Horses for Courses: 2020 American Express

The Stadium Course at PGA West has hosted since the 2016 edition. It will do so with a heavy heart this week.

The TOUR returns to the mainland for the West Coast Swing and will kick off with The American Express. Formerly the Bob Hope Desert Classic, among other monikers, this will be the 61st Pro-Am in the Coachella Valley, but the first one with Phil Mickelson as official host.

The TOUR pros and amateurs will get one crack at each of The Stadium Course at PGA West (Par-72), Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West (Par-72) and La Quinta Country Club (Par-72). The cut comes after 54 holes and the top 65 teams return to The Stadium Course for the final round. Up for grabs is $6.7 million, with the winner taking home a record $1.26 million (500 FedExCup points).

The new rotation was established in 2016 and will be the focus of my history this week. Sure, La Quinta has been in play since 2010, but it annually rates as one of the easiest tracks on TOUR.

With the absence of rough, wind and weather, low scores are the requirement this week and bogeys need not apply. None of these tracks stretch over 7,200 yards and these resort courses are torched each January by all shapes and sizes, making it one of the most difficult events to project.

The genius of Pete Dye, who designed The Stadium Course at PGA West, will be celebrated this week as the legendary architect passed away January 9.


 

Recent Winners

2019: Adam Long (-26, 262)

Rookie made up a three-shot deficit on Phil Mickelson to win for the first time on TOUR. … Needed only 98 putts for a one-shot victory in just his sixth start with a card. … Led in putting average, three eagles (T1) and was T7 scrambling. … Entered the week ice cold with five MC in six starts. … Became sixth player to claim first win at the event since 2007 and second in four years. … Opened with 63 at La Quinta.\

Notables in the field this week: Mickelson opened with 60 at LaQuinta, missing Adam Hadwin’s (not entered) course record of 59 and led after 18, 36 and 54 holes. … Talor Gooch (fourth) picked up his first top-10 payday on TOUR. … Dominic Bozzelli closed 64-66 for fifth. … Roger Sloan (T12) led the field in Par-Breakers with 29.

2018: Jon Rahm (-22, 266)

Began the final round two shots behind 54-hole leader Austin Cook. … Defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth playoff hole for his second win on TOUR. … Co-led Par-5 scoring (-13) and circled 27 Par-Breakers (T3)… Second youngest winner (23 years 2 months) behind Jack Nicklaus. … Won the DP World Tour and was runner-up at Sentry TOC in his previous two starts. … T34 in first visit 2017. … Only the fifth international winner in 59 tournaments. … Opened with 62 at La Quinta.

Notables in the field this week: Landry went the first 59 holes without a bogey. … John Huh (T3) and Scott Piercy (T6) shared T4 in Par-Breakers. … Jason Kokrak (T8) finished bogey-double bogey after getting to one shot of the lead on Sunday.

2017: Hudson Swafford (-20, 268)

Won for the first time on TOUR as temperatures didn’t climb out of the 60s all week. … Highest winning score of four events on the new rotation. … Led the field with 26 birdies, GIR and Par-4 scoring. … Only winner in the new rota not to play the Par-5 holes 10 under or better. … Had made the cut in his 18 previous starts on TOUR and cashed T13 at Sony Open the week prior. … Won in his fourth try at the event with T25 previous best. … Opened with 65 at La Quinta.

Notables in the field this week: Bud Cauley was second in Par-Breakers and T3 on the leaderboard. …Brian Harman backed up his T11 from 2016 with T3. … Rookie Dominic Bozzelli led after one and trailed by one after 36 and 54 before cashing solo fifth. … Brendan Steele opened 68-64 before fading to T6.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-20 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

 * –  previous top 10 finish here since 2016

Par-Breakers

7  Aaron Wise

10 Troy Merritt

12 Sepp Straka

13 Denny McCarthy

14 Wyndham Clark

19 Cameron Champ

21 *Dominic Bozzelli

22 Sungjae Im

23 Hank Lebioda

24 Rickie Fowler

24 Andrew Putnam

Birdie-or-Better Percentage

6  Denny McCarthy

7  Aaron Wise

8  Wyndham Clark

11 *Si Woo Kim

13 Andrew Putnam

14 *Dominic Bozzelli

20 Troy Merritt

21 Sepp Straka

23 *Vaughn Taylor

24 *Bud Cauley

26 Roger Sloan

27 Cameron Champ (first appearance)

29 Rickie Fowler

30 Phil Mickelson

Par-5 Scoring

2  Wyndham Clark

6  Sungjae Im

6  *Bill Haas

10 Denny McCarthy

12 Troy Merritt

17 Paul Casey

17 Jhonattan Vegas

23 *Martin Laird

23 Aaron Wise

23 Cameron Davis

23 *Luke List

Slim Pickings

Phil Mickelson: The host with the most knows he should have closed the deal last year. Also cashed T3 in 2016 on 21 under.

Jason Kokrak: After his close call in 2018, he followed that up with T18 last season. He’s 34 under over the last two events and sticks out for course historians.

Bud Cauley: T14-T3-T14 preceded his MC last year so there’s no question he’s looking forward to this week. He’s 59 under over his last 15 rounds but didn’t get a chance to play Sunday last year as his 8 under score didn’t make the cut! Yep, 9 under was the limit last year, one short of the record of 10-under in 2013.

Brian Harman: Before MC last year the lefty was 50-under in his previous three visits for T11, T3 and T20.

Wait, What?

Adam Long: You know my rule on guys defending for the first time. Add to that Johnny Miller is the only one to defend the title and that’s some equation.

Bill Haas: All-time money leader hasn’t made the cut the last two seasons after T17 and T19 the first two years in this rotation.

Jason Dufner: The first winner in this rotation, Dufner has gone backwards each year with T25, T36 and MC in his last three.

Dominic Bozzelli: 5-MC-5 includes 39 under in the two big finishes and a 72 and 83 in the MC.

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