The 2023 American Express Preview: Everything You Need To Know About PGA West

Written By John Haslbauer on January 15, 2023 - Last Updated on January 16, 2023
American Express Odds

A Spanish sensation, a young group of talented Koreans, and a California homecoming for a popular Long Beach native highlight the lineup in Coachella Valley announced earlier this week. I think I speak for society at large: I could not be more excited to watch Jon Rahm, Tom Kim, Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, and Patrick Cantlay tee it up at PGA West for the 2023 American Express on the PGA TOUR. Let’s dive into the storylines and stats that matter most in 2023 American Express odds.

In store, we see a return of the Pro-Am format and three course rotation between the Stadium Course, Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club. This is not my favorite event on the schedule. A variety of courses is not always a bad thing, but when it’s different flavors of the same birdie-fest layouts, it’s hard to get too excited. The absence of ShotLink data on 50% of the rounds played also adds an extra layer of randomness, making it just that much more difficult to accurately handicap the players who suit the course best.

Is this a putting contest? Yes. And Rahm would tell you so himself in more colorful language. The rough is essentially nonexistent across the three courses. Outside of the water hazards– which will come into play on about one-third of the holes played this week– there are very few hazards to offer resistance from tee to green. So unlike last week’s sub 7,200-yard set up at the Sony Open, there is little reward for position off the tee across PGA West’s courses. Instead, we’ll look to hone in on players who thrived in other birdie-fests, comp conditions, and similar Pro-Am set ups.

2023 AMERICAN EXPRESS ODDS

Find the full 2023 American Express odds board at the bottom of this article. Included are outrights, top-five and top-10 odds across legal U.S. online sportsbooks.

THE FIELD AT A GLANCE

In 2022, this event featured eight OWGR top-30 players. This year, it’s seen a notable improvement that features eight of the OWGR top-15 and ten of the OWGR top-20.

World No. 2, Scottie Scheffler, ranks highest in this week’s field. It is assuredly headlined by the 2018 champion of this event, Jon Rahm. Rahm returns from Hawaii hot off of his comeback victory over Collin Morikawa at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. With three wins over his last five starts, he is sure to open as the betting favorite this week at short odds.

In addition to Scheffler and Rahm, the field is also highlighted by Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Sam Burns, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, and Sungjae Im. A big time field for a not-so-big-time event, but we’ll take it nonetheless!

Two-time American Express winner, Hudson Swafford, will not be back to defend his 2022 title after leaving the PGA TOUR for LIV. However, there will be nine past champions back in the field this week. That includes S.W. Kim, Rahm, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Jason Dufner, Brian Gay, Jhonattan Vegas, Bill Haas, and Charley Hoffman.

INTRODUCTION TO PGA WEST & THE PRO-AM FORMAT

The American Express is the first event of the season each year to feature a Pro-Am set up, in place throughout the first three days of this tournament. Each pro will be paired up with an amateur for the first three days so each foursome will have two pros and two amateurs. In the three-course rotation format, that means about 50 pros will be playing the courses each day, rotating Thursday through Saturday before the 70-man, 54-hole cut. All players through the cut will play the Stadium Course for a second time on Sunday.

In this event’s early days– when known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic– the Pro-Am was a massive draw for some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. Previous inclusions: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Gerald Ford. Over time, however, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am has attracted more celebrities to its field, with less notable amateur names coming to The AmEx.

The Pro-Am format means three very important nuances compared to a typical PGA TOUR Event: Pin Locations will be more accessible, Green speeds will be slowed down, and– despite those two efforts to speed up play from the amateurs– players will expect a 6+ hour round. It’s a different animal, and it may explain why players like Phil Mickelson, Patrick Cantlay, and Tom Hoge have such strong history both here and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It’s not for everyone, but it’s clear some favor this unique format more than others.

How It Breaks Down

As much as I’d love to write three separate course previews this week, it’s not entirely necessary to dive into each course in great granularity, as they share in common many of the same traits. Each of the three courses are Par-72, under 7,200 yardsoverseeded dormant Bermuda grass throughout, desert-style, and are very easy to score on with ample birdie opportunities, particularly on reachable Par-5s and shorter Par-4s.

Across the three courses, 41% of holes fall in the Par-4: 350-450 range. Par-5 Scoring will be crucial to keep pace this week as all three courses feature four reachable par-5s, and a heavy concentration in the 500-550 yard range. Looking at the combined distribution of hole ranges across all three courses in rotation, the top-10 players best suited to this layout are Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Sungjae Im, Jon Rahm, Tom Kim, Emiliano Grillo, Will Zalatoris, Andrew Putnam, Callum Tarren, and Patrick Cantlay.

