Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: PGA Tour 2020: American Express Championship Preview

PGA Tour 2020: American Express Championship Preview

Ricky Fowler driving off the tee

The tour moves from Hawaii to sunny California for a newly renamed American Express Championship. American Express have assumed sponsorship responsibilities for the next five years. 
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

The US PGA Tour 2020 | American Express Championship
The Stadium Course, La Quinta, California
- PGA West (Nicklaus Tournament Course)
- PGA Weat (TPC Stadium Course)
- La Quinta Country Club
Thursday 16 January 2019 - Sunday 19 January 2019

This event has had as many names as Puff Daddy but is perhaps best remembered as the Bob Hope Classic. Though it has been under numerous guises, it actually dates back to 1960 and has been an enduring fixture on the tour: Arnold Palmer won the inaugural staging of the event. The fields started to dwindle in quality, with the five-round Pro-Am format seen as a deterrent to strong fields. The event was reduced to a four-round Pro-Am in 2012 and the fields have certainly improved as a result.

The Pro-Am format will see players rotate between three courses over the first three days. The Pete Dye-designed PGA West Stadium Course is by far the most demanding test. It will also be used on Sunday after the 54-hole cut - much like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The other two courses are fairly benign desert courses. La Quinta and the Nicklaus Tournament Course were the easiest and 2nd easiest par 72 courses on the PGA Tour last year. Due to the presence of celebrities, the courses are effectively made idiot-proof and low scoring is a guarantee. TPC Scottsdale - host of the forthcoming Phoenix Open - shares a strong correlation with this event. The event can be rather dull over the first three days, with the pros having to endure the middling amateurs. But the 54-hole cut will allow the professionals to duke it out alone on Sunday.

Californian born Ricky Fowler is a Scottsdale resident and has a great pedigree in desert golf. He looked finely tuned at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and leads the markets this week. I just don’t feel like he wins enough to justify that confidence. Ultra-consistent Sungjae Im is perhaps one of the most reliable players on tour at present. Paul Casey and Tony Finau will also lend their considerable firepower to proceedings. But I will surely be newly minted tournament host Phil Mickelson who will enjoy the lion’s share of attention this week. Mickelson will actually be eligible for the Champions Tour in June but will no doubt believe he still has what it takes to swing with the young guys.

Past Winners
2019: Adam Long (-26)
2018: Jon Rahm (-22)*playoff
2017: Hudson Swafford (-20)
2016: Jason Dufner (-25)
2015: Bill Haas (-22)

Outright Betting (To Win)
Ricky Fowler (12/1)
Sungjae Im (16/1)
Paul Casey (22/1)
Tony Finau (22/1)
Byeong-Hun An (25/1)

Value Bets

Brian Harman
To Win (35/1), To Place (15/2)

Brian Harman has been steadily on the resurgence and he should thrive in this event. Harman is not particularly long off the tee and he has form in this event. He missed the cut last year in the midst of a notable form slump. But prior to that, he had finishes of 11th, 3rd and 20th. The former US Open contender started this season with a 3rd at the Greenbrier prior to three further top 20 finishes. He was in contention at the Sony Open prior to a final round meltdown. Harman has shown an appreciation for Pete Dye courses before, he has gone close at River Highlands and has two top 10 finishes at Sawgrass.

Vaughan Taylor
To Win (50/1), To Place (11/1)

Vaughan Taylor looks to me to be a good bet just outside of the upper regions of the betting markets.  Taylor has a pedigree in this event, with several top 10 finishes. That includes a tie for 7th just last year. He finished his 2019 in very strong fashion, with a tie for 2nd at the OHL Classic and a tie for 10th at the RSM Classic. He seems to have carried that form over into 2020, with a tie for 12th last week in Hawaii. Taylor is just the sort of undervalued pro who could shine in this event.

The Man to Beat

Kevin Na
To Win (55/1), To Place (12/1)

I have to admit I find it rather strange that Na is trading at 55/1. His form varies, but he has been a consistent winner over the last 18 months. He has lifted three trophies in that time. That includes a victory in Nevada in October. Kevin Na is also an accomplished desert course player, who tends to devour these gettable layouts. In Nevada, he held off one of golf’s hottest properties in Patrick Cantlay. He also has four top 5’s at TPC Scottsdale. Not to mention the fact that he finished 3rd here in 2016. 

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets

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