AMEX: The PGA Tour heads back to the mainland this week for an event that has been a fixture on the schedule for over 60 years, though you wouldn’t know it from the horribly corporate name (can’t even call it the AMEX Classic or something? You have to literally name it after a credit card?!). But it was entertainer and philanthropist Bob Hope who started this tournament and presided over it for decades, and through the early 200s it was still known as the Bob Hope Classic.

Originally a 5-day pro-am that was massively popular due to all of Hope’s Hollywood friends who would compete– a who’s who of A-list stars of the day– the tournament has now been pared back to 4 rounds, and though it is still a pr-am format for the first three days, the celebrities who show up now are mostly B-list actors and athletes who have the golf bug. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s no disputing that the event no longer commands the attention it once did.

That said, a strong field has showed up this week that includes World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Juston Thomas, and a few other of their ilk. Scheffler heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 7.3, followed by Cantlay (12.0) and Xander Schauffele (15.0), but they all seem a bit short at a tournament that is generally won by the long odds types– in 4 of the past 5 years the winner here has gone off at 50/1 or longer, and if you remove Jon Rahm’s two victories here it really does look like a neverending list of journeymen like Hudson Swafford, Andrew Landry, Adam Long, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, etc. etc.

I think the unpredictable results here are due in large part to it being one of the first full-field events of the year, with everyone shaking off the rust and finding themselves at different stages of readiness. But the format, a 3-day pro-am featuring long rounds, annoying conversation, and easy pins, undoubtedly plays a role as well.

The three courses being used this week will be familiar to most of the field, as it’s the same setup that has been utilized for the past few years. PGA West Stadium is the host course, meaning everyone will play it once over the first three days before all the action moves there on Sunday, while PGA Nicklaus and LaQuinta Country Club will also be in use in rounds 1 through 3. The Stadium is the most challenging of the three due to some severity off the tee, but if you can find fairways it yields plenty of birdies. The other two, LaQuinta and the Nicklaus course, are a bit friendlier, with LaQuinta, a shortish par-72 with minimal trouble and four reachable par-5s, standing out as the easiest of the bunch. Due in no small part to the amateur-friendly setup, this is always a birdie fest and a race to 25-under, so I’d be looking for guys who are coming in with a bit of recent form and a hot putter.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Sungjae Im (24.0)- When it’s red numbers you need, one must always consider Mr. Im, the birdie-making machine who racked up 34 of them (!) in Kapalua two weeks ago en route to a 5th-place finish. Im loves it out West and always seems to play well this time of year, so his splendid play at Kapalua wasn’t much of a surprise. It also wouldn’t be too surprising to see him in contention this week given his stellar record at this event– in five career appearances he’s finished 12th or better four times and never worse than 18th. I guess that means he’s plenty comfortable with the courses and the format, and with four career victories and five runner-ups to his name we know he’s not shy about keeping the pedal down on Sunday. He’s got a great chance this week and is reasonably priced at 24.0.

Eric Cole (44.0)- Cole continues his rise from obscurity to the penthouse of pro golf on the strength of his consistency– the guy just seems to play well every week. He’s started 2024 off with back-to-back top-15 finishes, the most recent coming at the Sony last week, where he fired bookend 66s to post 12-under and finish T13. There’s one glaring thing still missing on the resume, though: a victory. He’s been close, however, losing in a playoff in the 2023 Honda Classic and posting five more top-5 finishes last year, including 4 in his final 5 events of the season. He’s knocking on the door consistently, and soon– very soon, I think– the door is going to open. He made the cut on debut here last year so he’s familiar with the courses and the format, and he’s a completely different player than he was 12 months ago after a career-changing year and an ongoing stretch of superb form. Cole might be my favorite bet on the board at better than 40/1.

Patton Kizzire (158.0)- We’ve seen the longshots flourish at this tournament over the years, so in that regard a Kizzire victory wouldn’t be all that shocking I suppose. He likes it here, making the cut six times in eight career appearances, including a T11 last year and a T22 in 2022. More importantly, he seems to have found his way out of the abyss, recovering from a terrible stretch to make his final 5 cuts of 2023. He then opened 2024 by shooting 68 or better in all four rounds of the Sony and finishing 13th, an excellent showing from someone who posted just three top-15 all of last season. So, here’s someone in great form returning to a course where he has considerable experience and plenty of fond memories. The stars could be aligning for Kizzire this week and I’m happy to take a chance on him at better than 150/1.


THE STRIKER Tues: ARSENAL v CHELSEA
THE ULTRA Tues: LAZIO v JUVENTUS
THE EDGE IPL Tues: Chennai Super Kings v Lucknow Super Giants
DAQMAN Mon: Pontefract NAP
DAQSTATS Mon: Pontefract NAP
THE ULTRA Mon: Serie A Preview
THE EDGE IPL Mon: Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians
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