The American Express Betting Preview & Picks
Formerly the Desert Classic this event has been renamed for the umpteenth time and we'll see the players return to the usual 3 course rotation in the wonderful Palm Springs, California. It is a low scoring affair normally in perfect conditions where target golf was born. The course with the most bite is the Stadium Course, a Pete Dye design that bears the hallmark of his most famous track Sawgrass. Nevertheless it remains relatively simple and those with strong wedge games should be in prime position to take advantage.
Rickie Fowler heads the market at what I believe to be a fair enough price. On his day he is a much classier operator than those around him in the betting and given how he has played recently he rates a reasonable chance. Of all towards the top of the market Rickie looks the best prospect but I see better value elsewhere. Sungjae Im has obvious claims but is a scandalous price in my view having not yet won on the PGA Tour and still far from the completed article. 16/1 can land all day I certainly won't be worrying on Sunday night if it does. Kisner around the 28/1 mark is interesting and looks a fair price given how he went last week. I think he could go well again but his talents are best served to tracks that demand a shade more accuracy so I'd rather play him elsewhere.
You'll need a lot of luck to win this event so I won't be going back staking wise. Post 20 under and you're probably not guaranteed a top 5 so tracks like this are a great leveller and the potential for a shock like Adam Long last year is increased. Having won the Sanderson Farms at the end of 2018 Cameron Champ was expected to fast track his way to greater success but a largely disappointing season played out in 2019 with little talking points. The 2020 season started in fine style again though with a win at the Safeway Open and a reminder that the talent this lad possesses is huge and he can win any event on any given week. A respectable 14th on his first jaunt to Hawaii kicked off his year and I'd rather chance him in an event like this given his two wins so far have come at 17 and 21 under par. Two wins in around 14 months is a super return despite his poor form in 2019 and at more than double Sungjae Im's price looks a much better proposition.
1u - C.Champ @ 40/1
1u - C.Champ to Finish Top 10 @ +500
This being his last season of exempt status following his Open Championship win in 2015 Zach Johnson is attempting to kick clear early in his goal to cement his place on the tour for another few years yet. He is the type who strikes me who could click into gear like McDowell, almost when it matters most. He started the season reasonably well with top 20 at the Sanderson and with top 30 finishes in Mayakoba and Hawaii he has managed to notch a few quid. He has finished 28th and 20th last two years here and also has a top 3 finish a number of years ago when the rotation was a shade different. He also has a runner up spot at Sawgrass to his name. Suitably priced by the bookmakers and not huge value but worth a shot.
0.75u - Z.Johnson @ 66/1
0.75u - Z.Johnson to Finish Top 10 @ +700
Gaining strokes on the field in every round bar 1 of his last 8 tries here at this event Jason Kokrak looks more ready than ever to land his maiden victory. 7 top ten finishes in the calendar year of 2019 was his best haul to date and he reached a career high mark of 56th in the world after his last event finishing 8th in the WGC HSBC event. 6th at the Wyndham, 12th at the Norhern Trust and 9th at East Lake was a lovely finish to the year for Kokrak and surely the 34 year old isn't far off gaining his first victory. He plays this place well with two top tens to his name and his golf game probably never been in better shape. The bookmakers again are extremely aware and 40/1 is no value, but as we know in this game finding winners is just as important.
0.75u - J.Kokrak @ 40/1
0.75u - J.Kokrak to Finish Top 10 @ +500
Since winning the 2018 web.com Tour Championship Denny McCarthy had a largely disappointing 2019 season. That turned around though in the fall series events kicking off with a top 20 at the Sanderson. Top tens followed at the Shriners, Houston Open and RSM so he sits high enough up the Fedex rankings this season. Two missed cuts here is the big negative but he was playing is best stuff to date at the end of 2019 and as long as rust doesn't play its part over the next few days the 70/1 looks a fair offer.
0.75u - D.McCarthy @ 70/1
0.75u - D.McCarthy to Finish Top 10 @ +750
I'll finish with a couple of triple figure pokes as the likelihood for outsiders here is certainly increased. I'll start with Nate Lashley who has risen to 89th in the world rankings courtesy of some sparkling stuff the last 6 months. He won the Rocket Mortgage at 25 under par which is a super sign as you do really need at least two super low rounds here to contend. He did that in Detroit with a pair of 63s and another solid sign of his likeness for birdie fests came at the Greenbrier where he went 68-64-65-69 to finish in a tie for 3rd. 6 of 8 rounds here in the 60s has seen him finish 12th and 28th the last two years and with the rust well and truly shaken off with the two appearances in Hawaii I'm sure he'll be delighted to be greeted by perfect scoring conditions in California.
0.75u - N.Lashley 111/1
0.75u - N.Lashley to Finish Top 10 @ +900
It was a toss up between Stallings, Hoge and Redman for my final bet but the latter just about gets the nod. The 22 year old is embarking on his first full season on the PGA Tour having gained his tour card with non member status last season courtesy of a few impressive results. One of the most impressive of those was the top 20 posted at Portrush with four very solid rounds of golf for someone so inexperienced on that stage. Second at the Rocket Mortgage was to follow at the grand old score of 19 under. He won the US Amateur in 2017 having been two down with two holes to play finishing Eagle-Birdie and then beating Doug Ghim in the subsequent play off. These youngsters are a different breed these days and ready to win when they enter stage left so 250/1 looks a monster price.
0.75u - D.Redman @ 225/1
0.75u - D.Redman to Finish Top 10 @ +1400
By Niall Lyons