The PGA TOUR starts the West Coast swing with The American Express in La Quinta, Calif., located near Palm Springs. Due to COVID-19, the TOUR canceled the pro-am last year, resulting in the golfers playing only two courses instead of the usual three. The Tournament will go back to playing on three courses this season: La Quinta CC, The Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course on PGA West (in that order). La Quinta (LQ) CC is a par 70, measuring 7,060 yards and The Nicklaus Tournament (NT) Course is a par 72, measuring 7,147 yards. The Stadium Course (SC) comes in at 7,158 yards and plays as a par 72. All three courses will be putt on Bermuda greens for the third straight week.
The 156-golfer field will play each course once, with a cut after 54 holes, and those who make the cut will play the Stadium Course on Sunday. SC is the only one to record ShotLink Data, which you should consider when looking at previous statistics.
All three courses routinely play as some of the easiest in scoring relative to par with accessible par 5s and short par 4s. The Nicklaus Course was brought into the tournament rotation in 2016 and should be the easiest of the three, with three of the four par 5s playing less than 550 yards. The Stadium Course, designed by Pete Dye, draws many comparisons to TPC Sawgrass, one being how often water hazards come into play. Still, it was the sixth-easiest course in scoring relative to par in 2020, with a scoring average of 70.364 (-1.64).
This week will be the first of many Pete Dye courses the TOUR will play this season, and with all Dye designs, position golf will be essential. The courses aren’t guarded by thick rough, which means fairways hit in regulation matters a little less this week. Still, golfers we consider should have a modicum of accuracy Off-the-Tee given how tricky Dye course can play if you’re not in the correct position. The critical stat here is Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, and this week, golfers will also need to be solid in Par 5 scoring, with the easiest collective set of par 5s on the PGA TOUR. Also, consider players who rank high in opportunities gained (scoring stat), with the average winning score finishing around 24-under over the past five years.
Like last week, we should be leaning toward golfers who’ve played in Hawai’i leading up to the Tournament: 12 of the previous 13 champions played in the week(s) before their win here. Last year’s winner, Si Woo Kim (+6500, $8,300), finished top 25 at the Sony Open and went on to shoot 23-under, fending off Patrick Cantlay (+900, $10,900), who shot 61 on Sunday. With that said, golfers don’t need to have played well in Hawai’i to warrant consideration. In 2020, Andrew Landry (+13000, $7,200) missed the cut at Waialae CC the week previous, and the same thing happened to Adam Long (+10000, $7,600) in 2019.
Seamus Power (+2800 to Win, $9,500 on DraftKings)
Power has been one of the best golfers of late, ranking fourth in SG: Total over the previous 24 rounds. A third-place finish last week and a top 15 at the TOC proves Power is trending well, heading into another resort course where scoring is at a premium. Over the previous 24 rounds, Seamus ranks 13th in birdies or better gained and first in Par 5 scoring. Power has shown he can play well in the desert with finishes of 21st and 11th here and a top 25 at the Shriners earlier this season. He also lives and practices in Las Vegas, which can only help this week. Abraham Ancer (+2500, $9,200) also deserves consideration in this range. The Aloha Swing wasn’t delightful for Ancer, missing the cut last week and placing 35th at the Sentry TOC. Still, his accuracy Off-the-Tee, Par 5 scoring, ball-striking and success on Pete Dye courses (especially at this Tournament) are too good to pass up.
Jhonattan Vegas (+8000 to Win, $8,100 on DraftKings)
Vegas won this Tournament a decade ago and is still playing well, finishing top 12 at The RSM Classic back in late November. Vegas bucks the “playing in Hawai’i” trend, but he sets up well, ranking fifth in DK points and gaining an average of 1.2 strokes per round Tee-to-Green (fourth in the field) over the previous 50. Historically, Vegas hasn’t been accurate Off-the-Tee but has been much better recently, ranking 39th in fairways gained over the past eight rounds. Hopefully, he can lean on his length, club down for more accuracy with his tee shots and lean on his ability to score this week, ranking top 40 in birdies or better gained and 23rd in opportunities over his previous two dozen rounds.
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