Yahoo DFS Golf: The American Express Picks and Strategy

Yahoo DFS Golf: The American Express Picks and Strategy

The American Express

La Quinta, California
PGA West (Stadium Course) - Par 72 - 7,187 yards
PGA West (Nicklaus Tournament Course) - Par 72 - 7,147 yards
La Quinta Country Club - Par 72 - 7,060 yards
Field - 156 entrants
Purse - $8M

The Preview

The Hawaiian Swing culminated this past weekend with Si Woo Kim chipping in for birdie on Waialae's par-3 17th before adding another tweeter on his 72nd hole of the tournament to ultimately outlast Hayden Buckley by one at the Sony Open. Traveling back to the contiguous United States this week, sluggish rounds of five-plus hours await at The American Express where each of the 156 professional entrants will be paired with an amateur in a pro-am format. The action is spread out across an unusual three-course rotation from Thursday to Saturday, but despite the wonky setup, five of the Official World Golf Ranking's top-10 have elected to attend. Following a 54-hole cut down to the top 65 and ties, PGA West's Stadium Course will host the final round Sunday.

All three layouts are relatively short in length for par-72s and they each feature several reachable par-5s, so they're especially easy from a scoring perspective with La Quinta Country Club serving as the most elementary. Given the bermudagrass is dormant at PGA West this time of year, the greens this week are actually overseeded poa trivialis, which will run on the slower side but also much smoother than the traditionally bumpy poa annua you hear about so often during afternoon broadcasts. Many west-coast players express their affinity for the poa trivialis putting surfaces on these specific tracks at the AmEx, which is important since putting plays a significant role in crowning an eventual champion here. Par-breaker opportunities will come in bunches without much wind in the forecast, as indicated by the 24.5-under line on the 72-hole winning score prop seen on golfodds.com.

Recent Champions

2022 - Hudson Swafford
2021 - Si Woo Kim
2020 - Andrew Landry
2019 - Adam Long
2018 - Jon Rahm
2017 - Hudson Swafford
2016 - Jason Dufner
2015 - Bill Haas
2014 - Patrick Reed
2013 - Brian Gay

Key Stats to Victory

SG: Approach
Birdie or Better Percentage
SG: Putting
Par-5 Efficiency

Yahoo Value Picks

Based on $200 salary cap

Cream of the Crop

Scottie Scheffler - $48

Priced identically to the consensus betting favorite in Jon Rahm as well as horse-for-the-course Patrick Cantlay, who's 58-under-par across his last three AmEx outings, Scheffler provides what could be an important pivot opportunity in GPPs as a lower-rostered anchor up top. Scheffler isn't drawing the same buzz despite rattling off three consecutive top-10s since a T3 at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, and that's not including his runner-up finish in December at the Hero World Challenge. Scheffler is second to none in GIR percentage over his last 36 measured rounds, and he finally enjoyed a spike performance with the flat stick during his final round at the Sentry Tournament of Champions after his putter had gone cold from August through November.

Tony Finau - $44

Finau, who won a National Pro Golf Tour event at PGA West way back in 2011, more recently posted a solo-fourth effort here in 2021 when he held a share of the AmEx's 54-hole lead. Finau's been rolling the rock with the best of them as of late, averaging 3.9 strokes gained putting per tournament across his last six measured starts. Expanding the sample to his past 36 rounds, Finau ranks first in BOB percentage, fourth in SG: Approach and seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee.

Tom Kim - $43

Heading into the Sony Open in Hawaii as the favorite, Kim set up well for success at Waialae last week given his combination of elite driving accuracy and iron play. Nobody hit more fairways in regulation than Kim through the first two rounds while he also ranked 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 12th in SG: Ballstriking, but he failed to advance to the weekend due to 6.7 strokes lost on Waialae's greens, which are much flatter and easier than what he saw at Kapalua the previous week. It's safe to project some positive regression for Kim with the putter in La Quinta, and he's top-3 among the AmEx field in SG: Approach, Proximity: 150-175 yards and Opportunities Gained over his last 24 measured rounds.

Glue Guys

K.H. Lee - $37

The $38 to $40 sliver on this week's board is stacked with expectedly popular plays such as Taylor Montgomery, Tom Hoge, Cam Davis and Brian Harman, though they're probably still a touch overpriced from a win-equity perspective, especially in an event that typically allows much longer shots to contend due to the putting contest narrative. That being said, a $37 Lee might go overlooked in this spot, but he just followed his seventh-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a top-30 performance at the Sony Open in Hawaii where he ranked top-20 in both SG: Tee-to-Green and total birdies. Lee has made the cut in three straight AmEx appearances as well, notably gaining 5.2 strokes with his irons here last year.

J.T. Poston - $31

Last week at Waialae, Poston gained strokes across the entire board for the first time since his win at the John Deere Classic last summer, resulting in his fourth top-25 finish of the 2022-23 season. He's also top-25 in both Par-5 Efficiency and eagle rate over his last 36 measured rounds. Poston's track record at the AmEx shows four top-40s in six appearances, including a T7 here in 2019 when he amassed 23 total par-breakers while gaining 4.6 strokes putting.

Ben Griffin - $30

With three consecutive top-30s around the turn of the calendar year, Griffin's earned a $30-plus salary for a third straight start, so Yahoo's catching onto him quicker than some other markets. He just tied for 12th at the Sony Open in Hawaii where he ranked T9 in GIR percentage and 19th in SG: Putting. For a broader overview of his last 36 measured rounds, Griffin comes in at 10th in BOB percentage and 13th in SG: Approach.

Bargain Bin

Lee Hodges - $21

Hodges will be making his first start of 2023 after missing back-to-back cuts at the Cadence Bank Houston Open and The RSM Classic to close out his fall series, but he's got an ounce of course history on his side after tying for third in his debut here at the AmEx last year, reaching 20-under-par despite having actually lost over a stroke on these greens. Hodges finished second to only Sungjae Im in SG: T2G, and the former hit a tournament-best 59 greens in regulation. Despite the aforementioned missed cuts in November, Hodges still ranks fourth in eagle rate and 15th in SG: Ballstriking over his last 36 rounds.

David Lipsky - $20

Lipsky's solid iron play continued en route to a T4 finish at the Sony Open, where he ranked fourth in SG: Approach and T3 in total birdies. He has now also gained strokes putting in consecutive starts for the first time since late May/early June of 2022. He's up to third in overall proximity and fifth in BOB percentage over his last 12 rounds, and he tied for 14th in his AmEx debut last year. This feels like a bit of a misprice at the $20 minimum, so don't expect to feel too sneaky with Lipsky in large-field contests. Still, he could be a key piece in stars-and-scrubs strategies.

Ben Martin - $20

Given the stricter pricing at the top of the board with five names listed above the $45 mark, I'm willing to get more risk tolerant down here, especially with trunk-slammers only missing out on one round of scoring with 54 holes guaranteed for everyone this week. Coming off a T32 at the Sony Open where he ranked second to champion Si Woo Kim in SG: Approach, Martin is one under-the-radar dart throw that'll be in my player pool. Additionally, he's made the cut in each of his last three AmEx outings and he's 14th in GIR percentage over his last 24 rounds.