The PGA Tour has arrived in California for this week's event in hot and arid Palm Springs. Andy Swales supplies our course and current form stats...
"It will be interesting to see whether organisers, in the absence of amateurs, will decide to toughen up the two courses which traditionally have less rough and easier putting surfaces than other PGA Tour events."
After two events in Hawaii, the players have travelled more than two-and-a-half thousand miles to touch down in California for this week's tournament in Palm Springs.
However, for the 2021 edition of this long-standing event, the pro-am segment has been cancelled.
Earlier this month the PGA Tour announced that, due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in Riverside County, the American Express-sponsored tournament will be a professionals-only event.
First staged in 1960, when it was called the Palm Springs Desert Classic and contested over 90 holes, this will be the first time in its history it will not include a pro-am section.
Between 1965 and 2011, the tournament was known as the Bob Hope Classic - after the London-born actor, singer and comedian.
But the following year the five-day competition was reduced to four and played over the traditional 72 holes. Since 2012, three venues have been used with the opening three rounds incorporating a pro-am team event.
For this week's outing, just two courses will be needed, meaning La Quinta Country Club will take a one-year sabbatical, having been part of the tournament rota 48 times since 1964.
In 2021, PGA West's Stadium Course remains as host venue, and will be joined by PGA West's Nicklaus Tournament Course for company.
Both of these layouts have been part of the event since 2016, with the pros playing one round on each course on Thursday and Friday, before the Stadium Course takes centre stage over the weekend.
Over the past five years, this event has been the only one on the PGA Tour to regularly have a tournament Putting Average (GiR) of below 1.70 (see stats below).
Between 2016 and 2020, for those completing at least 54 holes, the field average has been 1.664. The next lowest average is El Camaleon (1.714).
It will be interesting to see whether organisers, in the absence of amateurs, will decide to toughen up the two courses which traditionally have less rough and easier putting surfaces than other PGA Tour events. If this happens, then tournament averages may change. Both PGA West courses have reasonably undulating greens.
On the tee
Although this tournament remains popular with golf's TV public, the quality of field is not as strong as it was decades ago. However, there has been an upsurge this week with six golfers from the world's top-20 taking part.
Check out the latest betting ahead of this week's American Express-sponsored tournament
These include major winners Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed. Koepka not only makes his first start of 2021, he is also making his tournament debut.
As for Reed, he currently leads the Tour's Birdie Conversion table - a category in which he finished fifth for the 2020 season. (This table calculates the percentage of times a player makes birdie or better after hitting the green in regulation.)
This could prove to be vital if the greens remain as amiable to the pros, as they have been for amateurs in the past.
The two top-10 ranked pros in the field are No 2 Jon Rahm - winner here in 2018 - and No 10 Patrick Cantlay.
The latter will hope his form in the neighbouring state of Nevada - where he has an astonishing record over the desert layout at TPC Summerlin - will travel successfully across the border to another hot and arid venue that is PGA West.
Cantlay's only previous start in this event yielded a tie-for-ninth in 2019.
Further down the food chain is Adam Hadwin who has a remarkably consistent history over these two courses. In four previous visits, the world No 79 from Canada has never finished lower than sixth, and has stood on the podium three times.
And Korea's 22-year-old Sung-Jae Im continues his impressive rise up the World Ranking to No 18, highlighted by his runner-up finish at Augusta National last November.
His only two appearances at PGA West have both yielded top-12 finishes.
The Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, which made its debut in this event as long ago as 1987, wasn't used again for 29 years. Water is a prominent greenside feature of the course, coming into play on nine holes.
The Nicklaus-designed Tournament Course, which was also opened during the mid-1980s, is the most recent new addition to the tournament rota.
Over the years as many as 13 courses have been used for this desert offering.
Course Comparisons (2016-20)
Driving Accuracy (%)
73.88: Sea Island (RSM Classic) (1/29)
63.60: PGA West (host) (American Express) (12/29)
52.24: Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance) (29/29)
Greens in Regulation (%)
75.98: Sedgefield (Wyndham) (1/29)
70.85: PGA West (host) (American Express) (6/29)
58.99: Innisbrook (Valspar) (29/29)
1.664: PGA West (host) (American Express) (1/29)
1.714: El Camaleon (Mayakoba Classic) (2/29)
2.668: Augusta National (Masters) (29/29)
Key: Above stats are for all 29 courses which staged four or more PGA Tour events between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2020. To qualify for a ranking (between 1 & 29), tournaments must have a minimum of 50 players competing over the final two rounds of the event. Averages do not include players who failed to complete at least 54 holes.
American Express Data (2016-20)
DA: (T10 - 66.04%); (Cat10 - 75.81%)
GiR: (T10 - 73.99%); (Cat10 - 78.94%)
Putts: (T10 - 1.596); (Cat10 - 1.548)
Key: T10 (Average for Top-10 finishers); Cat10 (Average for Top-10 in Category)
Tournament Putting Averages (GiR)
Lowest Six (2016-20)
1.664: American Express
1.714: Mayakoba Classic
1.718: RBC Heritage
1.721: John Deere Classic
1.727: Texas Open
1.728: Memorial Tournament
Note: Field averages for those completing at least 54 holes
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves
Note: The two PGA West layouts have been used for this tournament since 2016.
Last 10 Weeks / PGA West Form (2016-20)
|Sung Jae Im||56||5||14||MC||2|
|Erik van Rooyen||MC||14||Wd|
|Byeong Hun An||MC||MC|
|Si Woo Kim||25||34|
|Joo Hyung Kim|
|Xin Jun Zhang||MC||63||MC|
|Bo Van Pelt||MC||MC||MC|
|Sung Jae Im||10||12|
|Erik van Rooyen|
|Byeong Hun An||MC|
|Si Woo Kim||Wd||40||9|
|Joo Hyung Kim|
|Xin Jun Zhang||MC||MC|
|Bo Van Pelt||MC||MC|