PGA: Scheffler worth a wager at watered-down American Express
The PGA Tour returns to the U.S. mainland this weekend for the American Express in La Quinta, California. For the first time, Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner of this event, will act as host. The tournament is played in a pro-am format and, and in 2012 became a normal, 72-hole tournament, rather than a 90-hole marathon.
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The host venue is the PGA West Stadium Course, which was designed by the legendary Pete Dye, who died last week. Dye’s best-known course on Tour each year is TPC Sawgrass (Players Championship), which is renowned for its island green on the 17th hole. Just like its counterpart in Florida, the PGA West Stadium Course has an island-green par 3 of its own—also on the 17th—and is just as terrifying as its cousin on the other side of the country. Remember Jason Dufner’s par save from the rocks four years ago?
First cut will come SaturdayThere won’t be a cut in until Saturday, when every player and his amateur partner completes all three courses in this tournament—PGA West Stadium, Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West and the La Quinta Country Club. Those who make the cut will play the Stadium course for the second time Sunday.
Many of the world's top golfers will be absentUnfortunately the American Express hasn’t lured many of the world’s best. Some are waiting for next week at Torrey Pines, are playing in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, or are resting after the Hawaii swing.
Arnold Palmer recorded his last Tour win in this tournament back in 1973, when it was known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. That brings us to Mickelson, who will turn 50 in June. Lefty has two wins in this tournament, albeit on different courses, and nearly won it last year, when he finished in a tie for second. He is worth a flyer at +4000. Mickelson isn’t the force he once was, but I believe another couple of wins are in his future. Why not here?
Keep an eye on Scottie SchefflerNew golfers emerge each year, and one to watch closely is Scottie Scheffler. The Dallas native won twice last year on the Korn Ferry Tour to get a PGA Tour promotion, and he has since reeled off a trio of top 10 finishes—a tie for seventh at Greenbrier, a tie for third in Bermuda, and a tie for fifth at the RSM Classic.
Scheffler ranks 12th on Tour in scoring average and fifth on Tour in birdie average this season. He is listed at +3000, and since he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour yet, that may be a tad low, but a win is almost certainly in his future. I will consider Scheffler for not only his first PGA Tour win but for a top five or top 10 finish, as well.