Courses Preview

The Stadium Course, which will be played once in the Thursday-Saturday rotation and again on Sunday for all players through the cut, presents the greatest challenge of the three. It’s a Pete Dye design emulating TPC Sawgrass with challenging water hazards on seven holes. Avoiding the water on the Stadium Course will be key this week, as there will be very little resistance from the three courses otherwise. Its best defense is in its par-3s, as the three on the back-nine rank No. 1, 2, and 4 in scoring difficulty. They’ve have proven decisive in crowning a champion on Sundays. Overall, there are 10 holes at the Stadium Course with a scoring average below par. The historical scoring average is -1.33.

La Quinta Country and Nicklaus Tournament Course are considerably easier scoring layouts. Players will need to capitalize by going low on their two rounds here to keep pace. Though they lack ShotLink data, both courses feature a scoring average of -2.1 and share the same concentration of short par-4s and reachable par-5s.

Traits and Notable Facts

Historical metrics at the Stadium Course only tell half the story for this event. But they are still a useful starting point to understand the conditions at hand. Over the last seven years, The Stadium Course has ranked amongst the easiest courses on TOUR in terms of SG: ARG and Missed Fairway Penalty.

With that said, the course bites back in terms of Bunker Difficulty (No. 1 or 2 on TOUR each of the last five years) and penalty strokes per round (top-3 each of the last two years). Although still a birdie-fest, a little course experience can go a long way here for players to understand the importance of avoiding greenside bunkers and lateral water hazards.

The Par-5 fifth hole (shown below) has my vote as the worst hole on the PGA TOUR. There is a cart path which runs through the center of the fairway and players who are capable of carrying drives over 300 yards are at risk of randomly catching it and jettisoning into the right hand water hazard 400 yards from the tee box. I hate the hole, and I am sure I will tilt it plenty more this week.

PGA WEST COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 7,140 (SC), 7,060 (LQCC), 7,181 (NTC)
  • Par (All): 72 (4x 3s / 10x 4s / 4x 5s)
  • Greens (All): Dormant Bermuda (with Bent and Poa overseed)
  • Architect: Pete Dye (SC), Jack Nicklaus (NTC), Lawrence Hughes (LQCC)
  • Historical Cut Line: -9 (54-hole cut)
  • Comp Courses: TPC Summerlin, TPC Scottsdale, TPC Sawgrass, TPC River Highlands, Monterey Peninsula, CC of Jackson, Keene Trace GC, Summit Club
Stadium Course (7,140 Yards)
La Quinta CC (7,060 Yards)
Nicklaus Tournament Course (7,181)

THE AMERICAN EXPRESS ODDS: BETTING TRENDS, COURSE HISTORY

YearWinnerPre-Tournament OddsWinning ScoreField Median Score
2022Hudson Swafford+20000-23-11
2021Si Woo Kim+6600-23-10
2020Andrew Landry+20000-26-14
2019Adam Long+60000-26-14
2018Jon Rahm+1000-22-12
2017Hudson Swafford+6600-20-9
2016Jason Dufner+4000-25-13
2015Bill Haas+3000-22-14
2014Patrick Reed+13500-28-15
2013Brian Gay+8000-25-17

The Pro-Am format has required an easy course setup at this event, thus having produced a winning score of -20 or lower in each of the last 10 years. Rahm is the only favorite at odds shorter that 30-1 to win the American Express. With longshots of 200-1 or longer winning in three of the last four years, this event has proven to be one of the most difficult on TOUR to predict. It’s also a great opportunity to take a chance on a long list of longshots.

Event History

We’ll sub out any “Course History” terminology with “Event History,” looking at players who have played best across each of the three courses in rotation. Only half of the four rounds this week will be played at the Stadium Course, which holds all the SG data.

Looking at recent finishes, 11 players have posted multiple T15 finishes over the last five years: Adam Hadwin, Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Andrew Putnam, Jon Rahm, Si Woo Kim, Andrew Landry, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Tom Hoge, and Michael Thompson.

There are seven players who have avoided missing the cut in this event over the last five years with a minimum of three appearances over that span: Adam Hadwin, Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Andrew Putnam, Jon Rahm, Si Woo Kim, Tony Finau, Cam Davis, Sam Ryder, Harris English, and Ben Martin.

At the top of the Event History list, Adam Hadwin and Si Woo Kim are co-leaders in terms of total strokes gained over the last 36 rounds. Hadwin is still chasing his first career win here, but never missed a cut with four top-6 finishes in seven appearances. Kim won here in 2021 and also posted T11, T40, and T9 finishes in four trips to The AmEx. After Hadwin and Kim, the rest of the top 10 in Event History is rounded out by Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Sungjae Im, Cam Davis, Lucas Glover, Andrew Putnam, and Tony Finau.

