The American Express Each-Way Tips: NeSmith can nail first win

American Matthew NeSmith
American Matthew NeSmith can land his first victory

The PGA Tour moves back to the US mainland and Dave Tindall is here with three each-way selections for The American Express in California with eight places paid on the Betfair Sportsbook...

"NeSmith is 10th in Par 4 Scoring this season and 3rd in Ball-Striking. That suggests he has the skills to jump up from last year's promising debut T17."

Matthew NeSmith each-way @ 125/1

Main Bet: Matthew NeSmith each-way @ 125/1

The American Express has been one of the harder events to predict on the PGA Tour in recent years.

Okay, Jon Rahm won in 2018 and perhaps that might have been the path to tread again this time. Except Rahm pulled out of the event on Monday, causing a shake-up at the top of the market.

The four winners either side of the Spaniard in this long-standing California desert event were Andrew Landry (2020), Adam Long (2019), Hudson Swafford (2017) and Jason Dufner (2016). Extremely well done if you backed any of those.

Some common threads? All were big-priced Americans, they'd all played at least one of the Hawaii events and three of the four topped Par 4 scoring for the week of their win. Ball-striking is a key factor here too so that's another area to look at.

There's a slight change in format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pro-am element has been scrapped and La Quinta has been dropped from the rotation.

It means just two courses are used - the Nicklaus Tournament course and The Stadium Course. They share duties for the first two days before The Stadium Course - a Pete Dye - hosts the final 36 holes. Both have Bermuda greens.

I must admit, it's a tricky week. But the above clues plus the fact that big-priced players have done so well here recently prompts me too look for outsiders. The good thing is, there are several at three-figure prices who tick plenty of boxes.

I'll start with Matthew NeSmith.

The 27-year-old from South Carolina had a nice run of form in the back end of 2020. He was T17 at the Sanderson Farms, T8 at the Shriners (another desert event) and T15 in the RSM Classic in his final four starts.

He's played this event just once but it went well. Last year he started out with two 68s and closed with 66 to take tied 17th.

That adds to some decent form on the West Coast which includes T11 at Pebble Beach last February.

Now for some very notable relevant stats: NeSmith is 10th in Par 4 Scoring this season and 3rd in Ball-Striking.

That suggests he has the skills to jump up from last year's promising debut T17.

If there's a negative it's his missed cut in the Sony Open. But two things on that. First, he shot 69-70 and hit 86.1% of the greens. Second, plenty of other winners of this event had also failed to make the weekend at the Sony.

I prefer to see last week as a rust-removing exercise. In which case, he'll be sharper here and the 125/1 is well worth taking.

Next Best: James Hahn each-way @ 100/1

James Hahn once hit 52nd in the world rankings shortly after winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in 2016.

That was his second success on the PGA Tour following a 2015 victory at the Northern Trust Open when he took down Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey no less in a play-off.

Big things were expected of the Korean-born American but this time last year he was way down at 911th in the OWGR. He returns to his California home back up to 239th.

The latest leap of 200 spots came after a great run at the start of this new wraparound season. That was thanks to T9 at the Safeway Open, T6 in the Corales Puntacana and T5 at the Shriners.

Hahn is playing on a medical exemption after missing eight months of 2019 with an elbow injury and is almost over the line in terms of FedEx Cup points required.

Interviewed at the Shriners he said: "I feel 100%. My strength is back. There is zero pain and looking forward to a good season.

"Just enjoying life. You know, I feel like I'm happier. I'm eating healthier. Relationship with my family is really good; golf is really easy right now.

"I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it, but I feel like when I'm happy I'm playing some of my best golf."

As for the relevant stats, they could hardly be better. Hahn is ranked 2nd in Par 4 Scoring and 4th in Ball-Striking.

His course form isn't amazing but he's hardly been at his best the last three years when turning up here. In the circumstances, two cuts out of three with a best of T36 isn't too bad.

He's also posted T9 and T13 in his last two California starts.

Hahn showed his well-being again at the Sony when shooting 68-65-66-70 and there's plenty to like at 100/1.

Final Bet: Austin Cook each-way @ 200/1

Austin Cook desert.jpg

I'll really push the boat out and add in a 200/1 shot to close with.

Austin Cook is another who has made a big move up the world rankings recently. That was via a second place in October's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, a result which saw him leap from 407th to 187th and prove once more that he can thrive in desert conditions.

That was also his best finish since his breakthrough 2017 season when he scored a win (RSM Classic), a second and a third.

He backed up his runners-up finish in Vegas with a top 25 in Houston and got his 2021 going by shooting three 68s and a 66 in the Sony Open (T47) last week.

His putter looked good there (4.793 SGP) but he'll need to sharpen up his irons.

However, he's a relatively healthy 43rd in Ball-Striking this season while 6th in Par-4 Scoring is definitely eye-catching given the importance of that stat here.

Cook, still in his 20s, has had two previous cracks at this event and one of them (2018) resulted in a top 15. There was actually much more to it than that. He fired an opening 63 along with a third-round 64 and was the 54-hole leader.

"I always loved desert golf," he said that week and although it didn't work out for him in Sunday's closer, he'll still have some good vibes about this tournament.

The industry-best 200/1 is well worth chancing.

Others I looked at were Sepp Straka, Sam Burns, John Huh and Hudson Swafford.

At the front end, this could be the week for Scottie Scheffler (third last year) to get his first win but, with eight each-way places and the history of surprises, I'm happy to chance my arm with picks at 125/1, 100/1 and 200/1.

The trio all made the top eight in the recent desert event in Vegas and will hopefully be primed to kick on after playing in Hawaii last week.

Dave's 2020/2021 P/L

Staked: £450.00
Returned: £391.70
P/L: -£58.30

2019/2020 P/L: +£13.83
2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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