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All Aboard: Favorites, Longshots, Fantasy Plays for the PGA’s American Express

By: Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads

The Hawaii swing ended with Kevin Na chasing down Brendan Steele to net his fifth win in five years. Na has made a number of appearances in our articles this last year, and while we only mentioned him in the DFS portion last week, it’s nice to see him in the winner’s circle again.

The American Express begins the West Coast swing, and there are some changes to how the tournament is being played this year. Ordinarily, it’s a pro-am played on three different courses, with a 56-hole cut and scores frequently below 20-under par. Due to COVID, this year’s tournament has been reduced to two courses, a smaller field, and a more traditional 36-hole cut.

The two courses, The Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, will still play very easy, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a cut number around 5-under par. With low scoring and high variance, it opens up the door for a lot of longshots to come through. In fact, the last 10 years have seen just two golfers win at odds shorter than 40-1.

The Stadium Course

Golfers will play each course once in the first two rounds, and then the weekend will finish up with two rounds at The Stadium Course. The Stadium Course is a par 72 playing just 7,147 yards. There are a ton of scoring holes, and players who excel on short par 4s and par 5s are going to have success here.

With four reachable par 5s, distance will play a greater role than it does on most short courses, but still not as much as on most par 72s.

PICK TO WIN

Patrick Reed hits from the bunker during the second round of the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Friday, July 31, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Patrick Reed

Our model shows Reed leading the field this week with a 6.0% chance to win. Though he isn’t a longshot, Reed’s ability to put up low scores on par 5s gives him ample opportunity for birdies. Only Patrick Cantlay is projected to score better on the par 5s (plus-0.73 strokes per round) this week than Reed (plus-0.71). Reed gets the edge over Cantlay this week in part because of his variability. We actually have Cantlay with a higher chance to finish in the top 10, but Reed has about 1/5th of a percent advantage for winning the tournament.

OTHERS WHO COULD CONTEND

Russell Henley watches his drive during the third round of the RSM Classic Golf tournament, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in St. Simons Island, Ga. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Russell Henley

We’ll back Henley again this week on another course that encourages good iron play. Last week Henley was a fixture on the top 10 of the leaderboard until the fourth round when he was stuck in neutral, making all pars until the 14th hole when he finally carded a birdie. Henley’s proficiency on short par 4s is a superb skill to have on a course like The Stadium Course, and we project him to lead the field in short par 4 scoring this week at plus-1.01 strokes per round. He stays out of trouble, so it’s unlikely he’ll dunk any tee shots on the par 3s, and should be able to conservatively card consistent scores en route to a top finish. We have him with a 3.5% chance to win.

Gary Woodland

What are we going to get with Woodland? If he’s healthy, he’s a top 25 player in the world, but health remains a question. After a month off we’re banking on some recovery, and he’s now underrated enough to catch our eye. He’s been historically excellent on par 5s and his biggest weakness is long par 4s, of which there are only three on this course and none of them longer than 480 yards. It’s a course fit for Woodland, and if he’s healthy it’s a great number for him.

Kevin Streelman

Bordering on a longshot, Streelman is another golfer who suits The Stadium Course. He plays par 5s at a high level (plus-0.64 strokes per round) and his second-best scoring hole type is short par 4s. Streelman is what we’re looking for this week, and we have his odds to win higher than players like Kevin Na and Brian Harman.

LONGSHOTS WHO COULD SURPRISE

Max Homa chips to the second green during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Max Homa

In this section, we’re mostly looking for guys who play par 5s exceptionally well and aren’t terrible on the short par 4s. Homa fits that bill. We have Homa among the top 25 in the field on both hole types, and he scores enough to potentially make some noise this week. If he can stay away from the big numbers, he has enough scoring potential to make a run at his second win in the last three years.

Charl Schwartzel

Another player who can light it up on the par 5s, the former Masters champion hasn’t won in half a decade. His form has been trending in the right direction, and a shorter course is where he could breakthrough. We have Schwartzel as the 24th most likely to win this week, well ahead of where he’s at in the market.

Mark Hubbard

Hubbard made the list last week and finished in his typical 30th place. In a huge, high-scoring tournament, we’re also looking for consistency and players who are going to make cuts. Of all players listed as 200-1 or higher, Hubbard has our highest made-cut percentage at 49.5. That seems low, but with 156 golfers in the field and only 65 and ties moving on to the weekend, there is so much variability this week.

FAVORITE DRAFTKINGS GPP PLAYS

The way the salaries shook out this week, we’re almost entirely fading the $8,000 range. You’ll see a lot of picks at the top and a bunch at the bottom.

$9,000+ Range

Patrick Cantlay ($11,100)

Patrick Reed ($10,200)

Scottie Scheffler ($9,500)

Abraham Ancer ($9,100)

Russell Henley ($9,000)

$8,000s

Brian Harman ($8,100)

$7,000s

Zach Johnson ($7,900)

Joel Dahmen ($7,500)

Cameron Tringale ($7,400)

J.T. Poston ($7,300)

Keegan Bradley ($7,300)

Maverick McNealy ($7,300)

Kevin Streelman ($7,200)

Max Homa ($7,000)

Less than $7,000

Denny McCarthy ($6,900)

 

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