It’s once again time to be on the lookout for those alternative market bets, the players who perhaps don’t appeal tremendously in the outright market but offer excellent value elsewhere. Last week was a bit of a comedown following Leishman’s efforts at the Sentry. Webb Simpson was unable to deliver his usual level of form at Waialae, despite looking every inch a player ready for the test in the Hawaiian capital, while Brendan Steele, also disappointed, but onwards we move.
Who takes to this tournament?
In the field this week there are several players who’ve performed admirably at the American Express in the past. Last year’s winner Si Woo Kim is joined by 2020 winner Andrew Landry, as well as 2019 winner Adam Long. Overall, there will be 13 previous winners of this competition teeing it up in Palm Springs on Thursday, including current world number one Jon Rahm.
In addition to plenty of previous winners, lots of players in here have gone close in the American Express too, with 21 non-winners having finished inside the top five on at least one occasion. Interestingly, though, of those 21, only two have secured a top-five finish at this tournament on two or more occasions, and they are Adam Hadwin and Abraham Ancer.
Thanks to the use of multiple courses, the American Express doesn’t require as specific a skillset as some other tournaments. Throw in that the courses used are some of the easiest on the PGA Tour and the skillset required widens further. In truth, this tournament is set up for attacking golf, so the biggest prerequisite is the ability to get on the front foot and score positively. Those players capable of gaining strokes on approach tend to do well, while birdie average is an important metric too. We should also expect the winner to hit more than his fair share of greens in regulation. Last year, Si Woo Kim finished the four rounds as the number one player in the field for GIR, as did 2017 winner Hudson Swafford.
Being hot with the flatstick has no lack of importance in Palm Springs either, as two of the last three winners have ranked first for putts per GIR at the end of the week, while 2018 winner Jon Rahm ranked eighth in that area. Each of the last three winners also ranked inside the top ten for strokes gained: putting.
Top 10 Finish
Abraham Ancer – 1 Unit @ +300
I really like Abraham Ancer for a top ten finish this week. OK, he was disappointed after an opening round of 66 last week, so much so that he ended up missing the cut, but don’t be put off by that. Prior to those exploits in Hawaii, he’d finished no lower than T14 in three events, while we all saw how easily the diminutive Mexican finished highly in events last season, posting no fewer than nine top-ten finishes.
We’re also talking about the guy that ended the previous season as the 15th best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: total, which is particularly eye-catching considering that only three of the 14 players who outperformed him in that area are set to line up in Palm Springs this week. In this field, there are also only four players who averaged more birdies on tour than Ancer last season. Another positive.
If we throw in some solid course form, then the 30-year-old really does start to appeal as a value play at the odds available. Last season, he finished fifth, while in 2020, only one player ended the week above Abraham Ancer on the scoreboard.
Top 20 Finish
Phil Mickelson – 1 Unit @ +450
Lefty was put up as an outsider to chance in the outright market, and he also appeals in the top 20 markets too. If you’re looking for a seasoned player, one who knows how to rise to the occasion in this competition, then big Phil fits the bill. Twice a winner of the American Express under its previous name, Mickelson can outplay his price tag this week. He finished third in 2016 and second in 2019, while some of his numbers this season catch the eye for all the right reasons. We know that hitting lots of greens in regulation this week will be a big plus, so it bodes well that the 45-time PGA Tour winner currently ranks fifth on tour for GIR. Two of the players above him in that category aren’t playing this week. The veteran also currently ranks among the best in this field for birdie average, another huge plus point.