Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2022 American Express Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from PGA West.
2022 American Express: Field
Field: 156 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties after 54 Holes
Lineup Lock: Thursday, January 20
Defending Champ: Si Woo Kim
After a year off from the three-course rotation and amateurs, THEY’RE BACKKKK!!!!!!! Thus killing the watchability of the event until the final round.
Long days, no cut until after round three and the kicker — horrible TV coverage and no shot tracker/SG Stats outside of the Pete Dye Stadium course. All players will take a turn at each of the three venues the first three days, then the cut will be best 65 scores (and ties) among the 156-player field.
Fortunately, on the Pro-Am circuit, The American Express doesn’t attract the same sort of star power as Pebble Beach, so the broadcast feels less inclined to stop showing golf shots for 10-minute interviews and assessment of terrible swings throughout the day. This is the result of Carlton from “Fresh Prince” being the biggest draw in La Quinta from the Am side, at least, because the top of the actual field is solid for an overlooked event.
Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners, Matthew Wolff and defending champ Si WOOOOO Kim. Along with Ancer, Im and Si WOO, Lucas Glover, Talor Gooch and Seamus Power are teeing it up for the third consecutive week to begin the year.
It’s the first start of the year for Scheffler and Wolff. It will also be the 2022 debut for Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Gary Woodland, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris. Cameron Champ is back after missing the Tournament of Champions with COVID-19.
Twelve of the past 13 winners have played at least one of the first two Hawaii events to start the year. Since 2007, six of the 15 American Express champions made this event the site of their first win, with Adam Long the last to do it in 2019.
2022 American Express: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 3s Gained
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2022 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
Course: LA Quinta CC (LQ)
- Par: 72
- Yardage: 7,060
- Greens: Bermuda
- Shotlink: No
2022 American Express: Past Winners
2021: Si WOOOOOOO Kim -23
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
2022 American Express: Notes
Historically, stacking La Quinta and the Nicklaus Course for single-round showdown provided an easier path to green screens. But over the past few years, the Stadium Course started to play just as easy. Now, while low scores are available at all three tracks, there are far more landmines to cripple your lineup at the Stadium Course with over 90 bunkers and seven holes with water hazards spread across the grounds. In 2020, the Stadium Course had the toughest greenside bunkers of any course during the season (25.66%). La Quinta is still likely the best bet for upside as each of the par 5s has an eagle rate of 2-plus percent, by far the highest of the three courses.
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 at just 10%.
That’s not to say bombers won’t have success in the desert. Rahm, Vegas and Swafford all have victories over the past 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, 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.
From 2020, the field made birdie or better 27.3% of the time when in the fairway at the Stadium Course, the highest Birdie or Better percentage from the fairway of any tournament. It was the only course that had a Birdie or Better percentage from inside 125 yards greater than 30%. And, if you missed the fairway, as long as you weren’t in a hazard of any kind, it didn’t limit scoring too much. The field averaged 34 feet 11 inches from the rough, marking the closest Rough Proximity of any course. From the rough, players made birdie or better 22.17% of the time on the Stadium Course in 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 3,000 strokes under par than the next closest event.
Also, because the greens shade on the smaller end, three-putts are rarer at PGA West than most venues. Only one course on TOUR had a lower three-putt percentage than the Stadium Course (Harbour Town GL/1.32%). Theoretically, this should help the bad putters. But since the greens are smaller, it likely benefits the bad putter who actually has a good short game. Since a lot of those lengthy putts that would normally turn into three-jacks would now just not be on the green.
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 five of courses with the fewest three-putts in 2019 and 2020.
Of players in the 2022 American Express field, Adam Hadwin, Andrew Landry, Jon Rahm, Brendan Steele and Talor Gooch have gained the most total strokes over the past five years.
Of course, it can’t go unmentioned that this is a Pete Dye track. So, here are the SG: Total leaders on Pete Dye courses over their past 24 rounds:
2022 American Express Picks
Abraham Ancer ($9,200)
There’s a risk that he’ll be overvalued in the market because of his sterling course history (T5/T2/T18) and Pete Dye Track record, but hopefully, that’s offset by his lack of results in two starts this year. After battling for last place at Kapalua, Ancer decided he didn’t want to make a putt at Sony on Thursday and Friday and caught the early flight to Palm Springs. Not all missed cuts are created equal, however. Ancer gained individually in each SG T2G metric and lost over a stroke per round to the field on the greens. Yes, he’s had a few rides on the struggle bus during his career with the flat stick, but he’s been far more positive than negative, so we’re hoping for a massive swing back at the Amex.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout ($8,700)
There’s always a fear the South African simply drives the ball so poorly he won’t be able to win. It’s worth noting I said the same thing about Hideki Matsuyama and putting in shootouts as a reason to fade him a week ago. Yes, I’m a moron. It’s still likely he trails the field off the tee, but this particular style of course (short, with forced layups) is one where he likely won’t be as awful against the field. He’s gained with his driver just once over his past 13 measured starts, and that was at last year's RBC Heritage, coincidentally another short Pete Dye course. And he managed his best week ever standing on the tee box at last week’s Sony Open (+2.4 SG: OTT). I wouldn’t expect that to continue, but as long as he can keep finding fairways, I don’t care about distance at PGA West. Just let the irons and putter take over.
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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 ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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