Bet the PGA: Mike Kern is back to pick the American Express in La Quinta – likes Scheffler, Wolff, Champ, more
Patrick Reed watches his shot from the first tee during the second round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via Associated Press

Bet the PGA: Mike Kern is back to pick the American Express in La Quinta – likes Scheffler, Wolff, Champ, more

The Tournament starts Thursday morning.

Now that the PGA Tour has had two weeks to kick off the 2021 season in Hawaii, it’s on to California for the American Express at the Stadium Course in La Quinta.

The favorite, after Jon Rahm (a winner here a few years ago) was a late withdrawal, is Patrick Cantlay, at 12-1. Next is Patrick Reed at 14-1, followed by Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler at 16-1. Full disclosure: I have Scheffler in that yearlong pool I’m always telling you about. I never like to also take my pool pick in this story, because I don’t want to mush anyone. But I think it’s fair to at least let you know.

Brooks Koepka is 20-1, as is Sungjae I’m. Koepka has not finished in the top 25 in seven of his last 10 starts, as he struggles to find fairways with his driver. Just thought it was worth noting. Abraham Ancer is 22-1. He was second here last year, but has yet to win on the PGA Tour. Four blokes are at 33-1: Matthew Wolff, who had two seconds at the end of 2020 (including the U.S. Open), Cameron Champ, Russell Henley and Kevin Na, who of course won last week.

Paul Casey is 40-1. Rickie Fowler (remember him?) is 45-1, along with Brian Harmon. Sam Burns, Lanto Griffin, Zach Johnson, Si Woo Kim and Emiliano Grillo are all 50-1. Senior Phil Mickelson checks in at 55-1. I would never tell you not to put at least a buck or two on Lefty, just because you never know. Sort of like Tiger. They might have their moments.

Among some other names maybe worth mentioning: Charley Hoffman is 60-1, Adam Hadwin 65-1. Hadwin, who hasn’t been playing well, skipped last year’s event for the birth of his child. In the three years before that he was second, third and second. So that’s worth looking at. Brendan Steele, who had the 54-hole lead a week ago, has won twice in the state of California. And Hoffman played well in Hawaii. Maybe that can carry over.

OK, I’m going to be rooting for Scheffler. But there’s a lot of ways you could go. You’re always looking for the winner, obviously, but you’re also looking for the right value. Of the guys near the top, other than Scheffler, I think I would look mostly at Matthew Wolff at 22-1 and Cameron Champ at 33-1. And, of course, as usual I would back them up with top five plays as well. Wolff is +550 there, Champ +750. Insurance is rarely a bad thing. And if your guy happens to come through you get to collect on both. You remember at the end of last year we were hitting a pretty good amount of our top five and top 10 shots. Just saying.

In the more middle tier I would lean toward Hadwin, for the reasons I stated before. It doesn’t have to be anything too much. More of a just in case his form at this place holds kind of thing. And he is 14-1 for a top five and 7-1 for a top 10. That’s not a bad payout either. But again, not for much.

I don’t know if I really like any of the so-called longshots, but I’ll throw out one anyway. Maverick McNealy is 100-1, 25-1 for a top five and half that for a 10. He’s a long hitter who was 21st or better in four of his last six appearances last year. Hey, he’s a longshot for a reason.

So there you have it, for whatever it might mean. Enjoy. See you next week, hopefully with a little more money in your bank account.

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