I’m not shy in my disdain for The American Express from a bettor’s perspective. In fact, taking a seat and letting things play out for three rounds may be the best way to attack this three-course tournament that is played as a pro-am for three days before a cut is made and everyone heads to the same course.
The American Express does get interesting on Sunday. The Stadium Course provides a ton of risk/reward shots down the stretch with plenty of birdie opportunities for players to make a charge.
Tournament Recap Through First Three Rounds
Jon Rahm sometimes seems inevitable. That’s been the case throughout most of the week at The American Express as he’s fired rounds of 64, 64 and 65 across the three courses at PGA West. The only thing holding him back was an incredible start from PGA Tour rookie Davis Thompson. The University of Georgia product opened with 62 at La Quinta before a 64 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach a ridiculous 18 under through two rounds.
Thompson and Rahm now each sit at 23 under, four shots clear of J.T. Poston and Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The leaderboard is extremely bunched up with 24 players between 14 under and 19 under.
Typically at the Stadium Course, I would say this thing is far from a two-man race due to the variance in scores possible.
We’ve seen some strong play from other notable names, but they’ve mostly failed to keep it up for three rounds … something you need to do in a birdie fest like this.
Sam Burns and Tom Kim are the two most intriguing names on the board with upside. Kim’s 62 on Friday made up for his opening-round 69, and he sits in a tie for fifth. Burns’ 64 on Thursday made him the second favorite to win the tournament, but his 70 on La Quinta dropped him way off the pace. He now sits in fifth as well after a strong 64 on Nicklaus Saturday.
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Winner: Jon Rahm
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It’s a bit jarring to see a number like this when betting golf … especially on a player that is only tied for the lead, but Rahm is understandably the huge favorite here heading into the final round at PGA West. For starters, Rahm is arguably the best player on the planet currently. He had a fantastic stretch to end the year in Europe with multiple wins, and then he added a trophy two weeks ago at Kapalua in his stunning comeback against Collin Morikawa.
On top of that, Thompson, while very talented, is just a PGA Tour rookie and hasn’t been in a situation like this before. Teeing it up in the final round with Rahm will certainly be intimidating, and this feels like an experience that will get him ready for future chances instead of providing us with an upset story.
Rahm infamously had an expletive-filled rant at this tournament a year ago where he complained about the setup and described it as a putting contest. He certainly wasn’t wrong. But you could argue that it was silly for him to complain about it when it’s so beneficiary to him. Rahm is as well-equipped as anyone to dominate a putting contest, and he’s shown us that in recent years.
Four of Rahm’s eight PGA Tour wins have come in extremely easy scoring conditions. He was also solo second at 33 under in Cameron Smith’s record-setting win at Kapalua last year. One of Rahm’s victories that surpassed 20 under was his win at The American Express in 2018 at 22 under.
With his 65 on the Stadium Course Saturday, Rahm showed he’s ready for the challenge on Sunday. He gained an impressive 3.01 strokes on approach and actually did next to nothing on the greens. If he putts it decently in the final round, it’s hard to imagine how anybody has a response to stop Rahm from getting his second win in two tries in 2023. Data Golf gives Rahm around a 60 percent chance at lifting the trophy.
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Winner: Sam Burns
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Since Rahm’s odds are so low as the big favorite on Sunday, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to throw a bet at a longshot that could catch him. If you simply can’t stomach placing a golf wager at such a price, Burns is the guy who I believe could do some chasing on Sunday.
We know Burns as an explosive birdie-maker who rolls it as well as anyone on Tour. That was evident on Thursday as he opened up at the Stadium Course and fired a course-best 64. It was a very healthy round as he logged 2.28 SG: Approach and 2.45 SG: Putting. He’ll be confident teeing it up again there on Sunday.
There aren’t many people I’m willing to bet on five shots behind Rahm, but Burns would be one of them. He’s already shown the ability to go super low here, and his elite birdie-making ability along with one of the best putters on Tour does make him a play to come from behind with solid odds.
Top-10 Finish: Matti Schmid
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My favorite bet with decent odds on a placement wager for Sunday has to be Matti Schmid. A PGA Tour rookie, Schmid was one of the top amateurs in the world before going pro and quickly showing potential on the European Tour. He decided to come over and get his card through the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs. While the season has been a struggle so far, Schmid is finally showing his skillset this week. If it wasn’t for a 72 on Friday, he’d be right in this thing.
But Schmid is just two shots out of the top 10, and he tied Burns for round of the day on the Stadium Course in the first round. Schmid gained 4.5 strokes with his ball striking that day. He has a ton of upside with the driver and irons, so if the putter once again gets along with the Stadium Course, I absolutely love this number for him to make up a few positions and get his first top 10 of the season.
The American Express Odds
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