2020 American Express Betting Odds and Picks: Will Brendan Steele Bounce Back in California?


Chris Condon/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Brendan Steele

Jan 14, 2020, 11:23 PM EST

The Sony Open was another week where it never really felt like we had a guy in contention, but there we were with Ryan Palmer just one shot back on the 18th hole. Palmer would subsequently hit his 3-wood off the scoreboard and was never heard from again.

Palmer did give us a top-5 finish, along with Kevin Kisner, so it wasn’t a bad week even though the Tournament of Champions trend took a hit with Cam Smith winning. The Sony Open narrative is all about backing players who participated in the TOC the week before, but Smith was playing a lot of competitive golf in December so it made sense that he took down the Sony. Out of the top six, only Brendan Steele hadn’t hit a meaningful shot since November.

We’ve got a similar story this week at the American Express. Since 2010, only Bill Haas (2015) has won this tournament without playing in one of the two Hawaii events. Haas was a past champion here in 2010, so he at least had that previous success to rely on.

Basically, we’re looking to back guys who aren’t coming off their winter break.

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The Course(s)

The American Express is basically a poor man’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The tournament will take place on three courses and have a 54-hole cut after Saturday.

PGA West is the primary course, designed by the late, great Pete Dye. It measures out around 7,200 yards for a par 72 and there’s water in play for about half the holes. Overall, it’s the most difficult of the three, playing around two strokes harder than the two resorts courses.

Players will also see La Quinta and the Nicklaus Course for one round apiece. Both really don’t provide much of a test for the players, measuring under 7,200 yards. Most sportsbooks won’t offer first-round leader odds with the multi-course set up, but if yours does. La Quinta is the spot to target with maybe one or two players from the Nicklaus.

Twenty-under par is a requirement here if a player wants to be in contention. So I’m looking at guys who have strong numbers gaining birdies in relation to field.

The Favorites

It’s a pretty weak field for this event. Rickie Fowler is the favorite at +1100, but he’s only played twice here in the last decade and never finished inside the top 30. Sungjae Im, who finished 12th here last year, is right behind Fowler at +1600. He’s probably the best bet of the favorites group given his form, but I’m ignoring this area of the board all together.

Tony Finau and Paul Casey are also hanging around this range at +2000  along with Byeong Hun An, who checks in at +2500. None of those three players interest me, either.

The Mid-Tier

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