As the Desert Classic, this week’s golf tournament became one of the most well-known events on the PGA Tour. The great Bob Hope subsequently attached his name to the competition and, since 1986, it’s gone through a number of less-familiar name changes.
Currently referred to as The American Express for sponsorship purposes, the trend is for a strong field to descend on La Quinta in California. That’s a similar scenario this year with a competitive declaration which includes some of the world’s top players.
After coming close to an outright win in the first week of 2021, our returns are up and running thanks to Kevin Kisner’s top 10 finish in Hawaii on Sunday. It’s been a steady start so let’s see if we can build on that this week with this preview and our American Express predictions.
Jon Rahm had been leading the early outright markets by a clear margin but his withdrawal leaves a far more open field this week. In his place, Patrick Cantlay takes over at 14/1 while Patrick Reed follows closely at a best of 16/1. Of the two, Reed edges the Power Rankings by virtue of his win here in 2014 while Cantlay arrives with greater consistency and a tie for 9th in this event two years ago.
Rahm had been a 13/2 favorite but his absence leaves four men within a few points of each other at the top. Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka can both be found at 18/1 in places and Scheffler is attracting more interest following his tie for third last year. Koepka makes his debut and, as always, brings something of the unknown into play.
It remains tight among the chasers with Tony Finau, Sungjae Im and Matthew Wolff all quoted at 20/1 in places. Wolff’s form tailed off a little after his tie for second at the US Open and a much-needed rest could leave him in a strong position this week.
Finau has good recent form but his best return in the American Express was a tie for 14th last year. South Korea’s Im was our pick for the win last week but a disappointing four days in Hawaii means that we’ll be steering clear this time.
Elsewhere, 2020’s American Express runner up, Abraham Ancer, is out at a best of 30/1. The Mexican claimed that solo second behind Andrew Landry and there is interest following his solid display at the Masters.
Also in the chasing pack is the most recent Tour champion Kevin Na, plus Russell Henley and Cameron Champ. All three men can be picked up at 33/1 with the sportsbooks and some strong recent showings mean they can all pose a threat.
Rickie Fowler heads up the list of outside bets for the American Express and he is as high at 45/1 in the outrights. Paul Casey is also available at 45/1 while Lanto Griffin, Phil Mickelson and Brian Harman are all quoted at 50/1.
Further down the list, there are some names that interest us including that of Adam Hadwin who is on offer at a general 55/1. The Canadian has finished as runner up on two separate occasions here and is back for another challenge after sitting out the American Express in 2020.
Also at 55/1 is Sam Burns who returns to the Tour following a long absence that stretches back to early November. Burns signed off with a tie for seventh in his last event and that lengthy absence leaves him rested and ready for a challenge in California.
Another man definitely to consider is the aforementioned defending champion Andrew Landry. He’s at a distant best of 160/1 but it’s worth remembering that he also lost out in a playoff here in 2018 so he clearly likes competing in this tournament.
Our Preview’s American Express Predictions Verdict with Course & Betting Trends
Previously a large pro-am event, the American Express has been held over three courses in order to accommodate the numbers. In 2021, there are no amateurs so this is down to two venues with the PGA West Stadium Course and the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course in play. The Stadium Course has traditionally proved to be the toughest in terms of scoring and this will host the final two rounds following the cut.
Both venues are fairly standard par 72s but the Stadium Course has much longer par 4s and this is where it can be tougher. The distance hitters will, therefore, have some advantage in places. Rain is forecast and it could be heavy at times if it does transpire.
In tournaments such as these where two or more courses are used, it is worth looking for a good all-rounder and this American Express preview is edging towards Patrick Reed. The withdrawal of Jon Rahm may have shortened his odds but Reed can thrive when the biggest names are absent and he has the all-round stats to convert.
Those interesting longer prices on Adam Hadwin and Sam Burns make them strong options in the top 10 finish betting markets. It is also worth considering Paul Casey who has converted for us with single digit finishes in the past.
- Patrick Reed to win @ +1600 (16/1) with BetOnline, Intertops or Bovada.
- Reed (best +155 Bovada), Adam Hadwin (+700 BetOnline), Paul Casey (+500 BetOnline) & Sam Burns (+550 BetOnline) for top 10 finishes.
Matt Harris is a golf and soccer expert for USA Betting. His other area of specialist knowledge is cricket. He is well known in sports journalism and contributes articles to a plethora of big-name websites and media outlets. Titles that he writes or has written for include: Betfair, BetVictor, Unibet & Just Bookies.