The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the FantasyLabs Tools and other industry metrics to highlight notable golfers.

The PGA Tour heads to California for the 2020 American Express, which was the Desert Classic last year, and the CareerBuilder, the years before that.

Unlike your typical tournament, golfers are guaranteed three rounds here, with a cut coming after the third round. They’ll get two rounds on Stadium Course (one of them the fourth round), which is the only course where Shotlink data is available, and the only course where my backtesting was done from our Trends tool.

The three courses are as follows:

  • Stadium Course: Par 72, 7,113 yards
  • La Quinta Country Club: Par 72, 7,159 yards
  • Nicklaus Tournament Course: Par 72, 7,159 yards

Let’s dive in.

The Course

I did a full breakdown of the course. Check it out.

Key metrics: Par-4 and par-5 scoring, birdie or betting scoring, Strokes Gained: Approach

And as usual, I like Long-Term (LT) and Recent Adjusted Round Scores (Adj Rd Score) as catch-all metrics.

DFS Breakdown for 2020 American Express

Core Plays

There aren’t too many players I love this week. I basically feel like I’m just settling for everyone that finds their way onto my roster. One of those guys is Jason Kokrak ($9,100 DraftKings; $9,300 FanDuel). He has one of the strongest approach games in the field, ranking 11th in Strokes Gained: Approach over his last 50 rounds. His -4.5 adjusted strokes on par 5s are about middle of the pack in the field, but he does rank inside the top five in LT Adj Rd Score and birdies per tournament. The main concern is if he’ll need to get his putter going to contend.

Vaughn Taylor ($7,900 DraftKings; $9,500 FanDuel) had a shaky start in the first round last week, but a strong day two got him inside the cut line. I’ll go back to the Taylor well again after he gained 4.7 strokes on approach and 3.3 strokes putting at the Sony Open. I bet Taylor outright at 66-1 when odds first came out, he has since dropped to anywhere between 35-1 to 50-1 at some books.

One guy I’m targeting for salary relief is Carlos Ortiz ($7,200 DraftKings; $8,600 FanDuel). His 53rd  place last week was unimpressive, but he still gained 3.9 strokes on approach. His work on the greens is what killed him, losing two strokes putting. Overall, his metrics don’t jump off the page, but he ranks fourth par-4 efficiency over his last 50 rounds and ninth in Total Strokes Gained over the same time frame. I’ve also placed an outright on him at 125-1.

Tournament Targets

I like Rickie Fowler ($11,500 DraftKings; $12,000 FanDuel) in tournaments, but I have trouble paying that price tag in cash games. Fowler is just a solid golfer, leading the field with his 68.3 LT Adj Rd Score and averaging -1.5 and -5.3 adjusted strokes on par 4s and 5s over the same time frame.

Billy Horschel ($9,700 DraftKings; $10,900 FanDuel) hasn’t played since November, which may depress his ownership a bit, especially since he missed the cut in his last outing. Over the last 75 weeks, Horschel’s 68.8 LT Adj Rd Score is the second-best mark in the field, but he’s priced as the No. 8 golfer. And over his last 50 rounds, he ranks third in Total Strokes Gained.

Denny McCarthy ($7,600 DraftKings; $9,100 FanDuel) typically struggles with his irons, ranking 132nd in Strokes Gained: Approach, but he’s an elite putter ranking first in Strokes Gained: Putting over his last 50 rounds. The lack of consistency with his irons keeps him out of cash game consideration for me, but if his irons are even average this week and his putter continues to click, he shapes up well for a tournament that guarantees us three rounds out of him.

Nick Taylor ($7,000 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel) carries a top-25 LT Adj Rd Score, but he’s priced outside the top 40 golfers this week. He also ranks 23rd in Total Strokes Gained over his last 50 rounds. His irons were dialed in last week at the Sony, gaining 5.1 strokes on approach, so if he can keep that up this week, Taylor could be in for a solid outing at his price tag.

Quick Hits

  • Scottie Scheffler ($9,500 DraftKings; $10,400 FanDuel) ranks ninth in Strokes Gained: Approach over his last 50 rounds and over the last 75 weeks, he’s averaged 1.2 eagles and 16.0 birdies per tournament. In that same time frame, Scheffler has averaged -3.3 and -6.5 adjusted strokes on par 4s and 5s. All of those metrics are inside the top three of this field.
  • Matthew Wolff ($9,000 DraftKings; $10,700 FanDuel) leads the field with his 16.5 birdies per tournament and has averaged an exceptional -1.9 and -5.2 adjusted strokes on par 4s and 5s over the last 75 weeks. His irons have struggled of late, but if those are dialed in, he’s one of my favorite plays. Wolff has the potential upside to win this tournament.
  • Brian Harman ($8,600 DraftKings; $9,900 FanDuel) surprisingly leads the field in Total Strokes Gained over the last 50 rounds
  • Russell Knox ($8,100 DraftKings; $9,500 FanDuel) has solid irons, hitting 71.5% of GIR over the last 75 weeks and ranking fourth in Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 50 rounds.
  • Rory Sabbatini ($7,600 DraftKings; $9,300 FanDuel) isn’t really elite at any one thing, but he has a pretty balanced game, carrying the 17th-best LT Adj Rd Score and ranking seventh in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green over his last 50 rounds.
  • Cameron Tringale ($7,100 DraftKings; $9,000 FanDuel) had an excellent PGA season last year. And over the last 75 weeks, his 14.5 birdies per tournament is a top 15 mark in the field. Furthermore, over his last 50 rounds, he ranks sixth in Strokes Gained: Approach and fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Not bad for someone who costs $7,100.

Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more golf coverage or where to bet on golf!

Note: Strokes Gained and efficiency data via Fantasy National

Photo credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Pictured: Matthew Wolff