Comp Courses

In terms of comp courses, I’d be hesitant to compare PGA West to many of the other short courses on TOUR like Sedgefield CC, Waialae CC, and Harbour Town. The courses at PGA West are not positional and do not penalize players for missing the fairway, so long as they avoid the water on the Stadium Course. Of the short set ups on the PGA TOUR, The Stadium Course is most similar to Sea Island (Seaside) and TPC River Highlands, in that both short courses feature persistent water hazards. You could look more granularly at players who have gained OTT at courses like TPC Twin Cities, Concession, and PGA National, where water hazards are more prevalent off the tee. The top five players SG: OTT at these courses are Sungjae Im, Keith Mitchell, KH Lee, Brendan Steele, and Sam Burns.

From fairway to green however, PGA West is nothing like these courses. So, I’m looking at desert courses (TPC Summerlin, TPC Scottsdale, Summit Club) and open, second-shot birdie-fests (CC of Jackson, Keene Trace GC, Monterey Peninsula) as comps for this week.

The Stadium Course is an authentic Pete Dye design, made in the image of TPC Sawgrass. Although it plays much easier, it’s definitely worth a closer look. Looking at SG: TOT over the last 36 rounds, the top 10 players in Comp Course History at these tracks are Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Tom Hoge, Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Sahith Theegala, Keith Mitchell, Tony Finau, Adam Hadwin, and Will Zalatoris.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER FOR 2023 AMERICAN EXPRESS ODDS

  • SG: APP
  • Birdies or Better Gained
  • SG: TOT (Easy Scoring Conditions)
  • Par-5 Scoring
  • Par-4: 350-450
  • Par-3 Scoring
  • Good Drives Gained
  • SG: P (L36)
  • Course & Comp Course History

The Strokes Gained data only tells half the story this week. As a result, we’re flying blind for two of the four rounds being played at La Quinta CC and Nicklaus Tournament Course. There is plenty of value still in what the Stadium Course numbers are telling us, but given that blind spot in data, I’m leaning on broader, overarching stats this week. These will be relevant across all four rounds.

Possible Fits

The list of past winners– which includes plodders the like Si Woo Kim, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Patrick Reed, and Brian Gay– suggests that driving distance does not matter here. That would be assumed on most short course layouts, but PGA West truly is a collection of second shot courses which rewards players who can spike with their irons and putting first and foremost. Just last year, Hudson Swafford fit the same profile, ranking top 10 in SG: APP with spike putting upside despite the 200-1 odds. This week, the top-10 in terms of SG: APP leading in are Tom Kim, Tom Hoge, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Brendan Steele, Mark Hubbard, Will Zalatoris, Matthew NeSmith, Scottie Scheffler, and Russell Knox.

La Quinta CC and the Nicklaus Tournament Course perennially rank in the top three of easiest scoring courses on the PGA TOUR. Rather than over-analyzing hole by hole, we can suffice to say the best birdie makers should take advantage of these two courses. The top-10 players in Birdies or Better Gained are Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, Xander Schauffele, Ben Griffin, Cam Davis, and Sungjae Im.

Refining this down in the simplest terms: I’m looking for elite iron players with streaky putting upside who have proven they can go low in comp, easy, desert conditions. There are seven players in the field this week who rate out top-40 in SG: APP, SG: P, Birdies or Better Gained, SG: TOT (Easy Conditions), and Comp Course History: Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Tom Kim, Tom Hoge, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, and Ben Griffin.

Correlated Stats

Given we only have historical Strokes Gained data from the Stadium Course, which will make up 50% of the rounds played this week, the correlation charts should be taken with a grain of salt. But if you buy into the notion that, “If you can play well at the Stadium Course, you should also play well at the two easier courses,” then this may still be useful.

At the Stadium Course, we see a notable jump in the importance of Par-3 Scoring, specifically Par-3: 0-150 Yards. Though the stock yardages don’t show it, No. 4 & No. 17 can play to <150 yards when tee boxes are moved around. That makes for viable birdie opportunities in an event where birdies are the prime commodity. The top five players in Par-3 Scoring are: Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Kyle Westmoreland, Nate Lashley, and Russell Knox.

Driving Distance has been more helpful than TOUR average at this event, though not of paramount importance. The longer-range metrics like Prox 200+ and Par-4: 500+ have had no correlation with success here.

Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top-10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at Stadium Course

Taking each of the above key categories into account, there are nine players who rate out above average in all 10 top categories at the Stadium Course: Patrick Cantlay, Tom Kim, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Patrick Rodgers, Thomas Detry, Justin Rose, Russell Knox, and Chesson Hadley.  

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: CAMERON YOUNG

I bet Cameron Young outright for the first time one year ago at this event at 350-1 odds. While I’d be lucky to find odds one-tenth of those a year later, he remains an optimal fit for the course.

Young had as impressive a rookie season as anyone’s ever had without picking up a victory. He amassed five runner-up finishes and two more top-3s. Despite still chasing his first career PGA TOUR win, it’s not a fault of surrendering leads under pressure, as the young star has looked poised while chasing down the leaders in most cases. Rather, it’s the variety of tournaments he’s contended in. That’s stood out as most impressive so far in Young’s career, as he’s posted these high finishes in difficult conditions (PGA Championship, Wells Fargo Championship, and Genesis Invitational) just as often as he has in birdie-fests (Sanderson Farms, Rocket Mortgage Classic). And at the risk of controversially diminishing The Open at St. Andrews to a birdie-fest, I’ll simply note that he posted a -19 there as well.

Correlated Young Finishes

Last we saw Young, he polished off the rust at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, posting another -19. Last we saw him at the American Express, he posted a T40, but the placement does not tell the full story. Young entered the final round three strokes behind the leaders, in the same position as the eventual-champion Swafford. However, he unraveled into a final round 77 by way of bad bounces into water hazards and self-assessed penalties. It was a weird week with a lot of unlucky breaks, but his first three rounds across the rotation gave more than enough reason to believe he can hold his own here.

With this week expected to become a putting contest, Young’s projected price in the second tier of the board should open up flexibility to build a longer card of longshots around him. He seems to be bursting with confidence after boldly requesting leave to play in the Saudi International. To me, that just screams an eagerness to seek out more desert conditions like we have in store this week in La Quinta, California.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT THE 2023 AMERICAN EXPRESS

We reach an interesting crossroads at the 2023 American Express. An event that has proven to be a surefire birdie-fest over its history has suddenly attracted a more quality field than it ever has before. On the one hand, a more top-heavy field means longer odds for viable longshots who are capable of winning a putting contest. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the combination of form and history that players like Rahm, Cantlay, and Finau bring to this event. I see myself finding exposure to at least one of the big names this week, while still taking a chance on multiple longshots beyond 100-1 odds.

With all the course fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early toward the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2023 American Express odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for Draft Kings:

FINAL THOUGHTS ON 2023 AMERICAN EXPRESS ODDS

For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m prioritizing SG: APP, Comp Course History, BoB Gained, SG: TOT (Easy Scoring Conditions), and SG: P (L36), followed by a balanced mix of Par-5 Scoring, Good Drives Gained, and Par-4: 350-450 yards.

Model Favorites

Native to western desert conditions in Scottsdale, Arizona, it’s Tony Finau who claims the No. 1 overall spot in my model this week. That comes as a bit of a surprise in an event which Rahm and Cantlay have strong history, so it’s possible there may be some value on Finau’s price when odds release on Monday. Finau carries a red-hot streak of seven top 10s and three victories over his last nine events. He ranks No. 1 in this field in terms of SG: TOT, Birdies or Better Gained, Good Drives Gained, Par-4 Scoring, and SG: Ball Striking over his last 36 rounds. He’ll be an interesting consideration with two top 15 finishes here over his last three appearances.

After Finau, my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Patrick Cantlay, Tom Kim, Tom Hoge, Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler, and Brian Harman.

The trends would suggest to fade the favorites and build out exposure across a wider list of longshots. However, with an uncharacteristically strong field, I’ll be open to concentrating exposure to the favorites if the value is there. Finau and Cantlay will be interesting top-tier bets to monitor, while Cameron Young, Patrick Rodgers, Harris English, and Mark Hubbard are also of interest on a longer card.

Check back here on Monday when odds are posted. Thanks for reading, and good luck navigating 2023 American Express odds!

Odds to win the American Express

View and bet on American Express odds below.

John Haslbauer Avatar
Written by
John Haslbauer

John Haslbauer writes about golf betting and advanced golf metrics for TheLines.com. He is a passionate golf fan, golf writer, and (casual) golfer. A graduate at Syracuse University, John works out of Jersey City as a Director of Media Strategy for HBO and HBO Max. He created the website thepgatout.com at the start of 2021 and is active on Twitter (@PGATout). No, he is not a tout. The Twitter handle is a joke. Touts are lame. We hate touts.

View all posts by John Haslbauer