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Horse For The Course: PGA DFS Course History - 2022 American Express

Hello PGA DFS family and welcome back to Horse For The Course! Well...how about that Hawaii Swing? After a dramatic two-man shootout at the Sentry, we saw a similar scenario play out at the Sony Open, with Russell Henley and Hideki Matsuyama battling down the stretch at Waialae Country Club. It was Matsuyama that emerged victorious, thanks to a final-round 63 and one of the finest golf shots you'll ever see on the first playoff hole, as well as the fact that Henley went into scared-as-hell-to-lose mode on the back nine.

With the PGA Tour's stay in Hawaii now in the books, we head to the mainland for the kickoff of the "West Coast Swing"!

Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA DFS content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!

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2022 American Express

As we put beautiful Hawaii in the rearview, we return to the continental U.S. for the start of the "West Coast Swing" in La Quinta, California. This event has been known by many names over the years - Bob Hope, Humana Challenge, CareerBuilder, and Desert Classic - but now seems to have found a rock-solid title sponsor in American Express.

If I'm being honest here, this isn't one of my favorite events on the schedule. That isn't due to the field - which is actually pretty solid and includes names such as Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, and defending AmEx champion Si Woo Kim. Unfortunately, the "West Coast Swing" is also synonymous with the dreaded Pro-Am format, and after a brief respite due to COVID (I'm sorry, but the tournament was so much better last year!), the AmEx will once again feature amateur hackers partnering up with the pros this year.

In addition to the Pro-Am format, the AmEx features a unique three-course rotation, as well as a cut after 54-holes rather than the standard 36. From a DFS perspective, we can argue that this allows us to be more aggressive in lineup construction, as all of our players will be in action for at least three rounds. The downside is that we're forced to estimate how a player will perform across three different golf courses while also suffering through painfully-slow rounds that can stretch out to as long as seven hours due to the Pro-Am format. There's also no ShotTracker available on either the Nicklaus or La Quinta courses. Yep...brutal.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week. And be sure to read all of our other top-notch weekly PGA DFS articles to help you win big!


The Course: Stadium Course at PGA West

Par 72 - 7,133 Yards, Greens: Bermuda, Architect: Pete Dye

The AmEx features a three-course rotation that includes the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta Country Club. Players will play one round on each course before a 54-hole cut leaves the remaining golfers to play TPC Stadium Course in the final round.

The Stadium Course is classic "desert golf" and traditionally plays much tougher than the other tracks in the rotation. Players will face a difficult closing stretch that includes a 20-feet deep bunker on Hole 16, the infamous "Alcatraz hole" at 17, and a par-4 18th that is lined with water. The course rotation makes this a volatile tournament. I'm targeting strong ball strikers who I hope will gain strokes both off the tee and on approach this week.

Check out RotoBaller's PGA Premium Course Breakdown by Josh Bennett for an in-depth breakdown of this week's golf course!


Recent AmEx Winners

  • 2021: Si Woo Kim (-23)
  • 2020: Andrew Landry (-26)
  • 2019: Adam Long (-26)
  • 2018: Jon Rahm (-22)
  • 2017: Hudson Swafford (-20)


Field Notes

  • 12 of the last 13 AmEx winners have played at least one of the Hawaii events.
  • Golfers will play one round each on the Stadium Course, Nicklaus TC, and La Quinta CC before a 54-hole cut and the final round on the Stadium Course.
  • Two of the OWGR top-five (Jon Rahm & Patrick Cantlay) and five of the OWGR top-25 (Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer, Sungjae Im, & Patrick Reed) will be in action this week.
  • Notables: Corey Conners, Will Zalatoris, Matthew Wolff, Talor Gooch, & Si Woo Kim


The Horse

Jon Rahm

Notable Course History: 6th ('19), Win ('18)
DraftKings Price: TBD FanDuel Price: TBD

Jon Rahm returns to The American Express for the first time since 2019. This time, as the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Rahm stormed out of the winter break two weeks ago with a runner-up finish in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, an event where he posted a mind-blowing score of 33-under par.

While scoring at the AmEx likely won't be quite as low as it was at the Sentry, Rahm's performance there serves as a nice reminder that he's just as comfortable in shootouts as he is in difficult conditions. He grades out first in this week's field in DK Points scored over the last 50 rounds and stands second in Birdies or Better Gained over that same time frame.

His track record at the AmEx includes a win and a sixth over three starts. Rahm boasts a 67.67 tournament scoring average in those appearances. It's fair to wonder how much motivation the world's top-ranked player brings to an event such as this, but it's not a huge stretch to imagine that coming up short a couple of weeks ago at Kapalua will have the Spaniard fired up this week.


The Ponies

Patrick Cantlay

Notable Course History: 2nd ('21), T9 ('19)
DraftKings Price: TBD FanDuel Price: TBD

Leading into the year, you've probably heard the word regression attached to Patrick Cantlay's name frequently. The common perception is that Cantlay captured the 2021 FedEx Cup on the strength of red-hot putting that's unsustainable. However, if we dive into the numbers we find that outside of one undeniable outlier performance at the BMW Championship where he gained an alien-like 14.6 strokes putting, his putting numbers were nothing special (he actually lost strokes putting in two of his last four starts of 2021). What seems to go overlooked is that Cantlay gained an average of 4.52 strokes T2G over the last four tournaments of 2021, a number that's slightly improved, but overall in line with his career SG: T2G average of +3.8.

