This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
The American Express
Courses: TPC Stadium Course at PGA West (7,113 yards, par 72) [Host], Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West (7,159 yards, par 72), La Quinta Country Club (7,060 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,206,000 and 500 FedExCup points
After two weeks in Hawaii, the PGA Tour will begin their five-tournament West Coast Swing in the California desert. This is one of the more unique tournaments of the season, as it will be contested on three different courses and features a celebrity pro-am. Players will play a rotation of the TPC Stadium Course, Nicklaus Tournament Course, and La Quinta CC over the first three rounds. A cut will be made after the third round and the players will return to the Stadium Course for the final round. Phil Mickelson will be the tournament host this week, as this event will benefit his charity, The Mickelson Foundation. Other notables in the field include Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Tony Finau, Francesco Molinari, and defending champion Adam Long.
Key Stats to Victory
Birdie or better percentage
Players had to battle strong winds and occasional showers the last two weeks in Hawaii, but weather will not impact The American Express whatsoever. This event, and the Phoenix Open in a couple weeks, fits the profile of playing golf in a dome more so than any other on Tour. Piling up scoring chances will be huge this week. The courses in the rotation feature little rough, so second shots will be far more important than drives. A hot putter will also be a requirement for contending this week. Last year Adam Long led the field in putts per GIR and did not have a single three-putt. The winner will also have to go low on La Quinta CC and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, as both historically play over a stroke easier than the Stadium Course.
FanDuel Value Picks
Rickie Fowler, ($12,000)
Fowler is making his first start here since 2014, but he has had much success in similar conditions at the Phoenix Open. The Oklahoma State product took quite a bit of time off during the fall, but since he has come back he has finished ninth at the Hero World Challenge, helped the American team win the Presidents Cup, and finished T5 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Expect Fowler to thrive back home in the California desert with one of the smoothest putting strokes in the game.
Sungjae Im, ($11,600)
At this point last year, Im was just barely inside the top 100 in the OWGR. Now he is up inside the top 35 in the OWGR and has established himself as one of the most consistent players on Tour. Im hasn't missed a cut since the Open Championship and has nine top-25s in that stretch. You will have to go low this week, and not many are better at that than 21-year-old. This season he ranks top-15 in scoring average, birdie average, and SG: Total. Im finished T12 in the desert last season.
Scottie Scheffler, ($10,400)
Scheffler will be making his first PGA Tour start of 2020. He got the season off to a great start in the fall by making all seven cuts and posting three top-10s and five top-20s. The former Texas Longhorn is fifth this season in birdie average and 12th in scoring average. Scheffler should have no issues going low this week.
Brendon Todd, ($10,000)
Todd absolutely turned his career around in the fall, posting back-to-back wins at the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic. He closed out the year with a fourth-place finish at the RSM Classic and a T3 at the QBE Shootout team event. Todd almost never puts himself in bad positions, as he ranks second in driving accuracy this season. When he does get in trouble he recovers as good as anyone, ranking third best on Tour this season in scrambling percentage. Todd is top-30 on Tour in putts per round and one-putt percentage as well. He is coming in off a solid T21 last week in Honolulu.
Longer Shots with Value
Brendan Steele, ($9,400)
The best way for Steele to forget about last week's heartbreak is to go right back out the next week and get into contention again. I frequently feel more confident about a golfer the week after a near-miss than the player who actually hoisted the trophy. Steele admitted after the round that he is a "California kid that doesn't like playing in the rain." Well, that California kid will be right back at home in La Quinta, where he will be under no threat of inclement weather. Steele led the field in SG: Approach and SG: Putting through three rounds last week, usually two of the most important stats on a week-to-week basis. He has finishes of T2 (2015) and T6 (2017) in this event.
Denny McCarthy, ($9,100)
Easily the best value in the field this week, McCarthy has had a great start to the season. He is 7-for-7 with three top-10's and five top-20's. McCarthy also ranks second on Tour this season in SG: Putting, sixth in SG: Total, and eighth in birdie or better percentage. He's a guy you can trust at a very generous price considering the overall field strength.
Talor Gooch, ($8,500)
Strong iron players will give themselves a bunch of scoring chances at these courses this week. Gooch is just that, as last season he ranked top-15 on Tour in SG: Approach, GIR percentage, and proximity. Clearly he likes the California desert, as last year he finished solo fourth after a final-round eight-under 64. Gooch notched a T4 and a T23 over his last four starts.
Harold Varner III, ($8,500)
Varner has made the cut in his last 10 PGA Tour starts. Of those results, five of them were finishes inside the top 30, including a T3 at the QBE Shootout team event in mid-December. This season he ranks 13th in SG: Off-the-tee and eighth in SG: Around-the-green. Varner also ranks 16th in proximity from the fairway and 18th in going for the green. He will face a number of gettable par-5's this week and his length will be an big factor. Varner had four rounds in the 60s last year in the California desert on his way to a T18 finish.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on a 60k standard salary cap)
This is another shallow field, so go ahead and spend on the studs again this week. I think Rickie Fowler and Sungjae Im are easily the most trustworthy golfers this week, so using a lineup with the two highest-priced players is not a bad idea at all. I also like the combination of Scottie Scheffler and Denny McCarthy, who average out to $9,750 each, as both have played well this season and rank very high in birdie average. From there you're looking at a pair of players in the mid $8,000 range to round out your roster. With everyone getting at least three rounds, this is where you should be aggressive and go for players who give themselves plenty of scoring chances with strong iron play.