Statistically Speaking: The American Express
4 Min Read
Scheffler and Cantlay set for American Express Showdown
Written by Mike Glasscott @MikeGlasscott
How low can they go? The American Express is not for the faint of heart this week as a wild west shootout is on the cards.
The 64th edition of The American Express in the California desert provides the backdrop for the first Pro-Am and multi-course event of the new calendar year. A field of 156 will tee it up for three rounds in the Coachella Valley before the top 65 and ties will battle it out on the Pete Dye Stadium Course in Round 4.
This three-course rotation began in 2016 with the reintroduction of Pete Dye's Stadium Course at PGA West. La Quinta Country Club and the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course provide the support courses as the pros and amateurs play side by side. The exception to this rule was in 2021 when only the Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament were used due to COVID-19. Please note that the Stadium Course is the only tract of the three using ShotLink lasers for Strokes-Gained statistics.
The desert resort courses rank as some of easiest on TOUR. That's hardly surprising given the Pro-Am element of the event. No need for complexity over four days when amateurs are involved as there isn't enough daylight in the winter for six-hour rounds. The rough is barely up, greens will roll at tame speeds and pin placements aren't nefarious. Toss in perfect, weather-less conditions and scoring is the only way forward this week for the guys who do this for a living!
All three courses play to Par-72 and have multiple scoring opportunities with four Par-5s. Over seeded greens should be in pristine condition and ready to accept putts struck at proper speeds. With the Stimpmeter barely touching 11 feet, I'd be surprised to see many left short. Let the hole get in the way!
The worst winning score since the adoption of this rotation is 20-under in 2017 as cool, windy and rainy weather reduced scoring chances.
Attacking flags, holing putts and staying out of the water penalty areas are the signature qualities needed to win a shootout. Temperatures in the mid-60s with sunshine and slight winds suggest it's time to go low again this year!
Defending champion Hudson Swafford (not entered) added his name to the list of multiple champions last year as he posted 23-under and circled a whopping 29 birdies. Adam Hadwin joined the "59" Club in 2017 at La Quinta. Will Zalatoris needed just 61 shots, including 10 consecutive birdies, last year at Nicklaus Tournament. Patrick Cantlay smashed the Stadium Course record by two with 61 in 2021. The scoring record for the four round event sits at 28-under from 2014 (Patrick Reed).
Only players listed are competing this week; click stat headline for additional players; Stats from 2021-22 completed season.
In a shootout, hitting as many GIR as possible is fantastic because it creates chances for circles on the scorecard. CONVERTING those chances after finding the putting surface is the key when 20-under plus is required. Of the last seven winners here, five have ranked in the top five in this category. Only Si Woo Kim (13th), the 2021 winner who had to play the Stadium Course three times because of COVID-19 regulations, did not hit the top five.
Please note: Tom Hoge (10th), Tom Kim (11th) and Taylor Montgomery (T12) are all in the top 15 of the current season.
All four rounds are played on courses with four par-5 holes. Time to take advantage! La Quinta doesn't have one over 547 yards while Nicklaus Tournament has just one. The Stadium Course has two on the back that almost reach 600 yards. All seven winners in this rotation have ranked T10 or better in this category.
Just missed: Si Woo Kim, Sahith Theegala, Aaron Wise all ranked T24.
If it's going to be a shootout, let's find guys who aren't afraid to go low. Andrew Landry led the field here with 31 birdies in 2020 while Jason Dufner circled 30 in the rotation debut in 2016. The only time the winner made less than 26 birdies in 72 holes was during the COVID-19 year of 2021 and the cold and rain of 2017.
Please note: Brian Harman (T12), Tom Hoge (T12), Justin Lower (T12), KH Lee (T15) and Brendon Todd (T15) all reside in the top 15 of the current season.
The Bottom Line: Score!
In the previous 63 events, only six international players have won including two in the last five seasons. The last four winners COMBINED for ONE top-10 finish in the current season before raising the trophy on the Stadium Course. Folks are going to get healthy this week knowing that going low is the only way! The cut the last three times this event was played under normal conditions has been 7-under, 9-under and 9-under.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see Scottie Scheffler(Win: +1000; Top 5: +188; Top 10: -110; Top 20: -225) and Patrick Cantlay (Win: +1100; Top 5: +225; Top 10: +110; Top 20: -190) at the top of our key stats. Will they take down tournament favorite Jon Rahm (Win: +600; Top 5: +125; Top 10: -160; Top 20: -350)?
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