is also home to one of my favorite par-three holes on the PGA Tour, behind the 17th at TPC Sawgrass (the PLAYERS) and the 16th at TPC Scottsdale (the Waste Management Phoenix Open). Not so coincidentally, Rickie Fowler has won the PLAYERS and the Phoenix Open.

That hole is the 17th at the Stadium Course. Surround by water and rocks, this hole plays 168 yards and demands accuracy, especially when it is late on Sunday with a small lead.

The closing hole of the tournament is a 439 yard par-four with water along the left (similar to the 18th at TPC Sawgrass). Imagine facing this daunting approach shot tied or with a one-stroke lead on the 72nd hole on Sunday.

Weather

For the players that were in Hawaii, the weather may be a shock to their system. With chilly temperatures on the weekend, expect less distance and higher scores, keeping the leaders near even par in rounds three and four. I wouldn’t be surprised if the leader after round two will be the same one holding up the trophy on Sunday.

My Picks and Predictions

My Pick of the Week: Matthew Wolff (+2000)

I look for Matthew Wolff to find his A-game in California this week, finally capturing his second win after the 2019 3M Open. If you don’t feel comfortable taking him to win, betting a high finish should give out good odds as well.

Bet of the Week: Rickie Fowler (+3800) Over Abraham Ancer (+2800)

Fowler should give you odds of about +115 to beat Ancer for the week. I think it’s the matchup that has the best chances of winning that will give you plus-odds.

Score Prediction: 25-Under Par

Despite the format of the tournament shortening to four rounds in 2012, the tournament has not had a winner with a worse score than 20-under par. With low wind and medium temperatures on Thursday and Friday, I expect the trend to continue, perhaps the leaders will be at 17-under par or so going into the weekend.

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Hunter Brown
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Hunter Brown

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