Pete Dye, the legendary course architect and World Golf Hall of Fame Member, died on Thursday, Jan. 9. There's zero question that he lived a full life, but it's one that will continue to give.
In that vein, it's fitting that the first PGA TOUR event after his passing is hosted by a Dye design. PGA WEST's Stadium Course anchors the three-course rotation for The American Express.
It's a new name for the event celebrating its 61st edition, it has a new official host in Phil Mickelson, and Dye most certainly will continue to give … fits to all golfers who attempt to tackle his tests. OK, maybe not so much this week, but his work will resurface throughout the season.
For more on all that's new in the Coachella Valley, the format of the pro-am and other nuggets, scroll past the ranking of projected contenders.
In addition to reviews of Brendan Steele, Brendon Todd, Matthew Wolff and defending champion Adam Long among the notables, Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include breakdowns of each course in the rotation.
Early last September, it was announced that American Express would become the title sponsor of the annual stop in La Quinta, California. Later, it was confirmed that there is a minimum five-year agreement in place. In November, Phil Mickelson upgraded his role from ambassador for the tournament to that as host in conjunction with The Mickelson Foundation. He joins Tiger Woods (The Genesis Invitational) and Davis Love III (The RSM Classic) as active golfers who also host a PGA TOUR event.
Mickelson is a two-time winner of The American Express (2002, 2004) and sits second in all-time earnings (behind Bill Haas), but there's poised to be more volatility on that money list what with the rise of $800K in the prize fund. This year's purse is a record $6.7 million of which the winner will receive $1.206 million.
The Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST and La Quinta Country Club share host duties. Each of the 156 golfers in the field and his amateur will play every course once. At the conclusion of 54 holes, all of the low 65 and ties on the tournament's leaderboard will complete the event on the Stadium Course. (The old secondary, playing cut of low 60 and ties in the event that more than 78 golfers survived the 54 hole cut has been eliminated.)
Each course is a stock par 72 and among the easiest on the schedule. Since 2016 when the current triumvirate first hosted, the Stadium Course's scoring average of 70.238 last year was its lowest. The Nicklaus Tournament Course averaged a historically typical 69.058, while La Quinta's 68.718 established its record low (since data was first maintained in earnest in 1983).
The only significant changes made to any of the venues occurred on the Stadium Course where the greens on the par-4 second and third holes are larger and nearer their original size.
In any tournament for which par breakers are required to compete – last year's cut landed at 9-under 207 – hitting greens in regulation lines up as priority one. At least in theory. In his tournament debut last year, then-rookie Adam Long ranked but T41 in GIR with an average of 12.75 per round, but he still prevailed by one stroke (over Mickelson and Adam Hadwin, who isn't in this year's field due to the birth of his first child on Jan. 8). Instead, Long paced the field in numerous putting categories, including putts per GIR and fewest putts. He didn't three-putt, either.
ShotLink is set up only on the Stadium Course, so all measured data applies to at most two rounds (for all golfers who survive the cut). This is the norm for all tournaments contested over multiple courses.
Believe it or not, there's a slight chance for rain late on Thursday, but the energy will clear out by Friday and make for a fair weekend. Daytime highs may not reach 70 degrees until it jumps into the mid-70s on Sunday. Wind will not be a factor in the proverbial dome.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.