PGA Picks: The American Express Tournament Odds and Predictions
Australia's Cameron Smith rallied from down two shots with two holes to play on Sunday at the Sony Open in Honolulu , forcing a playoff with Brendan Steele thanks to an eight-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. Smith then won his first-ever solo PGA Tour event -- he did win the 2017 Zurich Classic two-man team tournament -- on the first playoff hole with a two-putt par from 10 feet.
Steele really blew the tournament as he had a three-shot lead after holing a bunker shot for birdie on the 11th hole and never trailed until the playoff. He missed a six-footer for par on No. 17 and essentially gagged his approach shot on No. 18. Steele was in great position on the playoff hole sitting about 90 yards from the hole in the fairway, but hit a wedge over the green.
The 26-year-old Smith earned a Masters invite after barely missing out on qualifying last year and also will now get to play the 2021-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii among other perks. Perhaps the biggest shock from the Sony Open was betting favorite Justin Thomas missing the cut after winning the Tournament of Champions the week before. Thomas finished 110th and 137th in putting on Thursday and Friday, respectively, at the Sony Open.
I went with longer-shot Brian Stuard at +6600 to win, but he finished T53 after rounds of 73-68-72-67. Just missed a Top 10 on Charles Howell III as he was one shot out of that at T12.
This week, the PGA Tour hits the U.S. mainland for the first time in 2020 to start the West Coast Swing with the American Express outside of Palm Springs, Calif. We will start to see some players tee it up who for whatever reason didn't want to play in Hawaii, because that's such a tough job. Alas, Tiger Woods isn't one of them playing quite yet. Phil Mickelson is making his 2020 debut, though, and is the new tournament host. He won here in 2002 & '04.
You may not recognize the name of this tournament because it's a new sponsor. It was the Desert Challenge last year only, the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation from 2016-18, the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation from 2012-15, and then some version of the Bob Hope Classic pretty much every year before that - it actually started in 1960 as the Palm Springs Desert Golf Classic, and Arnold Palmer won. He would take this event a record five times, with no other player winning it more than twice.
This used to be a hated event for some Tour pros as it was five rounds and the rounds took forever because it's also a pro-am - many of the biggest celebrities in the USA have teed it up, including a few presidents. There's still a pro-am portion but it was shortened to the usual 72 holes starting in 2012.
Because there are so many players teeing it up when including the amateurs, there are three courses used: PGA West's Stadium course and Nicklas Tournament course as well as La Quinta Country Club. The previous two are fairly new to the rotation, while La Quinta is part of the rotation for the 49th time. Every golfer plays one of those courses each of the first three days and then there's a 54-hole cut. They all finish at the Stadium course, a par 72 at 7,113 yards. A couple of 59s have been shot in this tournament, as recently as 2017 by Canada's Adam Hadwin, but not on the Stadium course, where the 18-hole record is a 63.
The defending champion is Adam Long, who was playing just his sixth Tour event a year ago when he shot a final-round 65 to finish at 26-under 262 and edge Mickelson and Hadwin by a shot each. It's likely going to take at least 20 under par to win - it has every year since Charley Hoffman won at 17 under in 2007. The only player to repeat here was Johnny Miller in 1975-76. Pretty sure Long won't as he just two Top 10s on Tour since (it was a runner-up in November in Mexico). Hadwin isn't playing this week as his wife just gave birth.
Golf Odds: The American Express Favorites
Rickie Fowler is the +1100 favorite this week. He didn't play last week and was T5 at the Tournament of Champions. Fowler hasn't played this event since 2014. He was T33.
Sungjae Im is +1600 with Paul Casey and Tony Finau each +2000 and Byeong Hun An at +2500. Smith, incidentally, is not playing. Long is +10000. Im was 12th here last year and T21 last week. Finau didn't play either Hawaii stop and missed the cut last time he played here in in 2016. Casey was T58 his most recent visit in 2017. An didn't play at all in Hawaii, either.
Golf Odds: The American Express Picks
For a Top 10, go with Im and Mickelson (no prices as of this writing). The winner is Chez Reavie at +6600. He has made the cut four straight years here with a best of 12th. Reavie missed the cut last week but sometimes that can be a positive in terms of rest, traveling, etc.
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