The American Express Odds: Patrick Reed one of 5 selections at La Quinta
Resident golf tipster @JWorsley89 hit the bar twice last week with 35/1 and 45/1 placed efforts in the Sony Open in Hawaii leaving him on 3.5pts profit for 2022 (2 events). This week he has five The American Express tips for the PGA Tour event getting underway at La Quinta on Thursday.
The American Express Tips
In the early part of Sunday’s final round at the Sony Open, it looked like we may well have something worth staying up for. As both Kevin Kisner and Seamus Power started like a train to close to within a couple of the leader. Unfortunately as their birdies dried up, they started to arrive for Henley and Matsuyama, doing for their win chances but I’m more than happy to collect the place money for both, at 35/1 and 45/1 respectively, after they finished tied for 3rd.
Onto mainland USA we go and so starts the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, as we head to La Quinta, California for The American Express. The first of five events (four in California) to take place on the West Coast before the tour heads East.
The event has been a mainstay on tour going back to 1960 under multiple different guises and has had many changes. With 13 different courses being part of the rotation over its history and before 2012 it was a five-day event played over four different courses. Now back to a four-day event over three courses with La Quinta Country Club returning after it was dropped last year to maintain covid protocols.
Over the first three days, all players will rotate between the host venue, PGA West’s Stadium Course, PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club. Before a 54 hole cut in which all the respective players return to the Stadium Course for the final round.
All three courses play to a par 72 and are short, with the Nicklaus Tournament Course measuring the longest at 7204 yards. Due to the added pro-am element to this event these courses will never be set up to play too difficult. This is on evidence when looking at results ever since the event made that switch from a five-day to a four-day event, as we’ve seen winning scores of -20 or lower every year since 2012 and exceeding -25 on 6 occasions.
There’s also the difficulty with this event that the strokes gained stats only consider rounds played at the host Stadium Course. So any strokes gained stats are to be taken with a pinch of salt. That being said, we know what we need here, you have to go low and for this, just like last week, you’re going to have to be in serious form with your irons and/or putter.
We can additionally look to other events for clues and last week’s Sony Open should be as informative a guide as any. A low scoring contest on a short course with bermuda greens, though it doesn’t quite possess the quirkiness of Pete Dye’s Stadium Course.
Typically, my instinct would be to automatically look at other Dye designs, such is the individuality of his layouts but with his course only being used twice I don’t quite see the benefit of this. Though if you have someone in contention on the Sunday it will certainly give you confidence if they have form at other Dye designs such as TPC Sawgrass, home of THE PLAYERS Championship and Harbour Town, which hosts the RBC Heritage.
I do like the Shriners Open, a low scoring event that takes place in the desert in Nevada. Patrick Cantlay, last year’s runner-up here has an excellent record there, as a past winner and two-time runner-up. With Abraham Ancer, who has finished 18-2-5 the last three year at The AmEx possessing two top 5s in Nevada, adding further strength to the argument. As does Adam Hadwin, a player who often excels at the same courses year on year, who possesses form there and has been runner-up here on two occasions.
Further to this are the Fortinet Championship (formerly the Safeway Open), which is a low-scoring affair that takes place in California. Brendan Steele, a two-time winner there has been runner-up here and hasn’t missed a cut at the event since 2014. Adam Hadwin ties this form together again, finishing as runner-up at Silverado in 2019.
Finally we have another event in the desert, the Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Andrew Landry has two PGA Tour victories to his name, one here and one in Texas. With last year’s AmEx winner, Siwoo Kim, also possessing form in Texas, amongst many others with correlating form such as Chris Kirk, Lucas Glover and Tom Hoge. Much like over on the DP World Tour in the Middle East, desert form often correlates with one another Stateside.
There was a little breeze about last year, which wasn’t enough to stop Siwoo Kim achieving a winning score of -23. We look set for similar this year, with dry, warm and breezy conditions forecast throughout most of the week. Though there is a suggestion of that breeze turning into something a little tougher on Saturday.
World #1 Jon Rahm is the headline act and returns to the scene of his victory in 2018. He’s joined by world #4 Patrick Cantlay, who finished as runner-up last year. With Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau and Abraham Ancer rounding off the group of 5 players from inside the world’s top 20 heading to La Quinta.
