The American Express odds, preview, and course notes

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January 20th, 2021

The PGA Tour resumes its West Coast swing on Thursday with The American Express in Southern California.

The 61st annual tournament, once known as the Bob Hope Classic, will welcome a field of 156 golfers, including 12 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

No. 2 Jon Rahm was originally scheduled to participate, but withdrew on Monday for undisclosed reasons. Jhonattan Vegas, the tournament’s 2011 champion, and D.J. Trahan were also recent scratches, after they tested positive for COVID-19.

World No. 10 Patrick Cantlay will head in as the +1200 favorite in The American Express. The 28-year-old Long Beach native has posted two top-10s in the early part of the PGA season, including an eighth-place finish at the Shriners Open in Las Vegas and a win in the Zozo Championship in Thousand Oaks, California.

The American Express champion odds

Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Reed
Brooks Koepka
Scottie Scheffler
Tony Finau

Cantlay also landed ninth in the 2019 rendition of The American Express, when it was called the Desert Classic.

Brooks Koepka (+1600) and 2014 winner Patrick Reed (+1400) are a few of the other big names set to compete this weekend.

Koepka, who struggled through injury at the end of last season, will make his first PGA Tour start of the calendar year. He last appeared at the Mayakoba Classic, where he missed the cut, in December. He performed much better the month prior, when he placed fifth and seventh, respectively, at the Houston Open and the Masters.

American Express layout and relevant statistics

The American Express has undergone quite a bit of transformation since its inception in 1960. Aside from a handful of name changes, the former five-round event has rotated through a number of California courses, and will see another alteration this year to the multi-course competition.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament will drop La Quinta Country Club from the lineup and play across both the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the PGA West Stadium Course.

The traditional pro-am portion of the tournament has been cancelled, as well, and no spectators are permitted to attend.

The Nicklaus course is a par-72, 7,159-yard layout, while the Stadium course — a Pete Dye design — is a par 72 measuring 7,113 yards. Both courses include short par 4s, manageable par 5s, and Bermuda greens, similar to the Sony Open and Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Golfers will play one round at the Nicklaus course and the other three at the Stadium course, with the cut occurring after 36 holes, instead of 54 — as it had in years past.

Strokes gained approaching the green, strokes gained putting on Bermuda grass, and birdie or better percentage are all important statistics related to this typically low-scoring event.

Another trend to consider with The American Express is recent participation on Tour. Ten of the past 11 champions played in the weeks leading up to their win. 

Last year’s winner, Andrew Landry (+12500), missed the cut at the Sony Open the week before but beat Abraham Ancer (+2500) by two strokes to win The American Express at 26-under. Similarly, 2019 champ Adam Long (+4000) failed to reach the weekend of the Sony Open the year of his win, then the following week triumphed by one stroke over Adam Hadwin (+5500) and this year's tournament host and participant Phil Mickelson (+5000).

Best bets at The American Express

Reed is a strong contender, after he landed 21st at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. In three other appearances on Tour this season, the one-time major winner has placed 13th at the U.S. Open, 14th at the Zozo Championship, and 10th at the Masters.

Reed also ranks third in birdie or better percentage, 10th in strokes gained putting, and is tied for fifth in par-5 scoring.

If you're looking to back a longshot, Patton Kizzire (+5000) and Tom Hoge (+8000) could find themselves near the top of the leaderboard Sunday.

Kizzire tied for seventh at last week's Sony Open, ranks in the top 20 in birdie or better percentage and par-5 scoring, and is a skilled Bermuda putter.

Hoge missed the cut at the Sony Open but landed third at the Mayakoba Classic in December. He also placed sixth at last year's American Express.

How to watch The American Express

The winner of The American Express will receive $1.2 million of a $6.7 million purse, plus 500 FedEx Cup points.

You can catch all the action Thursday through Sunday, 3 to 7 p.m. ET, on the Golf Channel or watch on PGA Tour Live.