With many expecting a letdown after his white-hot playoff run to end the summer, Patrick Cantlay went noticeably under-owned two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. However, Cantlay out-performed expectations by posting a fourth-place result at Kapalua. The defending FedEx Cup champion looked strong in all facets in Hawaii, gaining 5.9 strokes T2G. It was a complete performance that included positive splits in all major strokes gained categories.

After looking surprisingly sharp in the year's opener, Cantlay brings that form to an event where's performed exceptionally well. He owns a 67.64 career scoring average in the AmEx - the second-lowest average among those in the field this week - and has gone 2nd-T9 in his last couple of trips to La Quinta. With many in the PGA DFS industry shorting Cantlay's prospects at the moment, I'll happily go overweight on him here.


Abraham Ancer

Notable Course History: T5 ('21), 2nd ('20), T18 ('19)
DraftKings Price: TBD FanDuel Price: TBD

Patterns in golf are weird. I try to notice them if they're there, while also keeping in mind that they aren't reliably predictive. With that said, I'll throw out something I've noticed with Abe Ancer, a player that's posted back-to-back top-five results in the AmEx. Maybe it's meaningful, maybe it's not.

Stretching back to 2017-18, Ancer's routine has been to close his calendar year at Mayakoba and to open the new year in Hawaii after a multiple-month layoff before then playing in the AmEx. Every player's off-season routine is different and - without any insight at all - I'm guessing that Ancer's might be not touching a club during the entire month of December. He's routinely opened with horrible form in Hawaii, only to look vastly improved once reaching the mainland.

Ancer's results in Hawaii and the AmEx since 2018:

  • 2018: MC (Sony), T76 (AmEx)
  • 2019: T29 (Sony), T18 (AmEx)
  • 2020: T38 (Sony), 2nd (AmEx)
  • 2021: T17 (Sentry TOC), MC (Sony), T5 (AmEx)
  • 2022: T35 (Sentry), MC (Sony), TBD (AmEx)

Once again this year we've seen Ancer get off to a sluggish start in Hawaii, but there was also again incremental improvement between the Sentry - where he lost a massive 6.4 strokes T2G - and the Sony - where he missed the cut but gained strokes T2G over his two rounds. Does this mean that he's now sufficiently knocked the rust off and is ready to contend this week? Patterns aren't necessarily predictive, but this does make me more willing to buy low on Ancer this week while the public perception of him is perhaps lower than normal.


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Talor Gooch

Notable Course History: T21 ('21), T17 ('20), 4th ('19)
DraftKings Price: TBD FanDuel Price: TBD

As we wade into 2022, one of the hottest golfers in the world is...Talor Gooch?!?

Gooch's talent has long been professed by his peers on the PGA Tour and had surfaced in inconsistent fashion throughout his career with random great finishes in some of golf's biggest tournaments. His game has truly solidified over the last 18 or so months, as in addition to popping up for high finishes like a T5 at the '21 Players Championships, he began to consistently make cuts.

It appears as though everything finally came together for Gooch during the Swing Season. He capped off a tear that included two top-fives and a pair of top-11's with the first PGA Tour victory of his career at the RSM Classic. It doesn't appear as though he's let his foot off the gas yet, as he's opened 2022 with a nice T15 in his Sentry debut and followed with a solid T27 at the Sony -despite being paired with the sloth-like Kevin Na for multiple rounds (Gooch is a notoriously fast player while Na plays at a molasses pace. Advantage Na.). He brings that form  - and what's perhaps a newfound level of confidence - to an AmEx event where he's posted a fourth and two top-25's over the last three years.


Adam Hadwin

Notable Course History: T2 ('19), T3 ('18), 2nd ('17), T6 ('16)
DraftKings Price: TBD FanDuel Price: TBD

Since this is a course history article, I think I'm contractually obligated to talk about Adam Hadwin this week. The Canadian's track record in the American Express is astounding and includes a stretch from 2016 to 2019 during which he posted a pair of runner-ups and never finished worse than T6.

Hadwin leads all entrants in this week's field in both career scoring average (67.58) and SG: Total (+45.58) at the AmEx and if there's such a thing as an event Hall of Fame, Hadwin should be in on the first ballot.

With the AmEx resume out of the way, I suppose we should focus on the here and now. This week marks Hadwin's first start of 2022 and he comes into this year's edition with good enough form. He closed out 2021 by making five consecutive cuts, a fall stretch that was highlighted by a T6 at the Shriners in October.


Andrew Putnam

Notable Course History: T21 ('21), T10 ('20), T34 ('19), T17 ('18
DraftKings Price: TBD FanDuel Price: TBD

You never know where course history research will lead. We'll close this week's HFTC out with a player that rarely earns much buzz in the PGA DFS industry, but has put together an impressive AmEx track record, Andrew Putnam.

He won the Barracuda back in 2018 and after putting together a career-best year in 2019 that led to him rising to 43rd in the OWGR, Putnam's game promptly fell off a cliff in 2020, with his lone top-10 of that year coming in - you guessed it - the AmEx.

Putnam was able to right the ship a bit last year, notching top-five finishes at Puerto Rico and Bay Hill en route to qualifying for the opening event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He comes into the week off a T27 Sony Open outing that stands as his best in quite some time and will look to add to an AmEx resume that includes a top-10 and two top-25's over his last four trips to La Quinta.


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