After spending a couple of weeks on the Hawaiian Islands, the PGA Tour heads back to the continental United States for the American Express in La Quinta, California, in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs.
After restricting the field to professionals in 2021 due to Covid-19, the event is mostly back to normal with the pro-am in full swing with the amateurs again playing the first three rounds with a PGA Tour partner.
The first three days of the tournament, the pro-am teams alternate among three different courses, with just the professionals who make the 54 hole cut competing in Sunday’s final round. The venues are La Quinta Country Club, the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, and the Stadium Course at PGA West, which hosts the last round.
Si Woo Kim is the defending champion as he withstood a closing 11 under par 61 from eventual FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay to prevail by a shot. Cantlay is again in the field, along with Jon Rahm, the top-ranked player in the world, as well as 51-year-old Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner of the American Express and reigning PGA Championship trophy holder.
The American Express is the successor to the old Bob Hope Desert Classic that began in 1960 and for many years was the only 90 hole event on the PGA Tour but was reduced to the more standard 72 hole format in 2012. It is the site of Arnold Palmer’s final PGA Tour victory in 1973 for the five-time winner of the event.
All three courses play to a par 72, with the Nicklaus layout stretching the longest at 7,159 yards, but all of them can yield low scores as each has given up a 59 in tournament competition. Last year, Kim posted a 23 under par 265 for the week, well off the 72 hole record 260 that Patrick Reed shot on his way to a two-stroke victory over Ryan Palmer in 2014.
Jon Rahm, as he is likely to be in any tournament he enters until he falters significantly, is the betting favorite at +500, especially after finishing second to Cameron Smith in a terrific duel at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
It was Rahm’s 16th top ten finish in his last 24 events, and it would have been the 17th if he hadn’t been forced to withdraw from last year’s Memorial Tournament after testing positive for Covid-19 after holding a sox shot 54 hole lead.
At odds of +1600, eventually, Scottie Scheffler will break through and come away with his first PGA Tour victory. The courses at the American Express offer little resistance to the long hitters, and the 25-year-old Texan already has a pair of official top-four finishes in the current season as well as a runner-up spot in the unofficial Hero World Challenge.
Seamus Power is coming off a tie for third last week in the Sony Open in Hawaii after firing a pair of 65’s on the weekend and has odds of +2800 in the American Express.
The winner of last year’s Barbasol Championship has been taking full advantage of his Tour exemption, with eight events already under his belt in the 2021-2022 wraparound season with five finishes in the top 15 and two in the top four.