Jon Rahm heads the market as expected, with Patrick Cantlay coming next in the betting. Undoubtedly the best two players in the field but in such an event, where we’ve seen many a triple-figure winner in the past, they’re easy to ignore.
The quartet of Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners and Tony Finau come next at around 20/1 but I’m going to start even further down the betting with two players at the 33/1 mark. One a major champion, who is also a past champion here and the other a PGA Tour winner more recently than all players mentioned above. Starting with the former, Patrick Reed.
Reed started his year two weeks ago at the Tournament of Champions. After a poor start there, where he sat tied for last after round one, he shot rounds of 64, 66 and 68 to rise to 15th. This was thanks to a strong week with the putter, in which he ranked 4th by Sunday evening, though also showed quality with his irons over the first couple of rounds, something that had been lacking towards the end of 2021.
We know Reed to possess a superb short game and we’re particularly interested in his ability with the putter this week, of which he’s been one of the best players on tour over the last two seasons. Shown by him ranking 4th for the 2021/22 season, following on from ranking 12th in 2020/21.
He’s not only a past winner here, winning it in 2014 by 2 shots but in doing so with a score of -28 he set and still holds the scoring record for the event since it changed to four rounds.
With that knowledge of how to get it done here, combined with the quality of his putting and some encouragement with his irons two weeks ago in the ToC, Reed can kick off 2022 in very similar fashion to how he started 2021, by picking up a title in California.
After a few years of consistently strong golf, in which he’s threatened the top of the leaderboard on multiple occasions, Talor Gooch finally got his rewards. Running out an impressive 3-shot winner of the PGA Tour’s final official event of 2021 in the RSM Classic. With him enjoying a solid start to the year in Hawaii and possessing an equally solid record in this event over recent years, he not only has the game but should also possess the confidence to challenge for his 2nd title in quick succession.
His solid start in Hawaii has seen him shoot 7/8 rounds in the 60s, culminating in a 15th place finish at the Tournament of Champions and then finished 27th last week in the Sony Open. He’s done everything reasonably well over the two opening events of the year, though the putter has looked a little cold, there’s nothing really to worry about.
Much like last season his biggest asset is the quality of his iron play, where he ranks 10th on the PGA Tour for the 2021/22 season, following up on last season, where he ranked 32nd. He’s also excellent around-the-greens, currently sitting 15th on tour statistically for the season.
We don’t need to go looking elsewhere to find proof of his suitability to the event, as in the last three years he’s hit the top 25 each time, with a 4th place finish in 2019 his best effort. Overall shooting rounds in the 60s in 11 out of 16 career rounds at the tournament.
He does add to this with some strong correlating form, which we find in a 4th place finish at the Fortinet Championship last year, as well as recording multiple top 20s at the Sony Open and Shriners Open. Even his victory in the RSM Classic showed his aptitude for a low scoring contest, as he won with that with a score of -22.
He looks to have avoided suffering that post win slump that many players suffer if his first couple of starts in 2022 are anything to go by. He can take advantage of a strong past record at this event and whilst still riding high on confidence, pick up a 2nd title in just four starts.
Typically I think the PGA Tour is a tour in which you need to get the top of the market right. These are the best players in the world and more often than not, someone who has that little extra class is going to come out on top. Having said that, there are still a number of events a year that lend themselves to rolling the dice on a few outsiders and this is certainly one of those weeks.
An event where players rotate between three courses in four days and in which we also have a pro-am element is always going to throw up surprises, something we have seen in recent years. With Hudson Swafford in 2017, Adam Long in 2019 and Andrew Landry in 2020 all going off at triple figures when winning. Even Si-woo Kim, last year’s winner, was by no means a short price at 60/1.
With that in mind, I’ve got a trio of 100/1+ shots who can mix it at the top. The first of whom is a two-time PGA Tour winner and played better last week than the bare form figure suggests, Patton Kizzire.
After a strong first half to 2021, in which Kizzire recorded 5 top 10s in his opening 13 events, including two 3rd place finishes on the bounce in Texas at the Byron Nelson and Charles Schwab Challenge, his form tailed off towards the end of the year. Failing to hit the top 25 in any of his final 10 events. He was playing poorly across the board but no doubt the biggest cause of his dip in form was the desertion of his usually solid short game.
