The 2021 American Express PGA Tour Hot Picks

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The PGA Tour leaves Hawaii and heads to California for the 2021 American Express. There have been drastic changes to this year’s American Express tournament, with the most notable one being that the event is no longer a Pro-Am. The 54-hole cut also has been ditched for the more traditional 36-hole cut. There also is a significant change in the rotation of courses that will be used for the event. (All odds listed courtesy of MyBookie.com unless otherwise noted).

Course Breakdown and Weather

In years past this event was held on three courses. But with the event no longer being a Pro-Am, La Quinta Country Club will not be utilized this time around.

The first two days will be held at PGA West, which features the PGA West Stadium Course and the PGA West Nicklaus Course. Both courses are short par-72s and that has resulted in the past two winners both shooting 26- under-par. Rain was expected on Wednesday, so once the golfers step on the first tee box on Thursday morning, the greens should be softened up and receptive to aggressive approach shots. For the rest of the tournament, the weather should be a non-factor with no precipitation and minimal wind in the forecast.

With only one winner in the past 30 years not shooting 20-under or better (Charley Hoffman, 2007), this tournament is designed to be a birdie-fest, and it often lives up to the hype. Conditions this weekend should help with the usual narrative.

The Favorites

Only 13 of the top 50 in the official World Golf Rankings are participating this weekend, so there are some unfamiliar faces with shorter odds than usual. According to MyBookie.com, Patrick Cantlay is the favorite at +1200. Rounding out the favorites are Patrick Reed (+1600), Scottie Scheffler (+1600), Brooks Koepka (+1800), Sungjae Im (+2000), Tony Finau (+2000), Matthew Wolff (+2200), and the runner-up in this event last year, Abraham Ancer (+2800). With Jon Rahm, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, withdrawing from this event, there is not a single golfer on this list that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Please Note:
In such a balanced field, avoid anyone under +2000, especially Koepka who did not play in either of the Hawaii events to kick off the season. The best bet if you want to take one of the bigger names is to take Cantlay to beat Koepka by two shots this week. Sungjae Im, who has posted top-15s in his only two appearances in this event, is a tempting bet to win at the +2000 odds being offered by MyBookie. The shorter courses that will be played this year do not offer massive advantages to the long hitters.

Therefore, Finau and Wolff offer little value as they are wildly inconsistent with their short games. Ancer has yet to break through for a win on the PGA Tour and is fresh off of a missed cut last week at the Sony so steer clear of him until he displays better form.

The Picks: Sungjae Im +2000; Patrick Cantlay -1.5 vs Brooks Koepka (-104) via BetOnline

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Best Value Plays

The middle tier starts with last week’s winner Kevin Na (+3000). Na earned his win last week but he would be closer to +7000 if he had finished third. It is hard to win back-to-back tournaments on the PGA Tour; do not expect this week to be one of those rare occasions. The first name worth a good hard look is Russell Henley (+3300). Henley finished 17-under last week and tied for 11th after faltering in the final round. He was 15-under after Saturday and was simply unable to get anything going on Sunday. Henley has displayed the approach game that is necessary to win here and showed that form just last week.

The next name worth consideration is Si Woo Kim (+6000). Kim finished tied for 25th last week, playing really great golf up until the weekend. Kim has two PGA Tour victories, including the 2017 Players Championship, so he will not be afraid of the big moment if he is in contention on Sunday afternoon.

Popular names to avoid in this range are Rickie Fowler (+4000) and Phil Mickelson (+4500). The names may be familiar, even iconic, but they are not playing their best golf right now. Wait to put your hard-earned money on these guys until they show they have returned to form, or even if they can. Fowler is still young enough to get his game tuned up and turned around, and Mickelson has frequently defied skeptics who bring up his age. We’ll bring it up anyway. He turned 50 last June, and although some of his best years may still be ahead of him, it will be on the Champions Tour and not the regular PGA Tour.

The Picks: Russell Henley (+3300); Si Woo Kim (+6000)

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Top-10 Plays

Patton Kizzire finished seventh last week at the Sony Open without putting well and despite struggling through an abysmal second round. Kizzire has two career wins and 16 career top-10 finishes. Kizzire is +500 on BetOnline.ag to finish in the top 10 of the American Express and he is a safe play to be right there on Sunday.

Please Note:
Another intriguing name for a prop bet is Gary Woodland, sitting at +750 to collect a top-10 finish this week. The former U.S. Open champion has had little success since hoisting the Open trophy in June 2019. Woodland has done a reverse Bryson DeChambeau and dropped a drastic amount of weight with hopes to become healthier and more durable for the 2021 PGA Tour season.

So far it hasn’t seemed to work for him. If he wants to get back into contention for major championships, he needs to prove to himself he can compete to win an event such as this. A top-10 finish would be a huge step in that direction for him and at +750 he’s worth making a small play on.

The Picks: Patton Kizzire Top-10 finish (+500); Gary Woodland Top-10 Finish (+750) via BetOnline

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The Longshots and Other Plays

The past two winners – Adam Long and Andrew Landry – were +20000 and +50000, respectively, so the longshots are not afterthoughts in this event. Doc Redman (+9000) does not have odds quite as high, but with three top-fives in his last eight starts, he feels due to break into the winner’s circle. If you are not feeling as risky, take him +1800 to finish Top 5.

Max Homa (+14000) has a PGA win at Quail Hollow on his resume but has struggled to compete, let alone win since then. Homa is not a safe prop bet for matchups or for a top 10 because he is boom or bust. The popular golfer has what it takes to win this event, though, and being a California kid, he should feel right at home on the two PGA West courses.

And if you want to get wild and crazy, Will Gordon is +25000 at MyBookie.com, fitting the odds of the past two winners. The former SEC Player of the Year from Vanderbilt recorded a top-three finish last season and will eventually be a winner on the Tour. If someone from this odds range wins this week, do not be surprised if it is Gordon.

The Picks: Doc Redman (+9000); Max Homa (+14000); Small play on Will Gordon (+25000)

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Considering Captain Kirk

One more player to consider and perhaps the best story heading into the weekend is Chris Kirk (+7500 to win). He finished second by a single stroke in last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, and did so in dramatic fashion.

On his final hole, he was in terrible position 80 off to the right of the No. 18 green at a challenging angle. He came through with a perfect pitch shot that led to a birdie and his fourth consecutive 65, briefly giving him a share of the lead. More importantly, it put him in position to finish second on a day when he desperately needed it. He came into the tournament needing to finish in a two-way tie for third or better to regain his full PGA Tour status after walking away from the game in May 2019 to be treated for alcoholism and depression.

So now Kirk is the feel-good story who comes into The American Express with the weight of the world off his shoulders as far as retaining his PGA Tour card. He’s obviously playing well, as the four straight 65s at The Sony Open attest. He might be well worth a small play to win it, but two safer bets to make on him would be at +120 and -1 ½ to best Alex Noren in the tournament; or better yet, at +100 and minus just a half-stroke to finish in front of Denny McCarthy in the first round.

The Picks: Small play on Chris Kirk to win (+7500); Kirk (-1 ½ strokes, +120) to finish ahead of Alex Noren in the tournament; Kirk (- ½ stroke, +100) to finish ahead of Denny McCarthy in the first round.

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Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.