After a couple of weeks in the island paradise of Hawaii, the PGA Tour moves to another great mid-winter location in the California desert at the American Express in La Quinta. The event returns to its normal pro-am format, with amateurs joining the professionals for the first three rounds on different courses before the pros who survive the 54-hole cut complete the tournament on single layout.
The tournament, which began in 1960 as the Palms Springs Golf Classic, was much better known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic from 1965 to 1985 when Chrysler joined as a name sponsor along with Hope. Until 2012, the event was played over 90 holes; the only one on Tour was more than 72 holes in duration.
La Quinta Country Club and two courses at PGA West, the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, serve as the host locations. The final round moves exclusively to the Stadium Course to determine the tournament champion. All three courses play to par 72, with the Nicklaus Tournament the longest at 7,159 yards.
All three layouts can yield low scores, with all of them having given up a 59 in professional competitions. Last year, with no fans or amateurs in attendance, Si Woo Kim outlasted Patrick Cantlay, who fired a final round 61, to win by a shot in the event that was played only on the PGA West courses due to Covid-19 concerns.
In last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, Hideki Matsuyama erased a five-shot deficit on the back nine to run down Russell Henley, who he defeated on the first hole of sudden death with an incredible second shot to within three feet of the pin on the par-five 18th hole which he then tapped in for an eagle three.
It was the reigning Masters champion’s eighth PGA Tour win, and he took over the lead in the FedEx Cup standings with the victory.
American Express Betting Odds
Jon Rahm, the top player in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and the runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago, is the favorite with odds of +500, followed by last year’s runner up and the 2021 FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay at +900.
With odds of +1600, U.S Ryder Cup team member Scottie Scheffler is still looking for his first PGA Tour title, followed by Sungjae Im at +1800 with Talor Gooch and Tony Finau at +2000.
Underdog Betting Picks
Eventually, Rickie Fowler at +6000 will break out of his prolonged slump, and he had a top ten finish at the American Express in 2020, so the 33-year-old five-time Tour winner has had recent success in the desert. His last victory came almost three years ago at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open. He already has a top-three finish in the 2021-2022 season at The CJ Cup after faltering to a closing 71 after shooting a 63 in the third round.
Adam Hadwin finished in the top three at the American Express from 2017 to 2019 before returning to La Quinta with a tie for 32nd last year after skipping the event in 2020. Hadwin, at +6500, is looking to rebound from a poor season where he missed 13 cuts in 29 events and finished outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup.
Last week, Michael Thompson closed with a 63 to finish in a tie for fifth place at the Sony Open in Hawaii, giving him a lot of momentum heading to California.
With odds of +13000, it’s worth taking a chance on the two-time Tour winner who last picked up a victory in the 2020 3M Open.