In 1987, when the PGA West Stadium Course made its PGA Tour debut at what was then the Bob Hope Classic, it had a reputation as one of the country’s toughest tracks, and it more than held its own against the world’s best. So demanding were its tests that year that a number of Tour pros refused to return to the event unless the Stadium was scratched as one of the host courses.
That was then.
Last year, at the tournament known today as the American Express, Si Woo Kim claimed the title with a four-day total of 23-under, one shot ahead of Patrick Cantlay, who came within a whisker of catching Kim with a final-round 61.
Designed by Pete Dye, the Stadium Course remains plenty daunting for most amateurs — a minefield of pot-bunkers, water hazards and intimidating looks. But the pros, as we know, play a different game.
Kim is back to defend his title. Cantlay will be on hand as well, along with a field highlighted by Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Reed, Abe Ancer, Phil Mickelson and world number-one Jon Rahm.
The American Express follows an unusual format, with a 54-hole cut and the first three rounds held on three different courses (PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course La Quinta Country Club are the other two), and Sunday’s final played entirely on the Stadium Course.
Erick Lindgren will be watching closely. He’s GOLF.com expert prognosticator, looking to build on his sparkling track record from last year, when he picked five outright winners in this space. As usual, we’re giving Lindgren a $1,000 budget (in play money), and he’s giving us (and you!) his five top picks for the American Express, which kicks off Thursday.
(Looking to play any of these bets yourself? We teamed with BetMGM and the online sports book is offering a Risk-Free Bet of up to $1,000).
Scottie Scheffler to win: +2,000 (Wager $200)
During the Tournament of Champions on Maui two weeks go, Lindgren says he kept picturing Scheffler at home, going crazy because he wasn’t there. Scheffler is due, Lindgren says, and he’s willing to put his money on it.
Russell Knox, top finisher from Great Britain/Ireland: +$500 (Wager: $300)
He’ll have to beat the like of Justin Rose, Seamus Power, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald. “I’m not looking to fade Power’s hot streak,” Lindgren says. But the rest of the guys on the list aren’t scaring me right now.”
Josh Bramlett, top 20: +550 (Wager: $200)
Casual fans might not be familiar with Bramlett. But Lindgren has been keeping an eye on him. “He snuck into the top 20 last week with a great Sunday on a course that wasn’t a great fit for him,” Lindgren says. “This week suits him better.”
Francesco Molinari, top 10, +1,200 (Wager: $200)
It’s not exactly a home game for the Italian. But La Quinta is a short drive from Los Angeles, where Molinari now resides. “He has a good course history here and I expect him to regain some of his brilliant form from a couple of years ago,” Lindgren says. “I’ve gotten a great price on that starting here.”
Davis Riley to win: +15,000 (Wager: $100)
Every now and then, you’ve got to take a long shot. Lindgren is going with the recent Korn Ferry grad. “I couldn’t be more impressed with him,” Lindgren says. “If you take away a few bad holes from the Sony last week, he would have been top 5. He stays on Bermuda this week, which I’m betting will be his favorite grass.”