Jamie Worsley has already given us his long-read preview & tips for the American Express but he's back with a couple of First Round Leader picks and a Top 20 selection also.
The three-course setup creates a different dynamic for the first-round leader market this week. With no weather bias - due to all of the tee-times being condensed into a much smaller 2-hour time window - I’m looking for players who have recently recorded low rounds at their respective starting courses; two players stood out in particular.
In addition, I like a certain Korn Ferry Tour graduate from last year to enjoy a good week here, after his missed cut at the Sony Open offered more promise than the bare result would suggest.
1.25 pts Davis Thompson each way (1/4, 5 places) First-Round Leader – La Quinta CC - 33/1
Starting with the first-round leader selections and I’m hoping lightning will strike twice with Davis Thompson, and that he can get his week off to the best possible start by leading the AmEx after a blistering start at La Quinta.
This was exactly the scenario last year, as Thompson shot a superb 10-under 62 at La Quinta - the joint-lowest round at the course since 2019 - in the opening round of his debut in the event; a round which included six birdies and back-to-back eagles on the par 5 5th and 6th holes.
He made a habit of starting quickly over the rest of the season, ranking 31st on tour in round one scoring and sat no worse than 12th over the course of his final four starts of 2023, including top 4 FRL finishes in the RSM Classic and Shriners Open.
Thompson couldn’t manage a similar effort on his 2024 debut in the Sony Open last week, after an opening 73 had him sat 123rd after round one, but he rallied the rest of the week, firing three consecutive rounds in the 60s to climb up to 57th. I’m hoping he can carry that momentum into this opening round in California.
1 pt Dylan Wu each way (1/4 5 places) First-Round Leader – Nicklaus Tournament Course - 40/1
Dylan Wu hit the ball well at Waialae Country Club last week and could be a big danger to all at the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Thursday; a course which he took apart in 2023.
Wu finished 32nd here last year, though despite beginning with under-par rounds at the Stadium Course and La Quinta, it was all about what he did in the third round that helped him achieve that position. He shot a tournament-equalling record score of 11-under-par at the Nicklaus Course, where he reeled off six birdies on the spin from holes 2-7; on his back nine.
He now starts his week there for this 2024 renewal and with a positive 42nd-place finish in Hawaii last week, where he shot three rounds in the 60s and hit the ball well, leading the field in greens-in-regulation, he looks in the mood for another low one at the Nicklaus Tournament Course.
1 pt Chan Kim Top 20 - 9/1
My final selection of the week comes in the shape of Korean-born American, Chan Kim. After years of playing – and often winning - around the world, a two-win season on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2023 finally earned him a first go at the PGA Tour in 2024. Though he started the season with a missed cut last week, he rallied from a sluggish start to post a much better performance in round two and looks to have gained the required sharpness.
Kim has spent most of his career on the Japanese Tour, where he’s picked up eight wins between 2017-2022; adding those two titles on the Korn Ferry Tour to his tally last year for ten wins worldwide.
His first start in his rookie season didn’t quite go to plan, after he sat 133rd of 144 players at the conclusion of the first round; opening with a 5-over 75.
However, he got to within one of the cutline after a bounce-back 64 in round two; the fourth best round of the day.
Kim did everything well over those two rounds, driving well in the first round but struggling in all other areas and turned this around in the second round, gaining strokes in every area, particularly looking good on the greens; ranking 11th for that second round.
More of the same here should see a much better result in an event at which he showed plenty of promise in 2022, narrowly missing the third-round cut by one stroke and shooting every round under par.
Kim’s wins in the 2022 Casio World Open in Japan and 2023 Albertsons Boise Open on the Korn Ferry Tour, which he won in mammoth winning scores of -32 and -28 respectively, display his comfort in this type of low-scoring contest and increase my expectancy that he will go well this week.
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