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The PGA Tour hits mainland America for the first time in 2023 and starts the West Coast Swing with The American Express in Palm Springs, California.
This is an event with a deep history that goes right back to the glory days of the circuit when Hollywood celebrities would tee it up every other week during this stretch of the season.
At one time this was a five round tournament but such extravagance became old hat and now it is the normal four laps (it remains a pro-am but no longer with showbiz glitter attached).
It’s a tricky heat for punters. Recent champions Andrew Landry and Adam Long, for example, had missed seven cuts in the eight starts ahead of their wins!
This week’s field, on the other hand, is as strong as the event has seen in a long, long time with nine of the world’s top 20 ranked performers set to tee it up.
This week is an unusual one for the PGA Tour because there is not one, or even two, but three host courses in action (and it used to be four!).
PGA West in Palm Springs hosts the event with the Stadium Course played twice (including the final round) and the Nicklaus Course once. A further pre-third round cut round is played at La Quinta Country Club.
All three layouts are par-72s measuring around 7,100 yards and featuring Bermuda grass overseeded with Poa on the greens.
There’s no doubt why Jon Rahm is the favorite.
On the one hand, his form is quite simply superb with his last five results reading: second, first, fourth, first and first.
He also won the tournament in 2018 and has since then finished sixth and 14th.
The case for Scottie Scheffler is decent but a little more complex.
He shared the lead through 36 and 54 holes on his tournament debut in 2020 but fell back in the final round and has struggled since, missing the cut in 2021 and he was 25th last year.
The Texas-based player has finished top 10 in his last three tournaments but hasn’t lifted a trophy since April.
Patrick Cantlay led the tournament through 18 and 36 holes this time last year before falling back to ninth and he was second in 2021.
He might feel the event owes him one and he opened his 2023 account with 16th at the Tournament of Champions.
Twelve months ago Tom Hoge arrived at ths event off the back of decent form and spent all week in the top five before finishing second in his quest for a first PGA Tour triumph.
The near miss hurt but a few weeks later he atoned with victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
This year he is arguably in better for that last year having landing five top 20 finishes in his first seven starts of 2022/23 including an excellent third place in the Tournament of Champions two weeks ago at Plantation.
He can use that good form to ride the wave at a venue he feels settled at.
“We came here in college and I played Qualifying School here,” he said last year. “So I’ve got a lot of rounds under my belt.
“It beat me up a lot early on in my career but the key is just to get it in the fairway. From there it plays to my strengths with the iron game and I’m really starting to feel comfortable here.”
In addition to the second place last January he was sixth in 2020 so it was no fluke.
Take him each way in the outright at +3500 with Caesars Sportsbook, a good price and paying out eight places.
It’s not very often that a golfer begins his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour with seven top 20s in eight starts.
But then, prior to his graduation, the man who has done just that - Taylor Montgomery - did land 12 top 20s in 17 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour.
All told, then, he’s in great nick.
And this week challenge is nothing he should fear.
We can back him odds against to land yet another top 20 and should do exactly that.
We had success with the top 40 market last week with our pick of Ryan Palmer and we’ll go again this week in the shape of Belgium’s Thomas Detry.
He was part of the successful Continental European team at the Hero Cup on Sunday and he returns to the PGA Tour keen to continue what has been a rich vein of form this season, landing four top 20s in five starts.
This, remember, is a top 40 bet and the numbers are in our favour in all manner of ways, not just his form on the circuit this season.
In all PGA Tour career starts he has 11 top 40s in 15 starts, in the last 18 months the tally is eight from nine - and those numbers don’t count two World Golf Championship top 40s from just two starts.
Worldwide he has 12 top 40s in his last 18 starts.
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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