Sobel: Searching for a Live Outright & Friday’s Best Matchup Pick at the 2020 American Express

Sobel: Searching for a Live Outright & Friday’s Best Matchup Pick at the 2020 American Express article feature image

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: DJ Trahan.

Eighteen holes into this week’s American Express, played on a three-course rotation in the California desert, we can use some simple logic to deduce which players might be worthy live outright bets with three days remaining.

Just like last year, La Quinta played to the lowest scoring average at 69.577, with the Nicklaus Tournament course just slightly higher at 69.635. As usual, the PGA West Stadium Course was more than a full stroke higher than both, with an average score of 70.654.

So, here’s the thought process: We should key on players who have already successfully navigated through the toughest of the three host tracks and won’t see it again until Sunday.

Of course, that’s where this simple logic stops being so simple.

At the top of the list of opening-round scoring leaders from the Stadium Course is Grayson Murray (current odds: +2000), who posted a brilliant 8-under 64. With three MCs and a WD in his last four starts, though — and no starts in nearly four full months — he’s hardly an appealing choice to stay this hot. Next from the Stadium Course list is Andrew Landry (+4500) at 6-under, who’s similarly missed five consecutive cuts, including last week’s Sony Open, where he shot 77-76. Again, not so appealing.

Also at 6-under, we have Tom Hoge (+5000) and Chase Seiffert (+6500), neither of whom have won before – and while capable, neither of whom would be among those we’d expect to win a first one soon.

At 5-under, there’s Tyler McCumber (+12000), Jason Dufner (+6500) and Nick Watney (+5000), each of whom is a Goldilocks fade — just a little too something to be considered for a live outright bet.

Doc Redman (+8000)? K.H. Lee (+12000)? Matthew NeSmith (+9000)? Another trio who played well on the Stadium Course — and another trio I wouldn’t feel comfortable backing after just one round.

There you have it, guys. The logic is sound, but applying that logic is more difficult than it would seem.

With that in mind, though, if another more bet-able player fires a low score on the toughest track Friday, I’ll come right back to this idea.

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

Best Round 2 Matchup

D.J. Trahan (-0.5 strokes, +120) over Doc Redman

11:50 a.m. ET

With analytical data only available for those playing the Stadium Course, I refined my search for head-to-heads to those will played that track Thursday and will transition over to the much easier La Quinta course Friday.

Despite my quick dismissal of McCumber above, his numbers jump off the page as a guy who has the ball-striking part of his game going in the right direction. His strokes gained tee to green number of +5.45 was nearly a full stroke better than Murray, who posted the day’s best score on that course. That said, I don’t love the idea of playing such a favorite in his matchup against Nelson Ledesma.

Instead, I’ll take Trahan, who’s proven himself to be a strong player here in the second act of what’s been a career renaissance. He was a stroke behind Redman on the leaderboard Thursday, but his tee to green ball-striking was 2.35 strokes better.

Trahan is one of those guys who, if you’re not a diehard fan or betting on a regular basis, is probably just another name in the agate, but his recent results have been fairly impressive, with five made cuts in six starts this season, all of which have been inside the top-45.

I’m not suggesting he’s ready to steal Brooks Koepka’s crown for No. 1 in the world anytime soon, but in this matchup, based on the available data, I like Trahan to post a low enough round to beat his Friday playing partner.

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