Last updated January 16th, 2019
The third PGA tournament of the year is back with a new name but another strong field as 2019 starts to develop. The Desert Classic is an unusual tournament with its roots firmly in the Pro-Am days of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and it is played over three courses in California.
Matt Kuchar continued to roll back the years with victory at the Sony Open last weekend but who is in the frame for success this time around? We will take a look at the players and then give our Desert Classic predictions.
Some big-name US golfers are sitting this one out but there is a big European contingent challenging for honors in California. The Desert Classic outright winner betting market is therefore led by our defending champion, Spain’s Jon Rahm (+650 with Bovada, or 13/2 in fractional odds), who won the title in a playoff over Andrew Landry twelve months ago.
Rahm has a win and two straight single digit finishes across 2018 and 2019 and that form puts him marginally ahead of World Number One Justin Rose (+900 or 9/1). The Brit has six top four finishes here in seven outings but this will be his first crack at this tournament for nine years.
Behind the two favorites we have a big gap to Patrick Cantlay (+1600) who heads the Power Rankings going into Thursday. Cantlay is a strong contender for desert golf and currently sits in 11th place in the FedEx rankings so he is arguably the form golfer in this field.
The chasing pack also features one of the most consistent players in this event over recent years. Canada’s Adam Hadwin’s (25/1) best finish in this tournament ended with a solo second in 2017 but that’s just the start of the story. The 31-year-old has three straight top 10 finishes in this event and holds the course record of 59 at the La Quinta Course, set in 2017.
Also rated in the chasers are Charles Howell III (+2000 or 20/1) who was a runner-up here in 2013, while Andrew Putnam (28/1) and Aaron Wise (33/1) are also attracting some interest.
Phil Mickelson (+4000 or 40/1) is the biggest name here and if he can somehow replicate his form from the start of 2018 then Lefty will have a chance. He heads the list of outsiders and in a long career he has won this event twice (2002 and 2004).
Phil tied for third here in 2016 and that positive start to last year, when he won WGC-Mexico, will lead to some interest from bettors.
At a similar price is last week’s defending champion Patton Kizzire (+4000) while Chez Reavie (also at 40/1) carries interesting odds considering his tie for third in Hawaii on Sunday. Reavie also finishes highly in the Power Rankings and is a name we will be coming back to in this preview’s Desert Classic predictions verdict.
Carrying longer prices are 2017 champion Hudson Swafford (45/1) while Zach Johnson (50/1) lacks form but has the quality to deliver a top 10 finish at the very least. Elsewhere, Luke List (33/1), Kevin Kisner (50/1) and Ryan Palmer (50/1) are all attracting mentions this week.
Our Preview’s Desert Classic Course & Betting Trends with Predictions & Picks Verdict
Three Courses are used for this tournament, all based in La Quinta California and while all three represent varying challenges, they are similar in length and all come in at Par 72. The longest venue is the PGA West Course at a fraction over 7200 yards so there shouldn’t be much of an advantage for the power hitters.
Of the three venues, La Quinta is traditionally the lowest scoring and the only one with a Stroke Index under 70. Overall, it is a series of courses that are traditionally kind to the amateur visitors and there isn’t too much of a test for the pros.
Jon Rahm won for the first time in 2018 and there have been very few multiple winners in recent times with only Bill Haas and Phil Mickelson completing a double this century. Last year, Rahm broke a series of six straight US wins and there are a number of overseas challenges once again.
Taking all those points into account, we think that Patrick Cantlay looks particularly overpriced with the legal online American-friendly sportsbooks for this tournament. He has the form and in a weakened field, the 26-year-old also has the game to add to his solitary Tour win at the Shriners Open back in 2017.
Rahm and Rose offer a strong challenge but our Desert Classic prediction is Cantlay to win. For the other picks, Chez Reavie and Adam Hadwin both have good records in this event and are worth a stake in the top 10 finishers betting market. In summary, with best odds:
- Patrick Cantlay to win @ best odds of +1800 (18/1) with BetOnline. He is +1600 (16/1) with Bovada and Intertops.
- Have a wager on Chez Reavie (+400) and Adam Hadwin (+260) for top 10 finishes, both of those odds with Bovada sportsbook.
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.