After two weeks in Hawaii, the PGA TOUR heads to La Quinta, California, for the American Express. For the ninth year in a row, this event will feature three courses: the Pete Dye Stadium Course (par 72, 7,187 yards, POA overseed greens), PGA West Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course (par 72, 7,147 yards, POA overseed greens) and La Quinta Country Club (par 72, 7,060 yards, POA trivialis greens). Each golfer of this field of 156 – which includes 20 of the top 50 ranked players in the world – will play one round on all three of these courses. Then, there will be a standard top-65 and ties cut following the third round, and those players who advance will return to the Pete Dye Stadium Course for the final round.
With two of the four rounds being played on this par 72, the Pete Dye Stadium Course is considered the host course for the American Express. Plus, it is the only track of the three that generates SG data for us to analyze. Given these factors, the Pete Dye Stadium Course is the venue we need to focus on for research this week.
The Pete Dye Stadium Course is a short par 72 that features very small greens, over 90 bunkers, and water on seven holes. Like most Dye designs, the Stadium Course is a less-than-driver venue where accuracy is far more important than being long. With the greens at this track being the seventh smallest on the PGA TOUR, being in pristine form with your irons is a must. Furthermore, capitalizing on the scoring opportunities that the four par fives present at the Stadium Course is also essential. For four years running, the winner of the American Express has finished the tournament top-10 in both SG: Approach and par-five efficiency.
Below, I dive into four of my favorite sub $7.5K DraftKings value plays for the American Express.
Ben Griffin ($7,400) – Griffin was a featured pick in this article last week and did not disappoint, with a T30 finish at the Sony Open including a second-round 8-under 62, which was one stroke away from tying his career-low on the PGA TOUR. Griffin’s salary on DraftKings hasn’t moved since last week and we need to go right back to him at this affordable price tag.
Griffin’s finish at the Sony Open marked his 10th made cut and seventh top-30 finish in his last 13 starts. The 27-year-old’s flat stick has been outstanding – he ranks 12th in SGP over his last 50 rounds – and he finished T32nd in his American Express debut last season while ranking fourth in SGP. In even better form this time around, Griffin should outdo himself with a higher finish in his second attempt in La Quinta this weekend.
Alex Smalley ($7,300) – Smalley missed the cut at the Sony Open this past week, but should get back on track at the American Express. The Duke graduate only missed the cut by one shot in Hawaii last week, and before this, he had advanced to the weekend in nine of his previous 11 starts with five top-30 finishes coming during that stretch. Only failing to gain strokes on approach twice in his last 20 starts, Smalley has been striking the ball at an elite level and should add another quality finish to his American Express resume this weekend.
Sam Ryder ($7,200) – Ryder has made 5-of-6 cuts at the American Express and is poised for another successful appearance at the multi-course event. The 34-year-old is on the heels of back-to-back top-15 finishes to close out the fall swing and has made nine cuts in a row. Ryder has been excellent with his irons, gaining strokes on approach at eight of the nine tournaments during this cut streak. Furthermore, he ranks sixth in SG: Approach when we compare this field’s last 50 rounds.
Ryder has scored over 110 DKFP in two straight starts and is vastly underpriced for his upside.
Tyler Duncan ($6,700) – Duncan is an appealing combination of strong course history and current form. The veteran has 4-of-6 cuts at the American Express and has made four of his last five cuts coming into this week — three of which have been top-20 finishes. Most notably, Duncan finished T3rd at the RSM Classic in November, which, like the American Express, is a tournament that features multiple courses.
The Purdue product is averaging a terrific 79% GIR rate in his last five starts and is a great bargain at this sub $7K salary.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skills and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.