American Express In-Tournament Picks: Look for Kizzire, Ghim to Make a Run
American Express In-Tournament Picks
American Express Live Picks
Current Leader: Patrick Cantlay (-14)
Round 3 Start Time: 11:40 am ET
Course: TPC Stadium Course, La Quinta Country Club, Nicklaus Tournament Course
American Express Predictions
We've reached the halfway point of one the most enjoyable yet convoluted tournaments of the year, the American Express. Formerly known as the CareerBuilder Challenge, the Humana Challenge, and the Bob Hope Desert Classic (amongst other short-lived titles), this event has annually been held in sunny Palm Springs for the last 62 years. What's unique about the American Express is not only that the pros are paired with amateurs during competition, but it also features a three-course rotation and a 54-hole cut. Players will rotate between the TPC Stadium Course, La Quinta Country Club, and the Nicklaus Tournament Course across the first three days, and the low 65 players and ties will all play their final round at the TPC Stadium Course.
Unfortunately for us bettors, the TPC Stadium Course is the only course in the rotation with shot-link data. Yet just based on general scoring average, the Stadium Course has played as the most difficult of the three, averaging at least a stroke harder than the Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club.
In a perfect world, we want to be looking for players that have already played the Stadium Course, and that might be the only case for why Patrick Cantlay isn't going to run away with this tournament. The World No. 4 shot an opening round 62 at La Quinta Country Club, and followed it up with a four-under par 68 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cantlay holds a one-shot advantage over Tom Hoge, and can currently be found as high as +150 via the OddsChecker golf grid.
Cantlay is one of the best two players in the field, and it would shock no one if he put this tournament out of grasp. Yet this is baked into his number, and I have a hard time endorsing a wager on Cantlay at such a short price when he has yet to play the most difficult course, and 31 other capable players enter the weekend within five strokes.
Tom Hoge and Joseph Bramlett are both appealing options who have already played the Stadium Course, and both Hoge and Bramlett sit within two of Cantlay. Bramlett led the field in strokes gained approach and finished second in strokes gained off the tee en route to a seven-under par 65 at the Stadium Course. The 33-year-old backed it up nicely with a five-under par 67 at La Quinta. The wheels fell off at the end, as he bogeyed his final two holes on Friday, but he still is in prime position to be a factor over the weekend. Bramlett can be found as high as 19/1 via the OddsChecker golf grid.
While Bramlett's ball-striking numbers certainly catch my eye, and Hoge hit the ball well at the Stadium Course as well, I have a difficult time backing players with zero PGA Tour wins at under 20/1, especially when there are dozens of more proven players at much more appetizing odds within striking distance.
I'll begin with an endorsement for Patton Kizzire, who can be found as high as 50/1 via the OddsChecker golf grid on BetMGM. Kizzire is a player I was extremely high on pre-tournament for his affinity for easy scoring conditions and his multiple top-five finishes at similar wide-open birdie fests as TPC Summerlin, Jackson Country Club, and TPC Craig Ranch. The two-time PGA Tour winner sits at 10-under par after back-to-back rounds of 67 on the Stadium Course and La Quinta Country Club. The 35-year-old gained strokes in all four major categories at the Stadium Course, and cruised to another six birdies at La Quinta, without even taking advantage of two easiest holes on the course. Tracking down Cantlay will not be easy, but at 50/1, Kizzire is the best bet on the board.
I mentioned that 31 players sit at nine-under par or better, so there are many appealing options within striking distance. Yet when factoring in odds, pre-tournament handicap, and in-tournament metrics, I'll turn my attention to Doug Ghim. Formerly the top-ranked amateur in the world and a collegiate standout at Texas, Ghim has teased us with eye-popping approach numbers and frustrating putting. The 25-year-old opened with a five-under par 67 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course, and followed it up with a four-under par 68 at the Stadium Course to sit just five strokes back of the lead. Ghim can currently be found as high as 150/1 at BetMGM via the OddsChecker golf grid.
Ghim was another player that was on my radar pre-tournament for his fifth-place finish here last year, and contending performance at TPC Sawgrass, another Pete Dye design that was constructed in the same vein as it's West Coast TPC Stadium counter-part. Ghim is an excellent wedge player who thrives in easy scoring conditions, and he ranks fifth in strokes gained tee to green out of all players who have played the Stadium Course.
Talent has never been the issue with Ghim, who finished runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Amateur, and won the 2018 Ben Hogan Award for Best Collegiate Golfer. My concern with him is more about reps under pressure, yet Ghim has spoken candidly about the experience of playing in the final group at the PLAYERS Championship last year alongside Justin Thomas. I'm hopeful that his Sunday struggles at the PLAYERS was an invaluable learning experience.
Ultimately, I have little understanding as to why Ghim is 150/1, and similarly unproven players surrounding him on the leaderboard are half the price. I'll gladly take my chances with Kizzire and Ghim at enticing numbers and pray that Cantlay falters.
American Express Live Picks
- PICK: Patton Kizzire @ +5000 via BetMGM (Bet $100 to win $5,000)
- PICK: Doug Ghim @ +15000 via BetMGM (Bet $100 to win $15,000)
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.