The American Express
La Quinta, California
PGA West (Stadium Course) - Par 72 - 7,113 yards
PGA West (Nicklaus Tournament Course) - Par 72 - 7,159
La Quinta Country Club - Par 72 - 7,060
Field - 156 Entrants
Purse - $6.7M
Phil Mickelson's winter break by the fireplace comes to a screeching halt as the lefty now becomes an official host of the American Express, a pro-am style tournament guaranteeing 54 holes for 156 entrants and their amateur partners as they embark on the wonky journey of a three-course rotation. There will be a cut prior to Sunday's final round back at PGA West's Stadium Course, but the Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club also factor into the mix from Thursday to Saturday. All three of these setups are extremely scorable, as they've been some of the easiest courses on Tour since the rotation began in 2016. Birdie or better percentage becomes paramount as no winner has finished worse than 20-under-par at the event since 2007. Aside from a plethora of par-breakers, tributes for the legendary course designer, Pete Dye, are a certainty following his passing at the age of 94 last week. His legacy will live on through the handful of PGA Tour events stationed at venues throughout the country that were carved by his brilliant golf mind.
Key Stats to Victory
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Putting
Yahoo Value Picks - based on $200 salary cap
Cream of the Crop
Although a major championship victory still eludes Fowler's professional resume, the fact that he's priced lower than Sungjae Im and equal to Tony Finau is somewhat disrespectful to the five-time winner on the PGA Tour. Fowler, who grew up less than 100 miles from La Quinta, figures to draw a sizable gallery as the SoCal native returns home for his first American Express appearance since 2014. He's fallen outside of the top-20 in the OWGR, but most recently collected a T5 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions where he averaged over four birdies per round and gained over five strokes from tee to green despite windy conditions. Fowler has also gained strokes with the flat stick in five consecutive measured tournaments.
Casey has quite an unremarkable track record at this event and his $44 price tag is a bit inflated given the weak field, but this combination could lead to slightly reduced ownership as a similarly-priced, course-history character like Charles Howell III might draw more interest. Casey is easily one of the more accomplished players in attendance, however, while he's added a trio of international wins over the past two years. The Englishman wasn't great at the Sentry TOC on the heels of a top-5 at the Emirates Australian Open, but he ranks third among his peers in SG: Approach over his last 24 rounds.
Matthew Wolff - $40
The 20-year-old is a first-timer at PGA West, but he's proven more than capable of racking up par breakers at a high clip as he ranks 10th in birdie or better percentage over his last 36 rounds. He's also gained an average of 1.2 strokes putting per tourney throughout his past five events dating to the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Wolff ranks fifth on the PGA Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee through the early portion of the 2019-20 calendar.
Abraham Ancer - $36
Ancer began his season in disappointing fashion with back-to-back missed cuts at the Safeway Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, but he tallied consecutive top-8s at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Mayakoba Golf Classic before playing extremely well at the Presidents Cup also, ultimately ending 2019 with positive vibes. The top-ranked Mexican golfer was third on Tour in proximity from 150-175 yards this past season, so he should be comfortable with a short iron in his hands after taking less than driver off the tee on the numerous short par-4s this week. Ancer tied for 18th in La Quinta last year, but he'll look to improve upon the 20 par-breakers he posted.
Russell Knox - $35
Knox is a combined 29-under-par at the American Express since 2018, racking up an impressive 24 birdies and an eagle here last January. Course history is what it is, but he's currently trending in the right direction with five straight finishes of T33 or better and zero missed cuts since mid-September. Over his last 24 rounds, Knox ranks third in proximity from 75-100 yards, fifth in par-four efficiency, fourth in GIR percentage and fourth in SG: Approach.
Brian Stuard - $30
Stuard posted one of the worst putting performances of his entire career at Waialae Country Club last week as he lost over five strokes with the flat stick at the Sony Open, but he also gained over five strokes on his approach shots as the short irons and wedges remained hot. Hopefully some positive regression with the putter is in store for Stuard this week, because he's otherwise been solid this season with four top-25s and just one missed cut through nine starts while joining the top-40 in the premature FedEx Cup standings.
Zach Johnson - $28
Johnson has gone since the 2018 RSM Classic without another top-10 finish, but he ranks 10th in SG: Approach over his last 24 rounds while adding top-30s at the Sony Open, Mayakoba Golf Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship in the process. He's also notched back-to-back top-30s at PGA West, averaging an overall score of 14.5-under-par since 2018 here. He ranked 36th or better in both SG: Approach and proximity from 125-150 yards during the 2018-19 season.
Henrik Norlander - $20
The Swede's price hasn't adjusted to his significant rise in form as of late, tying for fifth at the RSM Classic before beginning 2020 with another top-10 last week at the Sony Open where he posted a 67.33 scoring average over his last three rounds and ultimately ranked second in SG: Putting. Norlander hasn't missed a cut since the Shriners and he's gained strokes on approach shots in three consecutive tourneys, so he's at least worth a look as a decent dart-throw at minimal cost.