The PGA Tour travels back to California this week for The American Express in La Quinta, California.
The American Express, an event formerly known as the Desert Classic and the Bob Hope Classic, has changed names several times throughout the years, still, it is one of the longest-running events on the PGA calendar and this year will mark its 64th edition.
This week’s event will be the first of a handful of stops in The Golden State for the PGA Tour in the coming weeks with trips to Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, and Riviera on the upcoming agenda.
Just like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, this week’s The American Express is also a Pro-Am event. Professionals will be paired with amateurs over the course of the first three rounds before the usual cut of top 65 and ties is made on Saturday.
A rotation of three courses will be used this week with players playing a round at La Quinta Country Club, PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course, and PGA West’s Stadium Course over the first three days. The final round on Sunday will be played on Pete Dye’s Stadium Course.
All three courses are Par 72s that measure right around 7200 yards in length. Each course in the rotation ranks amongst the easiest that players see on the PGA Tour schedule each year, although the Stadium Course, arguably, provides the sternest test among the three in play this week.
Winning scores have typically ranged between the low and mid 20-under-par ranges so players will need to take advantage of the scorable conditions if they hope to find themselves in contention come Sunday evening.
The field for this week’s The American Express is impressive with five of the world’s top ten ranked players in attendance and ten of the top twenty.
Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, and Tony Finau are just a handful of the big names who have made the trip to the Coachella Valley this week.
Following his incredible come-from-behind win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, it’s of little surprise to see Jon Rahm’s name as the betting favorite for this week’s The American Express. Here is a look at how the rest of the top ten favorites shake out this week over on WynnBet.
The American Express Favorites
(All odds courtesy of Wynnbet. ***Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.***)
- Jon Rahm (+600)
- Scottie Scheffler (+800)
- Patrick Cantlay (+1000)
- Tony Finau (+1300)
- Xander Schauffele (+1300)
- Sungjae Im (+2000)
- Cameron Young (+2000)
- Will Zalatoris (+2000)
- Tom Kim (+2500)
- Sam Burns (+3000)
Pick to Top 20: Matthew NeSmith (+475)
Matthew NeSmith kicked off the new PGA Tour season with three top 10s across six starts during the ‘fall swing’ of the 2022/23 calendar. He will be making his first start of 2023 at this week’s The American Express.
The 23-year-old has missed the cut in two of his three previous appearances at this event but has shown an ability to excel at Desert locales and Pete Dye designs before. The South Carolina native recorded one of his three top 10 finishes this season at the Shriners Children’s Open at TPC Summerlin where he finished runner-up to eventual winner Tom Kim in the desert climes.
Matthew had solid showings last season at the Travelers Championship (19th) and RBC Heritage (12th), both Pete Dye designs. He also ranks 2nd in the field in SG: approach and 11th from tee to green on Dye layouts.
NeSmith ranks top 10 in the field in SG: approach across his last 50 rounds. If he can make some putts this week he could very well find himself near the top of the leaderboard once again come week’s end.
Pick to Top 20: J.T. Poston (+275)
J.T. Poston finished his trip around the Hawaiian islands last week with a 21st-place finish at the Sony Open, it was J.T.’s third consecutive 21st-place finish. His finish doesn’t tell the whole story, however, as Poston was competitive for the majority of the week at Waialae before a Sunday 69 saw him slip down the leaderboard.
Last season’s John Deere Classic winner has had mixed results around La Quinta and PGA West, but he did pick up a 25th-place finish at the 2022 American Express after four consecutive rounds of 69.
Poston also finished 7th at this event back in 2019 and he is another player who has a solid record on Pete Dye designs. In his past 36 rounds on Dye tracks, the 29-year-old ranks ninth in the field.
J.T. has gained strokes off the tee in each of his previous six starts at The American Express and he has gained strokes on approach in each of his last three starts worldwide, if he can combine the two he could be in store for another good week.
Pick to Win: K.H. Lee (+5000)
It’s probable that one of the best players in the world wins this week, but in an event that has seen multiple long shots come through over the years, I’ll take a shot on a talented player at a nice number.
K.H. Lee has already demonstrated that he can compete, and even win in some of the strongest fields. As was the case at the AT&T Byron Nelson last year when Lee outlasted Spieth, Thomas, Scheffler, Schauffele, Matsuyama, and others on his way to the title.
The 31-year-old played in both Hawaiian events over the last two weeks and was particularly impressive at the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago where he finished 7th in a strong, albeit limited field.
The South Korean has gained strokes in nearly every category through his first two starts of 2023. The lone exception has been marginal inaccuracies off the tee.
If he can improve in that area this week it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lee competing with the best in the world once again.