Quick look at The American Express
January 15, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- A scenic view of the 11th hole at the PGA West Stadium Course. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
The PGA TOUR returns to the mainland for the third week of the 2020 calendar year. The American Express will still be headlined by two-time champion Phil Mickelson, but now he goes from tournament ambassador to tournament host. The storied event, which was most famously hosted by Bob Hope, is in its 61st year but its first with American Express as title sponsor. It will be played on the par-72, 7,159-yard Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, the par-72, 7,060-yard La Quinta Country Club, and the par-72, 7,113-yard host course, the Stadium Course at PGA West. Adam Long will defend his first TOUR title a year after he edged Mickelson and Adam Hadwin by one. This year’s field features 17 of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, led by Brendon Todd (2) and Sebastian Munoz (4).
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
PGA West Stadium Course - No. 17
The 168-yard, par-3 17th hole, known as Alcatraz, was one of the signature creations of famed golf course architect Pete Dye, who died last week at 94. True to its name, the hole features an island green with a tiny pot bunker, all of it surrounded by a ring of rocks and then water. It played as the third hardest hole last year, with a 3.093 stroke average. There were 35 birdies, 16 bogeys and, not surprisingly, 20 double-bogeys.
The 560-yard, par-5 16th hole is this week’s Aon Risk-Reward hole. Since 2016, 86% of players who found the fairway off the tee went for the green. Players who go for the green have a 60% chance of making birdie or better when avoiding the greenside bunker on their second shot. Adam Long made two pars on the hole on the way to capturing his first victory last year, but it was the second easiest hole on the course, with a 4.590 stroke average. There were 96 birdies and six eagles compared to just 11 bogeys and two double-bogeys.
From meteorologist Stewart Williams: “A weakening cold front will move across Southern California late Thursday night into early Friday bringing a small chance for showers. The wind will likely increase during the afternoon to 12-18 mph and continue into the overnight out of the WNW 15-20 gusting to 30 mph. This system will quickly pass by Friday morning with partly cloudy skies and slightly cooler temperatures in the 60s. A gradual warming trend can be expected this weekend with highs warming near the mid 70s by Sunday. High clouds will likely stream over the region this weekend filtering the sun at times as well.”
For the latest weather news from Palm Desert, check out the PGA TOUR weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKWhen I stop hitting bombs I'll play the Champions Tour.
BY THE NUMBERS
-601 – Cumulative score to par in California PGA TOUR events by Phil Mickelson since 1983, second best behind only Fred Couples.
26 – Number of Top-10 finishes by Tony Finau the last four seasons, the most by any player without a win.
255 – Low 72-hole score, by Steve Stricker, who is in this week’s field, in 2009.
+121 – Move up the FedExCup standings by Brendan Steele after his runner-up finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii last week, the biggest mover of the week.
Casey still in mid-season form: Paul Casey, 42, finished a lackluster T19 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but says not to be fooled. He’s playing well. Why? Because with his T17 at the inaugural ZOZO Championship, followed by a start at the Australian Open in December, he never really stopped competing over the holidays. “My off-season's been very, very short,” he said from The American Express, a tournament he last played in 2017 (T58), and only twice before that (MCs in 2002 and 2015). “I feel like I’ve just kind of continued, continued my year, not really stopped, which is a bit strange, but I'm actually fine about it.” It’s a Ryder Cup year, which always perks him up, and he’ll be the two-time defending champion at the Valspar Championship in the Florida Swing. “I feel like the game's in a really good place,” he said. “And normally this time of year I would still be trying to get going and learning where my game is at, but I feel like my game's in a good position, so the lack of off-season, if anything, is probably going to put me in a good position.”
New-look Mickelson aims to end slump: Phil Mickelson won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2018 and 2019, respectively, but then went cold. Now he’s back with a new look after altering his diet to include fasting, specialty coffee, and a moratorium on junk. “It’s embarrassing the way I looked,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “… I wasn't really accountable for my health.” Now that he is, he said he feels better than he did then and, “there's no reason that would hold me back from being able to play and practice as hard as I can to play well out here.” He’s tried to address his wildness off the tee, which he said led to a water ball on the ninth hole on Sunday last year that cost him the tournament. His clubhead speed, he said, is up. Energy: up. Interest level: up. He loves the challenge of coming back to beat the greatest young players in the world, especially now that he’s feeling renewed. “There's something that resonated with me,” he said, “and that was that everything I put into my body is either helping to fight disease or it's causing disease. And that saying has me look at everything I eat as to is this helping me or hurting me. And for the most part, I'm not a hundred percent, but most of the things that I put in are helping me.”