To be fair, to describe his putting as solid doesn’t really do it justice, as he’s ranked inside the top 25 on the greens in each of the last three seasons and fortunately, we saw a return to some kind of form with the flat stick in last week’s 42nd place finish in Hawaii.
He gained strokes on the greens in three out of four rounds there, but it was not the recapture of some putting form that caught the eye, it was the quality he showed with his irons.
In the first round he led the field in approach, gaining a superb 4.5 strokes, the best performance in that respect in a single round from Kizzire since 2018 according to the guys over at DataGolf. He didn’t maintain that level throughout the week, which is no surprise but still finished the week as the 19th best iron player and that in itself was his best tournament approach performance since August last year.
His record here is best described as underwhelming. He’s only missed two cuts in six starts in the event but has finished no better than 42nd. Though he does possess form at correlating courses that boost his chances.
He’s a past champion of the Sony Open, as well as recording finishes of 7th and 13th in the event. He also has other bits of form in the desert, finishing 4th at the Shriners Open in 2015 and possesses a top 10 in Texas, finishing 9th there last year.
For all he’s more power over accuracy, both of his PGA Tour wins have come on shorter, narrower tracks, where low scoring is often the prerequisite. If he can replicate some of the iron play he showed last week, whilst also edging closer to the level of putting we know he’s capable of he can go well.
Tom Hoge is a player who continues to threaten on the PGA Tour. Despite a lacklustre start to his year last week when missing the cut, he can get going for 2022 in an event well suited to his game and in which he finished 6th in 2020, to give himself another shot at tasting PGA Tour success.
His performance last week is easy to forgive, not least because he actually started well, shooting -4 in the first round before a +2 dropped him down the leaderboard in round two, but also because it was the first time we’d seen him in almost two months.
In his previous start, his last event of 2021, he finished 4th in the RSM Classic. Doing little wrong in joining the majority of the field in not being able to get close to an inspired Talor Gooch. This was the final event of a strong end to 2021 for Hoge. One that saw him miss just one cut in his final 10 events and in finishing 4th in THE NORTHERN TRUST, achieve the best performance of his career when weighting the quality of field he was up against.
It’s not difficult to see how that solid end to last year was engineered, as he reeled off 6 straight events gaining clear strokes in approach play, meaning at this early point in the 2021/22 season, he currently ranks as the 5th best iron player on tour. An area of his game that has always been the biggest strength.
He’s not only gone well here but has form at the correlating courses. Possessing a 3rd place finish at the Sony Open, 7th place finish in the Shriners Open and 9th place finish In Texas. Amongst many other top 20 performances, including in the Fortinet Championship.
If he’s going to win on the PGA Tour, this is the “type” of event he’s going to do it at. With a couple of rounds now under his belt for the year, I’m hoping he can get back to the iron play he was showing at the end of 2021 and if able to find something on the greens, looks a lively outsider this week.
Amongst all the big prices, this is the one that I liked the most. Adam Schenk produced the best PGA Tour performance of his career towards the end of 2021, when finishing 3rd in the Shriners Open. Just like Hoge, he’s excused a missed cut last week and with the quality he’s shown with his irons and putter at the start of the 2021/22 season can make some noise this week in La Quinta.
His 3rd place finish in the Shriners was one of three top 5s for Schenk in 2021, the other two coming at the Barracuda Championship and at the John Deere Classic. All three coming in the latter part of the year as Schenk rounded off the year playing probably the best golf he’d produced on the PGA Tour yet.
After a missed cut on debut here in 2018, he’s made the cut every year since. With a best of 14th in 2020, in which he shot in the 60s in all four rounds. Also another who possesses additional desert form, in the shape of a 3rd place finish in the Shriners Open this year and 7th in the Texas Open in 2019.
There’s also a 2nd place finish in the Boise Open on the Korn Ferry Tour, which could work as a comp. A quirky, short course which requires low scoring. Two past winners, in Steve Wheatcroft and Michael Thompson both have some strong pieces of form in The AmEx. Which could further improve Schenk’s claims.
He can bounce back from the missed cut last week and if able to rediscover the form he showed with the putter at the end of last year, Schenk can get himself in the mix on Sunday at Pete Dye’s Stadium Course.