The TOUR travels across the Pacific Ocean for The American Express in La Quinta, California located near Palm Springs. Formerly known as The Career Builder, The Desert Classic and most famously known as The Bob Hope Classic, the newly named tournament will start the West Coast swing and be headlined by Francesco Molinari, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler and tournament host, Phil Mickelson, who’ll be making his first start on TOUR since the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The 2019 champion, Adam Long, along with the rest of the field will be playing across three courses this week. La Quinta Country Club and PGA West Nicklaus Tournament course will be played once while PGA West TPC Stadium course will be played twice. Both La Quinta and the Nicklaus Tournament course played as the two easiest courses in scoring relative to par last season, as well as the season previous. The TPC Stadium course, which ranked as the 10th easiest last season, will also be the only course to record Shot Link Data, which is something to consider when looking at past statistics. The tournament will also feature a 54-hole cut instead of the normal cut after two rounds in order for the golfers to play all three courses before playing the final round on TPC Stadium course to finish the tournament.
All three courses play as a Par 72, measure between 7,000 to 7,160 yards and will be played on Bermuda greens. With all Pete Dye courses, position golf will be key. With little to no rough throughout all three courses, tee shots will matter less in fairways hit and more so on the correct angles to attack the pins. The primary stat with all Pete Dye courses is Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, but especially on short Par 4s. Of the 30 par 4s across all three courses, one-third measure between 350 to 400 yards. Similar to last week, we should be leaning towards golfers who played in Hawaii with nine of the last 10 champions playing in the week(s) prior to their win here. Lastly, players who rank high Par 5 scoring and birdie or better percentage should be in our lineups this week with the average winning score finishing at 23-under over the last five years.
Russell Knox ($8,100)Knox has hit the ball extremely well with his irons, gaining strokes through approach in nine of his last 10 tournaments (with Shot Link Data), and he performed especially well last week, ranking third in the field gaining just under six strokes at Waialae CC. Even though Knox is suited for a tournament where the scoring is a little more difficult, he’s played well here over the last two years, finishing inside the top 30 and is one of the best in the field in Par 4 scoring average between 350 to 400 yards ranking 10th over his last three tournaments. Of course, he’ll need to get on the practice greens a little more this week losing strokes in four of his five starts here, but with back-to-back solid finishes in the California desert at this tournament and a strong performance last week, Knox is in a good position to play well this week.
Carlos Ortiz ($7,200)Ortiz suffered a similar fate to Knox last week, great in approach with little to no success on the greens. The takeaway isn’t just about Ortiz hitting his irons well at Waialae, it’s hitting them well in his first start on TOUR since the middle of November last year. Ortiz has experience playing on TPC Stadium course dating back to Q-School and finished inside the top 15 back in 2013, but it hasn’t been great since with two missed cuts and a T65 since 2015. Look for Ortiz to bounce back in a big way with his ability to score ranking ninth in Par 5 scoring average over his last three tournaments and inside the top 20 in birdie or better percentage over his last 24 rounds.
Kevin Chappell ($6,700)Chappell hasn’t been great since coming back from his injury, but getting him on a Pete Dye course may just be what the doctor ordered. Over his last six tournaments on Pete Dye courses, Chappell ranks sixth in birdie or better percentage, fourth in approach and par 5 scoring average as well as second in DraftKings scoring. He’s made the cut in all of his starts dating back to 2011 and just missed the top 3 by a stroke in his most recent finish here back in 2018.
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