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Fantasy Golf Picks — 2021 American Express Picks, Predictions, Rankings and Sleepers

Pat Mayo breaks down the 2021 American Express, making his picks and rankings for the event while previewing the course and key stats.

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 American Express Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from PGA West. The guys react to the 2021 American Express betting market in real at the end of the show when news breaks at Jon Rahm has withdrawn from the tournament.

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2021 American Express: Field

Field: 156 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, January 21
Defending Champ: Andrew Landry

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The PGA TOUR returns to the mainland for the first time following the Hawaii Swing for the 2021 American Express. Because of the COVID-19 regulations, the tournament setup is a tad different at PGA West this season. It’s for the better if we’re being honest.

You may associate the Pro-Am with Pebble Beach, but the American Express also hosts a Pro-Am, just with far fewer recognizable celebrities. This is the reason for the three-course rotation, routinely exhausting seven-hour rounds and lack of available camera when players are away from the host Stadium Course. NO MORE!!! The Pro-Am has been canceled for 2021 and everything sets up much nicer.

The incredible easy La Quinta course will not be played this year, so the field will split between the Nicklaus and Stadium Courses for the first two rounds. Since there are only two courses in the rotation, the cut will now happen after 36 holes instead of 54 like usual. The remaining players after the cut will migrate to the Stadium Course for both weekend rounds. This, in particular, is the big win for anyone who bets on golf, plays DraftKings golf, likes to track their favorite golfers or just doesn’t think we should have to follow golf like it’s 1953.

The Stadium Course is the only one at PGA West that is equipped with shot tracker, so getting accurate, real-time coverage, even if it’s only through the APP, is much better than what we’ve had access to in previous iterations. Now, I’m aware that the shot tracker isn’t actually accurate or close to being in real-time but it makes tilting scores on a Thursday afternoon far more palatable.

With the revamped format, we’re also getting a revamped strength of field. Both the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open hosted their strongest fields in decades, and The American Express will be no different — 2021 will host the strongest field at PGA West since 2005.

Jon Rahm (WD), Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Cameron Champ, Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer, Si WOO Kim, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler and Russell Henley headline the field among players we’ve actually seen so far in 2021.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jon Rahm has withdrawn from this week’s tournament.

They’ll be joined by the cavalcade of Brooks Koepka, Matthew Wolff, Gary Woodland, Francesco Molinari, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Doc Redman, Sam Burns, Lucas Glover, Ryan Moore, Byeong-Hun An, Cameron Tringale, Kevin Streelman, Denny McCarthy, Camilo Villegas, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Dufner, John HUH??????, Adam Hadwin, Adam Long, Aaron Wise and Alex Noren all making their 2021 debuts. It’s worth noting, of the past 12 winners, 11 played at least one of the two Hawaii events to open the year. Additionally, four of the past seven winners had a Top 20 finish in one of those Hawaii starts.

Along with Im and Ancer, Sony winner Kevin Na, Lanto Griffin, Nick Taylor, Richy Werenski and Brandon Todd are the only players lacing up the spikes for the third time in 2021.

2021 American Express: Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 3s Gained
Opportunities Gained
Fairways Gained

Mayo’s Key Stats powered by

2021 American Express: Course(s)

Course: Stadium Course at PGA West (SC)
Par: 72
Yardage: 7,147
Greens: Bermuda
Shotlink: Yes

Course: Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West (TC)
Par: 72
Yardage: 7,181
Greens: Bermuda
Shotlink: No

2021 American Express: Past Winners

2020: Andrew Landry -26
2019: Adam Long -26
2018: Jon Rahm -22
2017: Hudson Swafford -20
2016: Jason Dufner -25
2015: Bill Haas -22
2014: Patrick Reed -28

2021 American Express: Notes

For DraftKings, stacking the Nicklaus Course in each of the first two rounds should provide an easier path to green screens. It’s not that the Stadium Course won’t give away low scores, there are just far more landmines to cripple your lineup. There are over 90 bunkers and seven holes with water hazards are spread across the Stadium Course.

The forced layups, a common trait of Pete Dye designs, have the Stadium Course posting an average drive of 273 yards — seven yards shorter than the average TOUR event. SC also sees the fewest drives over 300 yards — just 10%.

That’s not to say bombers won’t have success in the desert. Rahm, Vegas and Swafford all have victories over the last decade. But, where bombers have a distinct advantage at some courses, much like last week’s Sony Open, the power advantage off the tee is mitigated this week. Hence Landry, Long, Dufner, Haas, Gay and Wilson all picking up novelty checks.

There’s no one definitive prototypical skill set to target. With prevalent water and sand at the Stadium Course and an extra round at the SC in 2021, finding the fairway becomes critical. Merely sorting by fairways gained can help guide you in the proper direction, but that won’t tell the entire story. Bombers will inherently see their accuracy increase since they won’t be hitting as many drivers off the tee, and if they are wayward with the big stick, at least they’ll be closer to the hole for an easier recovery if the ball stays out of the hazards.

Of players in the 2021 American Express field, Adam Hadwin, Andrew Landry, Jon Rahm, Brendan Steele and Sean O’Hair have gained the most total strokes over the past five years.

While the putting surfaces are officially listed as Bermuda grass, the greens are also overseeded with Ryegrass and Poa Trivialis. Historically, they run on the slower side of average; the Nicklaus Course ranked inside the Top 5 of courses with the fewest 3-putts in 2019 and 2020.

Scoring on par 5s is essential this week. It’s pretty simple for the entire field, though. Since 2012, scoring on par 5s at the American Express has been the easiest of any event on the PGA TOUR. Playing more than 3000 strokes under par than the next closest event.

2021 American Express Picks

Abraham Ancer ($9,100)

The Mexican Allen Iverson finally crapped out at the Sony Open. His betting odds and DraftKings price had achieved Tony Finau levels of being a guy who has never won yet was given that respect from the bookmakers. Then he went out and missed the cut. Not all missed cuts are created equal, however. Ancer failed to make the weekend by a stroke, all due to a horrendous putting performance. In two rounds he bled almost three strokes on the greens. A week after gaining almost seven at the ToC. While banking on gaining seven strokes putting is something no one should ever do, Ancer hadn’t lost that many strokes on the greens in two rounds since the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The positive was his ball striking. He had over four shots gained on the field between driving and irons, and now returns to a course that benefits accurate drivers and where he finished runner up a year ago, with a chance to rebound with his putter. While putting is unpredictable round-to-round, it’s always nice to have players who can generate a spike week with the flat stick. Over his past 12 events, Ancer has as many tournaments where he’s gained more than five strokes putting as he does simply finishing in the negative.

Keegan Bradley ($7,300)

Unlike Ancer, Keegan isn’t just going to bounce back from a poor putting performance. He’s just bad on the greens. That hasn’t stopped his success at the American Express before, or really in his career. It’s like Keegs signed a deal after he won the PGA Championship where he could continue being an immaculate ball striker at the cost of only having one good putting performance a year and he just hopes they match up on the same week.

For his price, you don’t need Bradley to win, you need a quality result and a lot of birdies. That’s something very achievable for Mr. Bradley. In his two rounds a week ago, Keegs was actually better than Ancer in the ball-striking department. In fact, he was still in the range of the leaders who all played four rounds. But in classic Keegan fashion, he lost an incredible seven strokes putting in two rounds. Even for him, that’s awful. If he just gets back to his usual mediocrity with the putter he’ll generate enough birdie opportunities to upscale his finishing position.

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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at and the best will be addressed on the show.

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) 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 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.

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