DraftKings preview: The American Express
January 19, 2021
By Reid Fowler , PGATOUR.COM
- January 19, 2021
Daily Fantasy preview for The American Express
The PGA TOUR starts the West Coast swing with The American Express in La Quinta, California, located near Palm Springs. Due to COVID-19, the TOUR canceled the pro-am this year, resulting in the golfers playing across only two courses instead of the usual three — the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course on PGA West. The Nicklaus Tournament Course is a par 72, measuring 7,181. The Stadium Course measures 7,147 yards and will also play as a par 72. Both courses will be putt on Bermuda greens for the third straight week. The pro-am cancellation didn’t just remove La Quinta CC from the course rotation this year; it also will result in the cut occurring after 36 holes instead of the usual 54 holes as in prior years. The Stadium Course has also been the only one to record ShotLink data in the past, which you should consider when looking at previous statistics.
Both courses routinely play as some of the easiest in scoring relative to par with accessible par 5s and short par 4s. The Stadium Course, designed by Pete Dye, draws many comparisons to TPC Sawgrass, one being how often water hazards come into play. The Nicklaus Course was brought into the tournament rotation back in 2016 and should be the easier of the two, as three of the four par 5s play less than 550 yards. Recent Sony Open winner Kevin Na (+3500; $9.200) is tied for the course record (62) at the Nicklaus Course, which means guys like Cameron Champ (+4000; $8,900) aren’t the only ones who should be able to score.
This week will be the first of many Pete Dye courses the TOUR will play this season, and as with all Dye designs, position golf will be essential. Both courses don’t sport a lot of rough, which means fairways hit in regulation matters less than having the correct angles into these undulation greens. The primary stat with all Pete Dye courses is Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, and this week, golfers will need to have success on short par 4s. There is one under 350 yards and five between 350 to 400 yards.
Like last week, we should be leaning toward golfers who’ve played in Hawai’i leading up to the tournament. Ten of the past 11 champions played in the week(s) before their win here. Last year’s winner, Andrew Landry (+25000, $7,000), missed the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii but would go on to shoot 26-under and win here by two strokes. The same thing happened to Adam Long (+7500, $8,500) in 2019. He missed the cut at Waialae CC and also shot 26-under, beating Phil Mickelson (+6600, $8,800) and Adam Hadwin (+7000, $8,000) by one. Lastly, players who rank high in par 5 scoring and birdie or better percentage should be in our lineups this week, with the average winning score finishing around 24-under over the past five years.
GOLFERS TO CONSIDER
Patrick Cantlay +1300 to Win | $11,100 on DraftKings
Sticking with the golfers who’ve played competitive rounds early in the year, Cantlay is my favorite at the top of the salary range. Cantlay could be a popular play this week, with Jon Rahm withdrawing on Monday, but some people may not believe he deserves to be the betting favorite or the most expensive, keeping his roster percentage low. He lost 2.8 strokes with his irons at Kapalua, but we shouldn’t be worried. There’s only been one occasion over the past 18 months where Cantlay has lost strokes with his irons in back-to-back events (2020 Northern Trust/2020 BMW Championship). Cantlay loves playing in his home state with top finishes at the Genesis, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and here, where he finished ninth back in 2019. Less than three months ago, Cantlay won the ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club, another California course.
Cameron Champ +4000 to Win | $8,900 on DraftKings
Champ had a difficult start to his season, finishing 31st at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but this shouldn’t keep you from rostering him this week. He lost 4.4 strokes on the greens at the Plantation Course but left Kapalua positive in strokes tee-to-green. Routinely ranking at the top in driving distance, Champ will have a clear advantage with his length and ability to either come into these short par 4s with a wedge in hand or, better yet, with his putter on a few occasions. We should also consider Russell Knox (+900 Top 10, $7,200) in our lineups this week. He’s much better on challenging courses where the winning score is closer to 12-under, but Knox has a good record here with a top 20 in 2019 and three straight cuts made over the past three years. In the past, we’ve seen golfers play well here and at other courses like the Mayakoba Classic, where Knox has made every cut dating back to 2013, has finished no worse than 37th and has a runner-up finish in 2015. Another correlated tournament is the Waste Management Pheonix Open, and Knox has finished inside the top 20 twice, along with a top 10 back in 2019.
Tom Hoge +1100 Top 10 | $7,300 on DraftKings
Another golfer who plays well during the West Coast swing, Hoge could fly under the radar this week after a missed cut last week. I’ve already mentioned the poor form both Landry and Long have coming into this tournament; Hoge could keep that streak alive this week. The +2.81 strokes gained through approach in Round 1 last week led to a 5-under start, but he quickly gave it back on Friday when his irons and putter went cold. An early departure from the Aloha State means an early arrival to Palm Springs, where he’s played well in the past. Hoge finished sixth in last year’s edition, gaining 10.3 strokes total, the fourth-highest mark dating back to 2014. Over the previous 24 rounds, Hoge ranks 30th in par 5 efficiency, 25th in birdies or better gained and 26th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. Like Knox, Hoge has played well at correlated courses, with a third-place at the Mayakoba Classic last month, another top 5 at the Farmers Insurance Open and a top 25 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last season.
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