The American Express Contenders
Both Jon Raham and Patrick Cantlay have great credentials going into this, with course pedigree and current form setting them up perfectly here. Along with Collin Morikawa, these two were arguably the standout players of 2021, and both have opened their 2022 accounts with top-five finishes to shake off any rust that may have accumulated over the festive period.
Rahm is a previous winner of the Amex back in 2018 and PGA West certainly suits his game, with driving such an imperative factor at this event. Cantlay’s last two appearances here read 9-2 and holds the course record (61) at the Stadium Course, though with this year’s renewal featuring three separate courses as opposed to two, it certainly poses an extra challenge.
Despite his short price, it’s hard to look beyond Rahm. His only appearance of ‘22 so far saw him finish just one shot behind a record breaking score from Cam Smith at Kapalua and he seems, like Cantlay, to be at the peak of his career at the moment.
He has a combined 43 under par score across these courses from his past two tournaments, and there’s absolutely no sign of him slowing down at the moment.
The introduction of amateurs here in a slightly weaker PGA Tour field than we’re used to understandably has him shorter in the market, though that massively increases his chances with Cantlay the only player who can compete with the Spaniard when on song.
We give Rahm the edge on this occasion owing to his particular penchant for low scoring events, with two of these three courses proving to be a couple of the easiest on tour, and when the birdies start dropping it’s hard to stop the world number one.
Abraham Ancer is another that deserves a go, and for whatever reason if the aforementioned market leaders were to make sloppy appearances, the Mexican is poised to take full advantage.
His Hawaii swing was ultimately a disappointing start to the year with a 35th and a missed cut as he never really quite got to grips with the Island Bermudas, though back on the mainland he should feel confident of putting on a show.
He’s proven he can play desert courses like these when in the hunt for the CJ cup before agonisingly dropping off on the final day.
His last two starts here have yielded finishes of 2nd and 5th and he’s improved massively since those results with a WGC title to his name now. He was in the top 25 for strokes gained: off the tee last season, and if he can be as deadly on these greens as he’s proven to be in years gone by, he’s well worth the punt.
Another who has shown he may be slightly too long of a price is Michael Thompson. While the American has had a missed cut here over the last three starts, that’s sandwiched by a brace of Top-10 finishes, with a ninth in 2019 and a fifth placed result last year.
Looking at his more recent form, he hasn’t missed a cut since August and while many of his finishes haven’t been anything write home about, two of his last three starts have seen him finish in the top-15, with his most recent being fifth at the Sony Open just last weekend.
He has four career wins to his name so he’s certainly not afraid of the pressure if he were to be in the mix on the final day and at his price seems slightly too long considering his course pedigree and impressive finish last week.
Finally, it’s Rickie Fowler that gets our backing. There have been slow signs that the once great Fowler may be returning to playing some of his best golf, and it would be a genuine shock if he was to go the rest of his career without another tour title With a weakened field here, it may be just the right time for him to pounce.
He ranks fourth for strokes gained: off the tee so far this season with a total of 5.28 from his six measured rounds so far and that will certainly serve him well at these courses.
Fowler is phenomenal desert player, and proved that in nearly winning the CJ Cup in his last desert start, losing only to Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy, both of whom are absent from this field.
He drove the ball beautifully that weekend, similarly to how he has done here in his past two starts and even if 10th and 21st finishes aren’t all that encouraging on the surface, it would serve one well to remember that he was showing next to no signs of return heading into either of those events, and those were actually two of his most encouraging performances in his late career.
He comes with the risk of his putter misbehaving, though he’s volatile on the greens and on his day is one of the best putters of a generation, so is worth backing at a long enough price.
JON RAHM TO WIN
ABRAHAM ANCER E/W
RICKIE FOWLER E/W
MICHAEL THOMPSON E/W