The PGA Tour Heads Back To The Mainland With The 2022 American Express at Pete Dye's PGA West

Robert Laberge. Getty Images.

Welcome to the West Coast swing! 5 tournaments in 5 weeks at some of America's most iconic courses. Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach, TPC Scottsdale, and Riviera CC are all on this stretch of the schedule. But first…. a little bit of an appetizer with the American Express. Yes that's the name. No "Open". No "Classic". No "Invitational". It may have been known as the Desert Classic, the Bob Hope Classic, the CareerBuilder Challenge, and a variety of other names but nowaways… it's just the American Express. For the rest of this tournament I'll simply be calling it the AmEx. Deal with it.

For my money this is the last tournament before things really start heating up and the top players start their march towards Augusta. It's traditionally a pro-am much like Pebble Beach, with a 54 hole cut after the first 3 rounds are rotated among 3 different courses. All 3 courses are at PGA West - The Stadium Course, The Nicklaus Course, and La Quinta. Top 65 and ties advance to Sunday, which is played at the Stadium Course. Last year because of COVID they left the "am" and La Quinta parts out and played a more traditional 36-hole cut tournament, but now both are back as the tournament returns to its traditional format.

Si Woo Kim was shakin that ass after he outlasted a ridiculous Sunday charge from Patrick Cantlay, whose course-record 61 moved him from way back in the pack to clubhouse leader. Si Woo was able to birdie 16 and the iconic 17th to move past Cantlay for the 1-shot victory. This was also another tournament that slipped through Tony Finau's fingers as he came into the final round as the 54-hole co-leader with Si Woo. 68 was solid, but it was nowhere near enough. He'll be one to keep an eye on this week, especially now that he's gotten over the hump with his win in the fall at Liberty National.

Last year's leaderboard and recent winners…

2021 Leaderboard

Recent Winners

The Course

As I said before, we've got 3 different courses in the mix here. All are par 72's and all are right around a mild 7,100ish yards. Since 2 of the 4 rounds including the final round will be played at the Stadium Course, I'll mainly focus on that. What you need to know about La Quinta and Nicklaus is that they're both scoreable and likely won't have shot tracker on the PGA Tour leaderboard, which always sucks.

The Stadium course presents a little more of a challenge, albeit not much of one. At least not these days anyway. There was a time in 1987 where PGA Tour players actually successfully petitioned to have the course removed from the tournament. It took until 2016 for the tournament to return to the course. From the Jan 22, 1987 New York Times:

More than 100 golfers are expected to petition Deane Beman, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, within the next week to insist that the PGA West course not be used again.

The three-year-old, 7,000-yard course designed by Pete Dye, was used for the first time in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic last week at La Quinta, Calif., and almost every one of the 128 professionals who played it complained about it. Even Corey Pavin, who won the tournament, said it was too severe.

Roger Maltbie, a member of the 10-man PGA Tour Policy Board, said that he expected a petition to be drawn up and that he would submit it to Beman.

''There's a possibility of a petition going around and if it does I will ask that it be put on the agenda of the membership meeting during the Los Angeles Open,'' Maltbie said. ''I haven't seen a petition yet although the subject of PGA West will undoubtedly come up at that membership meeting.''

Beman said he had not heard of any such petition yet. ''I will react to it when I see it,'' he said. ''Until then I have no comment. But that's very interesting.''

Rarely have so many touring pros been so critical of a course and never before have they reached a point of insisting that a course be dropped from the tour after only one tournament.

''The Policy Board decided that we play there,'' Maltbie said. ''Yes, I voted to play there. We owed it to ourselves and everyone to try it. That we did. We did and we saw and nobody likes it. With that in mind the thing is that not to make a change now that would be stupid.''

Dye also designed and built the Tournament Players Club at Ponte Vedra, Fla., which was the most controversial course on tour before PGA West. Many changes were made to fairways, greens and hazards at the Ponte Vedra T.P.C. after it was first used for the Tournament Players Championship in 1982.

Maltbie, however, said that he did not think changes in PGA West would help and that it should not be used on tour again. #90 Percent of Players Upset ''My reaction at this moment is PGA West shouldn't be played next year,'' he said. ''I just don't think it's good for the tournament.

''I think Deane Beman understands. When the players are that unanimous in their dislike of a golf course he has to listen to them. There are too many good golf minds out here. I haven't seen this much unanimity among players about anything before.''

Speaking of PGA West and the designer, Maltbie said, ''I don't like his targets, those specific places you have to play the ball. There are far too many undulations in fairways. I think bunkers on many holes are far too penalizing, certainly for the length of the holes. The sheer walls of bunkers are too steep and water running adjacent to fairways hole after hole is bad. You might as well have out of bounds one foot off every one of those fairways.''

