PGA Tour: The best betting props for The American Express
Picking a winner of The American Express has historically been as difficult as catching a unicorn with a fishing net. Three of the last four winners were +7000 or bigger, but fortunately the gambling gods must be smiling on us as a change of format should hopefully make it a touch easier.
First up, the pro-am has been scrapped, which means no more Z-list celebrity hacking around 18 holes. Secondly, instead of being played over three courses, we’re down to two: PGA West Stadium Course and PGA West Nicklaus Course.
The Stadium Course will host 54 of the 72 holes, which will make finding prop winners a little easier. There are also several key stats to consider. Driving accuracy is going to be more valuable than driving distance, although neither come close to being as important as putting average or par 4 scoring, as this tends to become a birdie-fest.
12 of the last 13 winners of this event had already had one start in the year, having played either the Tournament of Champions or the Sony Open. Although a decent performance isn’t vital, it looks crucial to have blown the cobwebs off before rocking into Cali.
It’s also worth looking at anyone with good form at TPC Scottsdale, which is where the Waste Management Phoenix Open is played. Phil Mickelson, Mark Wilson, and Kenny Perry have all won both, while Jesper Parnevik, John Rollins, and Ryan Palmer have all finished runner-up in both. Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman, and Justin Leonard have all won The American Express and finished as runners-up in the Phoenix Open.
The American Express champion odds
Top 20 finish: Nate Lashley (+700)
With those stats firmly in mind, I’m taking a chance on the talented but wildly inconsistent Nate Lashley. The 38-year-old bagged a top 5 in the Corales Puntacana Resort Championship last September, and played some nice golf to finish the year in the RSM Classic and Mayakoba Classic – the third round in each event costing him a better finish.
Admittedly, Lashley was hopeless last week in the Sony Open, but having played there he hits the trends, and he was third in last year’s Phoenix Open. He pulled out of this event 12 months ago after shooting a 77 on the opening day, but on his two previous appearances had finished 12th and 29th.
That run included rounds of 67-69-72-65 at the Stadium Course, which will give Lashley plenty of hope if he's having a good day.
Top 20 finish: Matthew NeSmith (+500)
Sticking in the top 20 market, it’s worth keeping Matthew NeSmith onside in your staking plan. The American ranks first on the PGA Tour this season for greens in regulation and 10th for par 4 scoring, two statistics that should help him excel in California.
On debut here last year he put in a solid showing to finish 17th, and has the talent to trouble the top 20 again. He missed the cut last week in the Sony Open, but ticks the box for blowing off the cobwebs from the clubs. Before Christmas he had a lovely run of form which included top 20 finishes in the Sanderson Farms Championship and RSM Classic, as well as a top 10 in the Shriners.
Top rest of the world player: Abraham Ancer (+600)
Abraham Ancer is another man who had a red-hot run of form to close out 2020, finishing 13th or better in the Masters, Mayakoba Golf Classic, and QBE Shootout. He returned from the break to finish 17th in the Tournament of Champions before some poor putting caused him to miss the cut in the Sony Open.
That isn’t too much of a negative for me, particularly when you consider he putted poorly in the Sony Open in 2020 to finish 38th, and then followed that up by finishing as the runner-up here. Ancer shot a 66 and a course-record 63 at the Stadium Course 12 months ago – the best player in the field – so he will be delighted to see 54 holes on that course this time around.
Ancer is due a win and can threaten to ditch his maiden tag here.
Group betting E: Zach Johnson (+350)
Zach Johnson hasn’t won on the PGA Tour for five-and-a-half years, but the former Masters and Open Championship winner is potentially as close as ever to getting back to the top of the mountain. Some great iron play and impressive putting had him in the mix at the RSM Classic at the end of last year, but he fell to sixth during the final round.
That form on and around the greens is going to pay dividends here if he can keep it up, and his course form suggests he might. He finished 28th in 2019, but was sixth at the Stadium Course. That is a course designed by Pete Dye, who also designed Sawgrass, Harbour Town, River Highlands, and Whistling Straights. Johnson has a top three finish at each course.
If his short game is dialled in, Johnson should be able to see off Ryan More, Charles Howell III, Aaron Wise, and Emiliano Grillo in the group bet.