The PGA Tour heads from the Islands of Hawaii, where Jon Rahm and Si Woo Kim picked up their first victories of 2023, to the first leg of the West Coast swing. The three-course rotation at La Quinta is the host for this weekend’s American Express.
Like every week, there are some interesting storylines to watch in this tournament. There will be a new champion, as Hudson Swafford was the 2022 winner but is off to the LIV.
Rahm is the big +650 favorite as he looks for his second win of 2023, but Patrick Cantlay (+1000) and Scottie Scheffler (+1000) are also in the field looking for victories to start building up momentum for Augusta.
This is a Pro-Am tournament, so it’s not the hardest course setup on Tour, and -21 to -23 seems like the floor for the winners to get to. Despite the not-too-difficult layout that would seem to favor the best golfers, it’s been underdogs who have come out on top here in recent years, including Swafford at +20000 in 2022, Andrew Landry at +20000 in 2020 and Adam Long at +60000 in 2019.
Here are the top 3 players to watch in the 2023 American Express:
#1 Tony Finau
Tony Finau leads the Tour with a 69.07 scoring average in the 2022/23 season, and he’s kicked off 2023 with a T7 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui. Just playing at Kapalua was big for Finau, who was able to shake off the rust after not playing for over a month since his T7 at the Hero World Challenge.
Finau already has a win on the season, taking first at the Cadence Bank Houston Open. He also had two victories at the tail end of the 2021/22 season at the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic – and in back-to-back weeks – so the narrative that Finau cannot win should officially be put to bed.
#2 Will Zalatoris
Even though Will Zalatoris’ birthplace of San Francisco is about 500 miles up the Coast, he still has to relish playing in California this weekend. More specifically, Zalatoris probably just relishes in playing in general after back issues towards the end of 2022 forced him to miss the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
What was most disappointing about Zalatoris’ back problems is that he had just won his first Tour event the week prior, claiming the FedEx – St. Jude Championship.
The injury also forced him to pull out of the President’s Cup at Quail Hollow, but he made his long-awaited return with a T11 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
It will be interesting to see how Zalatoris fares after getting some tournament play in at Maui and taking last week to recover.
#3 Brian Harman
Brian Harman comes to La Quinta as a somewhat underrated #5 in the FedEx Cup standings and #23 in the OWGR. He already has two runner-up finishes this season and has put in work playing in both events in Hawaii.
Harman also finished third at the American Express last season and in 2017 and has two other top 10s in 2021 and 2011.