The PGA Tour shifted this week to another new course, the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale, for the 52d Phoenix Open, which begins tomorrow. Most of the players, however, seem to like the course, which was designed by Tom Weiskopf, a 15-time winner on tour, along with Howard Twitty and Jay Morrish.

Pretty wild that Pete Dye created a course that was so challenging that the world's best literally resorted to taking their balls and going home. Nowadays with advancements in equipment, a higher standard of fitness, etc etc… these guys aren't so afraid anymore. If you didn't read the excerpt above, the course is riddled with hazards. There are over 90 bunkers, many of them incredibly steep. I mean look at this monstrosity. 

Keyur Khamar. Getty Images.

You'll also find water hazards lining 7 holes. Including quite a bit on my featured hole…

Best Hole - 17th Hole, Par 3 168 yards 

Keyur Khamar. Getty Images.

Ah yes, the one they call "Alcatraz". Pete Dye loves his island greens. Obviously his design at Sawgrass is the more notable one, but any time you put a green in the middle of a lake and take out virtually all margin for error, you're going to get great drama. This is considered a sister course of Sawgrass, so having this as the penultimate hole makes a lot of sense.

Duf Daddy's par save here in 2016 was a big part of his win that year.

Lee Trevino also aced it in a 1987 Skins Game against Nicklaus and Palmer

The Weather & TV Coverage

you kiddin me? It gets better…

We got a taste of PGA Tour Live on ESPN+ the past two weeks but now that we're on the mainland, they're piping that shit up to full blast. We're getting FOUR simultaneous live streams from the top. Truly a new era of watching golf…

The Trophy

Harry How. Getty Images.

Verrry middle of the road trophy here. Which is probably about what this tournament's trophy should be. Not too flashy, but the glass (crystal? is it crystal?) makes for a nice piece on the mantle. It's whatever. What do you want me to say, I'm trying here. It's a 5/10.

The Field

The favorite this week at the Barstool Sportsbook is world #1 Jon Rahm at +500. He was actually the heavy favorite here last year too, but had to drop out after suffering an injury in the gym. There was a time many years ago where that sort of thing would be unheard of. He's played this tournament 3 times and finished T-34, W, and T-6. 

He's also dominant this time of year. In his last 11 January starts (dating back to 2017), his results are: W, T-2, W, T-29, T-8, 6th, T-5, 10th, 2nd, T-7, T-7.

That's 2 wins, 5 for 11 on top 5's, and 10 for 11 on top 10's. That's elite stuff. And it's honestly not all that far off of the type of results that he put in week in and week out last season when he went 15 of 22 on Top 10's. He deserves his world ranking, he deserves his spot on top of this board, and he's my pick this week. I hate that the payout is so short and I hate taking favorites outright, but I just love him at this course. Thank me later.

I'd also be remiss not to mention this fella from South Africa creating all types of buzz this week. Absolute BOMBS from the big guy.

Other Plays

Jon Rahm Top 10 -150 - 68% rate on top 10's last season? -150 is an implied probability of 60%, so we'll take these odds.

Top American Patrick Cantlay +550 - I actually love Cantlay this week too. 65-61 to go -18 on the weekend on the Stadium Course last year was just silly. I can't get that out of my brain. By betting him Top American +550, I still get action on Cantlay and can actually cash both Cantlay and Rahm if Rahm wins outright, and I'm really not shaving much off of the Cantlay payout from +750 to +550 should Cantlay win outright. This is some weird combo of a hedge strategy and distant cousin of a middle.

Patrick Reed Top 5 +600 - Former champ here isn't getting a lot of respect. There's more sand than putting green on this course, so there's a lot of opportunities for the king of Strokes Gained: Rules Manipulation to take advantage.

Will Zalatoris Top 10 +350 - Haven't heard his name in a while, huh? That's what happens when you get screwed out of the FedEx Cup playoffs by an archaic rule and don't make the Tournament of Champions. Anyways, we're back on the Will Z train as it chugs towards Augusta.

Russell Knox Group C +400 (over Fowler/Ortiz/Glover/Moore) - Had a buddy ask another to name the most random golfer he could think of going into this week and he said "Russell Knox". When something like that is said out loud, there's no going back. Simply cannot sit there on Sunday and be in a position thinking what if. So thanks to AC I'm grabbing some Russell Knox action. Ride it or don't.

Scottie Scheffler FOMO Pick To Win +1800 - ICYMI in a couple blogs in the fall, Scottie is my new "bet blindly until he wins" guy, taking over the reins from former FOMO king Tony Finau.

Tony Finau To Win +2000 - Sorry, I just can't quit Tony.

I'll be watching all weekend while on a golf trip to southwest Florida with the boys. Teeing it up at Tiburon Friday, home of the QBE Shootout and the LPGA Tour Championship. Cannot wait.

If you're another course in that area of Florida (or anywhere) and want me to enjoy your fine establishment, the DM's are very open @BarstoolBanks. God bless and enjoy the American Express.