The American Express betting guide: 5 picks our expert loves in La Quinta
Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor, Kannon is an on-air host for VSiN, the Vegas Stats & Information Network, and host and creator of Longshots, the network’s golf betting show. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his 5 favorite plays for The American Express, which kicks off Thursday in La Quinta, Calif. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform — and GOLF.com affiliate — that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.
The American Express is a multi-course event, with three courses making up the rotation: La Quinta Country Club, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West. Each player will play each course once, Thursday through Saturday, at which point there will be a 54-hole cut. For Sunday’s final round, all players will compete on the Stadium Course.
This is one of the more unpredictable tournaments of the year, as there is no Strokes Gained data for two of the three courses. Only the Stadium Course gives us some numbers we can use in our handicapping. Throw in the fact that in the last 10 years only one winner — Jon Rahm — has entered the event with odds shorter than 30-1, and the vagaries grow. Long shots of 200-1 or higher have prevailed in three of the last four installments.
With that, I would advise treading lightly — and taking some stabs at long shots.
This tournament will be a pro-am this year, as it has been many times in the past, so in the early rounds, expect an easy course setup and a grinding pace of play. In what should be a birdie fest, bank on the winner to be a handful of shots better than 20-under par. This week, I looked at Strokes Gained: Approach, SG Putting, and SG on par-3’s, par-5’s and par-4’s ranging between 350-450 yards. I also looked at Birdies or Better Gained, and Good Drives Gained. Neither distance off the tee nor accuracy has been much of a factor here in the past in determining a winner. It is also one of the easiest tournaments on the schedule for work around the greens. This week will probably come down to performance on the par 4s and putting.
As far as comparable courses, I looked at Caves Valley, where they held the 2021 BMW Championship, TPC Louisiana — home to the Zurich Classic, TPC Summerlin, and TPC Scottsdale. The first two courses set up similarly to the Stadium Course. The last two are representative of desert golf, which is what we’ve got this week.
5 picks I like to win the American Express outright
Will Zalatoris (22-1)
Zalatoris was hampered by injury late last summer, but he returned in 2023, apparently healthy, with an 11th place finish at Kapalua. Last year, in his first-ever crack at the Amex, he finished 6th. He has also finished 4th at the Zurich (a 2-person team event), 5th at TPC Summerlin, and 17th at TPC Scottsdale. Over the last 36 rounds, Zalatoris ranks 7th in this field for SG Approach, 8th on Par 4s between 350-400 yards and 2nd in Birdies or Better Gained.
Sungjae Im (23-1)
Sungjae seems to have taken a liking to desert golf. He won the Shriners at TPC Summerlin two years ago and finished 7th there last year along with a couple of prior top-15s. He’s been a model of consistency at the Amex, with finishes of 11th-12th-10th-12th. He’s recorded a top 10 at Scottsdale and finished 3rd at Caves Valley in 2021. In my stats crunch, he comes out Top 5 this week when evaluating this field over the last 36 rounds.
Andrew Putnam (70-1)
We were on Putnam last week at the Sony and he was in position to get home before settling for a 4th place finish. He hasn’t missed a cut yet this season, so the form is there. He also led the field in SG Putting last week in Hawaii. He has only missed the cut here in La Quinta once in six tries and he’s never finished worse than 34th. He’s got a 12th-11th-and 18th at TPC Summerlin and has finished Top 10 once before at the Waste Management in Scottsdale.
Alex Smalley (120-1)
Okay, so a couple of triple-digit bombs here as I noted, this has been more of the norm at this tournament in recent years. Over the last 36 rounds, Smalley ranks 27th in this field for SG Approach, 20th on the shorter Par 4’s, and 11th in Birdies or Better Gained. He’s been playing well most recently too. Before missing the cut last week at the Sony, he took 5th, 4th, and 11th in his prior three starts. He finished a respectable 25th here at the Amex last year.
Greyson Sigg (210-1)
Long bomb No. 2. Sigg came onto the Tour with a lot of publicity as one of the new up-and-comers on the circuit. He hasn’t necessarily disappointed with ten Top 25 finishes in his first 2.5 seasons on Tour. Like Smalley, Sigg took 25th here last year, and like Putnam, Sigg has also yet to miss a cut in the 2022-2023 season. Over the last 36 rounds, he ranks strongly against this field, especially in the categories of putting, SG Par 3’s and long Par 4 holes, and in Birdies or Better Gained.
Who Chirp users like to win
Jon Rahm — 18.98 %
Patrick Cantlay — 13.14 %
Tom Kim — 12.04 %