US PGA Tour golf tips: American Express Desert Classic looks wide open for stellar field

The US PGA Tour returns to the American mainland this weekend, and Tipstrr golf expert Martin Colwell has studied the form ahead of the popular Pro-Am tournament across three Californian courses.

The USPGA Tour leaves Hawaii after a two-week stay and returns to the California mainland for the West Coast swing. The American Express is a long-standing Pro-Am tournament, played across three different courses, and offers $1.15M to the winner plus an invitation to The Masters.

The field must one round apiece at each of the following courses:

  • The Pete Dye Stadium Course - A par 72 and 7,187 yards in length, and the toughest of the three courses, with a Bermuda grass surface and water on seven holes. The set up of the course can penalise errant shots, and is crowned by the iconic island green on the 17th hole.

  • La Quinta Country Club - A par-72 and 7,060 yards in length, this is the easiest of the three courses with a Bermuda grass surface with water on seven holes.

  • The Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West - a par 72 and 7,147 yards in length, this course offers a Ryegrass surface with Bermuda greens, plus water on five holes.

After the third round, the cut precedes the final round played without the amateurs on Sunday at the Stadium Course. Because of the pro-am element, the first three rounds can take up to six hours each to complete and so it all becomes a marathon for those competing.

Hudson Swafford was victorious in 2022, but does not defend this week as he has since defected to LIV Golf. It is not the toughest of set ups that these guys encounter on tour, and we can expect a winning score upwards of 20-under..

Plenty of outsiders have won this tournament in the past, possibly due to the pro-am element of the first three days affecting the flow of the pros' game, and key metrics this week seem to be strokes gained approach and putting performance.

A top-class field this week in California sees Jon Rahm heading the market as 6/1 favourite, following his win in the Tournament of Champions two weeks ago.

Rahm won this tournament in 2018 when first breaking through on the tour, but has spoken of his dislike for the courses and describes this as a 'putting contest', it might be wise to steer clear of the Spaniard at these odds.

At around 11/1 Patrick Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler must enter consideration. Cantlay does not appear to have the right mindset for pro-am's, but he was runner up in 2021 to Si Woo Kim, who was victorious last week, so maybe Scheffler is a better option after being runner up here in 2020.

There is some interest in Tony Finau at around 14/1, after he ending 2022 in stellar form with three wins on tour. This course sets up well for him and he should cope well with the social aspects of this week.

Then we have a bunch of golfers on 20/1, including the quality of Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim and Cameron Young.

As a top ball striker, Zalatoris catches the eye, but he needs to get his putter operating on these greens, while Schauffele had to withdraw with a back injury last time out and so we need to see how fit he is first before being with him.

Tom Kim putted poorly last week which meant he missed the cut, but apart from that, his game was in good shape, so he might be in contention if he can get his flat stick in order.

Sungjae continues in good form, while Cam Young was a regular contender last year, including in majors, but he needs to win tournaments to justify always being close to the top of the betting market.

Other golfers to consider - Si Woo Kim goes for back-to-back wins on the tour and scooped the title here in 2021, and his 33/1 price available in places looks solid each-way value here.

Tom Hoge also carries appealing outsider value after winning on tour in 2022, as he blew away some cobwebs last week and was runner-up here last year.

A long week lies ahead for players and viewers alike, and it all gets under way on Thursday afternoon UK time.

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