The PGA Tour is stateside for the first time in 2021 at The American Express
The American Express will have a different look to it this year. It’s not just the lack of fans that will be at PGA West’s Nicklaus and Stadium courses and La Quinta Country Club.
We’re unfortunately used to that with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing on.
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What will be particularly different is the lack of the long-running pro-am. The event has lost some luster since its days hosted by the late Bob Hope, but it’s still an event that draws some notable celebrities who want some reps before the Pebble Beach Pro-Am (which is als hosting no amateuers in 2021).
With no amateurs to cater to, will we see tougher conditions this time around? I think perhaps some different pin positions will be in play, but don’t expect anything resembling U.S. Open conditions. Or even Canadian Open.
Some rain is forecasted during the practice rounds, but the tournament days expect to be dry with temperatures mainly in the 50s-60s. Winds are expected to stay in the single digits miles per hour.
Water is one of the main defenses this tournament has to offer, particularly at the Stadium course where it comes in to play on seven holes. This week’s 156-player field plays each course once before a 54-hole cut is made for top 65 and ties.
Stadium hosts the final round.
La Quinta played tough in past years but is now more gettable. It ceded a 59 to Adam Hadwin in 2017 and is a par 72 playing at just 7,060 yards. All four par-5s are under 550 yards.
Nicklaus is also a par 72 stretching a bit farther to 7,159 yards. It’s played marginally tougher in recent years than La Quinta. Three par-5s are under 550 yards. Last week’s winner, Kevin Na, shares the course record of 62 with David Lingmerth.
The Stadium course is a Pete Dye design that first hosted this event in 1987. While the winning score of the then 90-hole event was still a healthy 19-under, it was deemed too tough by pros. Especiallly too tough for the amateurs.
A petition was successful to take the course off the schedule. It didn’t come back until it got back in good graces with this event in 2016. The course, which was supposed to resemble in some fashion Dye’s other famed design, TPC Sawgrass, was softened.
It’s still the hardest of the three, playing as a par 7 at a tick over 7,100 yards, but easier than average by PGA Tour standards. It features bermuda grass from tee to green. This time of year it’s overseeded with rye and poa trivialis. Same goes for the turf at the other courses.
This event anually opens the revered West Coast swing while garnering the weakest field. Most European Tour stars are playing on their home tour in the Middle East, including some PGA Tour names poached with appearance fees.
Nonetheless, there’s still a top 10 player teeing it up in Palm Springs and four more from the top 20. Add in last week’s winner, No. 23 Kevin Na, and there are plenty of reasons to tune in this week.
Let’s get right to it with one of the headliners in the No. 10 slot:
This post has been updated to reflect Jon Rahm’s withdrawal.