The American Express 2-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

The American Express Round 1 matchups, 2-Ball picks and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. The PGA Tour returns to California and coming off an undefeated week, Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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The American Express Thursday 2-Ball Picks and Predictions

The PGA Tour travels to sunny Palm Springs this week for the first leg of the California swing, the American Express. Formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, this event is a complicated one to say the least. Firstly, it features a three course rotation of the TPC Stadium Course, the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club. Players will rotate their first three rounds at each course, and then after a 54 hole cut, those remaining will play the TPC Stadium Course on Sunday. This tournament also features a Pro-Am, so players will be paired with amateurs during actual competition. Combine all this together and we are left with an extremely convoluted handicapping process, much longer rounds, and a somewhat difficult tournament to follow, as only the TPC Stadium Course has shot-tracker.

What we do have working in our favor is that all three courses are very similar. The TPC Stadium Course, the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club are all Par-72s that measure under 7,200 yards, feature Bermuda-grass greens overseeded with Poa Annua, and all three courses annually rate inside the top ten easiest tests on the PGA Tour schedule. Similar to the first two events of the year, we can expect to see birdies galore at the American Express. Palm Springs this time of year features very little wind and perfect scoring conditions. Each of the last four years, the winners has gotten to 20-under par.

In terms of what I am looking for this week, all three courses feature four par-fives, and it is absolutely essential to take advantage of these scorable holes. I will also be looking for players that are comfortable in easy scoring conditions and have shown an ability to spike with their flat-stick.

Coming off an undefeated week at the Sony Open, let's dig into my round one matchup selections.

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Round 1 Matchup: Hayden Buckley (+100) vs. Taylor Pendrith (+110), Tie (+750)

Selection: Hayden Buckley @ +110 (Bet $100 to win $110)

While Hayden Buckley and Taylor Pendrith are both rookies with a ton of game, its Buckley that may be realizing his potential quicker. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene with a fourth-place finish at the Sanderson Farms and an eighth-place finish at the Shriners in back-to-back weeks this fall swing. Buckley continued his strong play in 2022, with a 12th-place finish at the Sony Open where he gained 4.9 strokes ball-striking in his yearly debut.

Pendrith, on the other hand, produced some fireworks of his own this fall swing with a contending performance at the Bermuda Championship. Since then however, he has missed three of his last four cuts, and is coming off a week at the Sony Open where he lost strokes in all four major statistical categories. Pendrith is one of the longest players on Tour, but he is also one of the weakest iron players on Tour, ranking 146th out of 152 players in this field in strokes gained approach over his last 36 rounds. All three courses featured at the American Express require elite wedge play and have been typically mastered by short hitting plotters who can catch fire with their putter. Distance has also proven to be a mitigating factor over the years in Palm Springs. I'll side with Buckley, who is in much better form and also possesses a much stronger approach game to get off to a hot start in the desert.

Round 1 Matchup: Justin Rose (-110) vs. Jason Day (+120), Tie (+750)

Selection: Justin Rose @ -110 (Bet $100 to win $90.91)

Justin Rose is one of my absolute favorite plays on the board this week. I'm betting him to win the tournament outright, I will be severely over-weight on him in DFS, and I will gladly add more exposure to him in the matchup market as well. I do believe Rose is an undervalued commodity at this point, and unlike Jason Day, he has shown signs of a return to form. The former U.S. Open champion was last seen gaining over a stroke in all four major categories at the RSM Classic, and prior to that, he finished only two strokes out of a playoff at the Wyndham Championship. I tend to think of Justin Rose is better suited for more difficult tests, but it's worth noting that he has won before at the Zurich Classic, another Pete Dye designed Par 72 Bermuda-grass course where birdies are the currency.

On the other hand, I just don't think that Jason Day is healthy, and I have zero evidence that competing at the highest level is a priority to him anymore. Over the past couple of years, Day has been more and more cautious about tournament selection, and he's only teed it up six times in the last six months. I don't envision a tournament with three different courses and six-hour rounds in the Palm Springs heat to be the spot where he returns to form. I'll side with Rose in this one.

Round 2 Matchup: Andrew Putnam (-105) vs. Nick Taylor (+115), Tie (+750)

Selection: Andrew Putnam @ -105 (Bet $100 to win $95.24)

This is another easy one, as Andrew Putnam is a player that I am extremely high on this week in all markets. The former Barracuda Championship winner is a West Coast guy who honed his skills collegiately at Pepperdine and has always shown an affinity for the PGA Tour's California swing. Specifically at this tournament, Putnam has never finished worse than 34th in his last four appearances. The 32-year-old is also coming off a T27 at the Sony Open where he gained strokes in all four major categories. He boasts mutiple top-20 finishes comparable tests such as TPC Scottsdale and TPC Summerlin, and I expect him to continue his strong play in the desert.

Nick Taylor, on the other hand, is making his 2022 debut, and he hasn't played competitive golf since the Houston Open in November. The Canadian hasn't been able to figure out this tournament yet either, with only one top-20 finish in seven appearances. Much of that has to do with the fact that he is a very poor iron player, ranking 127th in this field in strokes gained approach over his last 36 rounds, and he struggles to keep up in birdie fests, ranking 118th in average strokes gained per round in easy scoring conditions. Expect Putnam to cruise to an easy victory in an event that he's extremely comfortable at.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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