2022 American Express Buys & Picks: 3 Players To Bet Ahead of PGA West
David Cannon/Getty Images. Pictured: Jon Rahm.
Wow, what an ending to the Hawaii Swing! Russell Henley and Hideki Matsuyama dueled it out down the stretch as the Masters champion fully erased a five-shot lead at the turn on the final hole to send it to a playoff. He would then hit what will hold up as one of the shots of the year as he stuck his 277-yard approach to inside of three feet for a kick-in eagle and the win.
The TOUR will now head back to the mainland for The American Express, with a lot to live up to as two low-scoring events on the islands created a ton of excitement. It will benefit from the return of a couple of the top players in the world as Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay are set to tee it up at the two-course tournament in La Quinta, CA. In addition to those big names, we will get the 2022 debut of players like Rickie Fowler, Matthew Wolff and even a Francesco Molinari sighting.
This is the time of year where things get a little weird on TOUR as there will be a run of multi-course events, and some ProAms. The American Express is both of those, as it will be a 54-hole cut with three courses in the rotation, featuring amateurs paired with the pros for each of the first three rounds.
The pandemic put a pause on these events last year, so this will be the return to the adventure of the six-hour rounds. It puts a little different burden on the players this week as they handle the environment and still try to focus on the task at hand to win the event.
Since we don’t have odds (as of Sunday night), I’ll put my focus on the players coming in hot as we look for a winner in the desert. Here’s who stands out for me ahead of the tournament at PGA West.
Is there anywhere else to start? Not only is Rahm the best player in the world, but he is playing like it every time he tees it up. He will come into the week off of his runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions where he shot 34-under.
Outside of his strange missed cut at the Fortinet Championship during the fall swing, Rahm hasn’t found himself beyond the top nine of a TOUR event since May. During that stretch he won the U.S. Open, had two runners-up and two third-place finishes. He is simply working as a machine right now, and there is certainly no reason to see the train stopping this week at an event where he recorded a win back in 2018.
I expect Rahm to be the favorite this week when odds are released, and rightfully so, but having another upper-echelon player or two in the field this week may keep that number relatively reasonable. I am not seeking a bet at the top to start the week, but I could see a scenario where he is a player on a small card for me if the number is right.
I am a bit hopeful that Tony Finau may get lost in the shuffle as odds are released on Monday. He is certainly in the upper class of players in this field, so I am probably being unrealistic, but we can always have hope.Finau was in contention last year before he put one in the water down the back stretch to eventually fall and finish fourth. As we know, he has since captured that illusive second career win, and I think we may see him contend again this week at PGA West.
He finished 19th at Kapalua to start the year, but the most encouraging aspect was that he improved his play across each round. If he can keep this momentum moving forward into The American Express, he can continue his annual improvement at this event and be in contention to find a win over the weekend.
Now that we’ve covered some of the easier calls of the week, let’s dig a little deeper. Michael Thompson was quietly in the mix all week at the Sony Open this week, and he finished strong with a T5 after a 7-under 63 on Sunday.
He will look to roll that into The American Express where he has had some great results in recent years. Thompson has two top-10 finishes in his last three trips to this event, including a T5 last year. He clearly has an affinity for this event and the courses, and he will come in hot. Thompson ranked seventh in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and third in Strokes Gained: Approach at Waialae, which will carry over well if he can keep that form in order for PGA West.
I expect he will remain as a longer shot on the odds board, and while I’ll likely be mostly interested in his finishing position odds for another top 10, he may be worth a sprinkle to win as well. This is a tournament that has been won by some bigger names like Rahm and Si Woo Kim, but longshots have won this event too, with the likes of Andrew Landry, Adam Long, and Hudson Swafford surrounding those wins.