Unfortunately, vacation time in Hawaii is over for PGA Tour players.
More top-ranked players on the Tour will get back into the swing of things as the Tour lands in California for this week’s event, The American Express.
Over the next three weeks, the Tour will call California home before heading to Arizona for a quick jaunt and then finishing up the West Coast swing back in California.
The American Express, which is being held on three courses in the Coachella Valley in Southern California, will feature 10 of the top 20 players in the world rankings.
This event is one of those where players’ patience will really be tested more so than their golf swings. That’s because amateurs will tee it up with pros for the first three rounds. That means slow rounds, as in five-plus hours in some instances. So players making sure they can stay focused with all of the distractions around is going to be the biggest challenge.
This is one of two events on the Tour where the amateurs are a major part of the story during tournament play which is why this field isn’t more stacked with firepower. Some players just want to concentrate on their game, especially knowing what’s at stake.
Playing with amateurs in a pro-am is one thing. Playing with them during actual competition is a whole different ballgame. For those who are teeing it up, it’s also a great test because players will have to navigate three different golf courses over the first three rounds.
The action will take place on PGA West Stadium Course, La Quinta Country Club, and PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course.
So while we adjust to the time zone changes (two hours ahead of Hawaii) and the format (three courses and hundreds of amateurs), let’s look up and down the list and see who’s going to be able to get in the win column early in 2023.
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Odds to Win the American Express
|Si Woo Kim
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Early Season Success is Vital
There’s a lot to be said about the West Coast swing in the early part of 2023.
Some of the big names still aren’t in action yet (Rory, we’re waiting) but there’s enough of a big-time feel with players like Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler to ramp up the interest.
Scheffler is still looking for a good enough finish to get back into that No. 1 spot in the world rankings. Add in Rahm, one of the hottest players around, being in the field and we’ll see which players might have the ability to beat these two superstars.
Expert Analysis: Rahm’s Win in Hawaii Was a Huge Boost
It’s easy to say that sometimes players just go through the motions late in a tournament if they appear to be out of the running.
He was nine shots back at the Tournament of Champions after a first-hole bogey on his opening hole of the final round on Maui.
Time to phone it in and take in the scenery as he finishes the round? No way. Rahm put up nine birdies and an eagle the rest of the way to overtake Collin Morikawa for his eighth PGA Tour title.
This week Rahm’s the overwhelming favorite at +650, and there’s no doubt he should be favored. That victory on Maui had to show him he’s never out of a tournament. After skipping last week’s event, the Sony Open, he will be ready to try to make it two in a row.
He’s never won back-to-back events on the PGA Tour, but he’s also never rallied from nine back to win a tournament. Seems like there’s a first time for everything when it comes to Rahm.
He’s also a former champ here so no matter how hard we look, we can’t find a reason to bet against him, even at these low odds.
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Sometimes It’s Just a Matter of Time
Hear that knocking on the door? That would be Taylor Montgomery, at +3500 this week, who is hammering away and waiting to kick in the door and win for the first time on the PGA Tour.
With the way he’s been playing it’s hard to believe he’s just a rookie. He’s played in eight tournaments in this wraparound season and has seven top-15 finishes. A lot of players would kill for that type of consistency.
His best finish this season was a solo third at the opening event, the Fortinet Championship. He’s been in the hunt week-in and week-out, and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep that momentum going.
Montgomery wound up T-12 last week on Oahu after leading for the first two rounds. An even-par third round likely cost him a shot to be a factor coming down the stretch.
With three courses on the slate this week, we’re betting he handles the variety of layouts just fine.
Around the Prop Scene
A blast from the past keeps grabbing our attention. Keep an eye on Aaron Baddeley to finish in the top 20 at +600. We’ve backed him one other time over the last year and he cashed for us.
Baddeley got a sponsor’s exemption into last week’s Sony Open and made it pay off big-time. He wound up with a T-7 finish, which earned him an automatic spot in this week’s tournament.
He made the most of last week’s chance to play. There’s no reason to believe he won’t freewheel again this week and play well for the second straight week.
Also look out for Will Zalatoris finishing in the top-five at +450. He wound up T-11 two weeks ago at the Tournament of Champions as he came back from a back injury that sidelined him since withdrawing from the BMW tournament last fall.
Since then he’s undergone a swing change that is taking pressure off his back and his first outing on Maui showed that even with a swing change, his game appears to be ready to go.