After a couple of weeks in Hawaii, the PGA Tour is back on mainland America, and first up on this stint of the schedule is California, where the American Express, previously the Desert Classic, will take place at PGA West. We saw Asian sensation Hideki Matsuyama thrive last week, and there will be another of the tour’s Asian contingent hoping for further glory this week. Si Woo Kim returns to defend his crown having stroked his way to glory in the Golden State last year.
Joining last year’s winner will be last year’s runner-up Patrick Cantlay, who lost out to the South Korean by just a single shot. Thanks to the absence of both Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson, Cantlay will be the second-highest ranked player in the event behind world number one Jon Rahm, who returns to action following his second in Hawaii a fortnight ago. Several other big players will be missing, with the likes of Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland, and Rory McIlroy not featuring. In fact, only five of the current top 20 according to the rankings will be involved at PGA West this week, which means that those players outside the upper echelons of the OWGR will surely fancy themselves to do well.
What does PGA West demand?
Unlike most of the events on the schedule, the American Express uses two courses, TPC Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course, both of which are at PGA West. The two courses set to feature are generally considered to be some of more player-friendly tracks on the PGA Tour, allowing for plenty of aggressive, front-footed golf. Those players who’re well versed at going close on approach should thrive, while those ranking highly in terms of strokes gained: putting should also be at an advantage.
It’s no coincidence that Si Woo Kim ranked second for strokes gained: approach on route to winning this competition last season. He also ranked first for greens in regulation and eighth for strokes gained: putting. That’s the sort of skillset required.
At the current odds there are a few players, who for one reason or another stand out as value in the outright market.
Patrick Cantlay – 2 units @ +900
Siding with a player at the very head of the market isn’t something I’d advocate too often, especially as there’s usually better value elsewhere, but this week, it’s hard to not support Patrick Cantlay, who did everything right when finishing second here a year ago.
In two recent appearances at the American Express, the current world number four has finished ninth and second, while only last year’s winner Si Woo Kim comes into this event having gained more strokes in total at the two courses at PGA West than Cantlay, who picks up a very solid average of 3.65 strokes per round. He also ranks number one in this field for both strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: tee-to-green. Such a player is certainly one to keep on side.
The Californian also comes into the tournament in his home state in pleasing form having finished fourth at the recent Sentry Tournament of Champions, posting four rounds of 67 or lower. In addition, we’re talking about the player who on tour was the 11th best in terms of birdie average last season, which bodes well since recent renewals of this tournament have shown us that making birdies is essential at PGA West. Moreover, only Jon Rahm in the line-up this week made more birdies on average during the 2021-22 campaign than Cantlay.
At the end of the day, we’re talking about one of the very best players in the world right now, and alongside Rahm, Cantlay is the big dog in this field. At venue where he thrived last season, the 2021 FedEx Cup Champion is well worth siding with to come out on top.
Kevin Chappell – 0.5 units @ +50000
I simply can’t resist Kevin Chappell at such astronomical odds, odds that for my money are far too big. First and foremost, this is a player who has posted some encouraging efforts at the American Express before, finishing eight in 2013, as well as finishing sixth in 2018. In addition, he’s a man with some encouraging strokes gained data here, ranking as the number one player in the field for strokes gained: approach, picking up an average of 2.31 shots on approach.
Such a stat is very hard to ignore, and even if other areas of his game may not match others in the field, the 35-year-old offers enough to be considered a viable outsider in the betting.
Phil Mickelson – 0.5 units @ +12500
Without being as huge as Chappell, another outsider who looks too big in the betting is multiple major winner Phil Mickelson, who when winning the PGA Championship last season, showed that, even in the twilight of his glittering career, he’s capable of mixing it on the biggest stage.
Historically, this event has been a happy hunting ground for Lefty, who in addition to winning in both 2002 and 2004, finished third in 2016 and second in 2019. Interestingly, Mickelson also ranks fifth for strokes gained: putting across the last eight events, which is an eye-catching statistic given the likely importance of putting here.
We no longer see one of golf’s mot creative players challenging at the head of affairs week in, week out anymore, but we all know he’s got something special up his sleeve every now and then, so why not take a chance on the 50-year-old ahead of an event short on top-tier talent.
UK based freelance sports betting writer. Specializing in golf and soccer, Bradley has written for numerous websites and publications both in the UK and abroad, covering a range of sports betting topics from match/event previews to betting guides.