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The American Express Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 18 Jan 2021 | Comments

A strong field at The American Express includes Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay and Matthew Wolff.

The PGA West Stadium course is a testing layout and there will also be much scrutiny on Rickie Fowler. It has been difficult to watch his struggles over the past couple of years. Why he chose to change a golf swing that had served him so well only he knows, but he has struggled horribly and developed a worrying hook. It is also a big year for England’s Paul Casey. He finished runner-up to Collin Morikawa at the US PGA Championship and is determined to push on and ensure that he is a member of Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team.

Brooks Koepka

(Brooks Koepka - Looking for a Better Year)

But perhaps the man who has most to prove is Francesco Molinari. Lest you have forgotten, the Italian won The Open in 2018, along with the BMW PGA Championship. He then formed a dream partnership with Tommy Fleetwood at the Ryder Cup. They won four points together and Molinari added another when he won his singles match. He carried his form into 2019, leading The Masters until disaster struck at the 12th hole in the final round. Tiger Woods famously won his 15th major but Molinari was deeply affected by the loss. To make matters worse, he was struck down by injury and played little or no tournament golf in 2020. And when he did return he was a shadow of the man we had seen in 2018. Molinari is a thoroughly decent human being and somebody who has worked tirelessly to rediscover his game. We should all be rooting for him.

The Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course is not especially popular with the players, many of whom refuse to play there because they regard it as being an unfair test. Andrew Landry is not one them. But he almost was.

Last year Landry led by six shots before falling into a tie with Abraham Ancer with three holes remaining. How did Landry respond? By finishing with back-to-back birdies to win his second PGA Tour title.

A final-round 67 gave him a final score of 262, two shots better than Ancer, who finished second after tying the course record with a final-round 63.

Landry looked in control after making birdie on the first three holes of the back nine. He followed with three consecutive bogeys, though. Ancer pulled even with a 26-foot birdie putt on the 17th, his third birdie in the last four holes.

“It’s hard when you have a big lead because then you kind of start playing a little defensive,” Landry said, “and instead of playing defensive you need to be playing more aggressively and just keep hitting the shots that you need to hit.”

That’s what Landry did on the last two holes, knocking his approach shots close to guarantee that that his earlier mistake would quickly be forgotten. He stuck his tee shot on the 17th to seven feet and made the putt to regain the lead. Water lines the left side of the finishing hole, but Landry intentionally hit a cut, starting his ball at the water before watching it curl back to the fairway. With 147 yards remaining, Landry was between a nine iron and a wedge.

“I said just flush the wedge. It will get there,” said his caddie, Terry Walker. “And he hit a great wedge in there.”

Landry holed the six-foot birdie putt for a two-shot win. He had been struggling before arriving at The American Express, though after missing seven of eight cuts. In a game dominated by giants, he is just 5ft 7in tall and is one of the shortest hitters on the PGA Tour. Landry only weighed 120lb when he entered college but was a three-time All-American by the time he graduated from Arkansas in 2009. He finished 178th in the FedExCup in 2015 but was a better player when he returned to the PGA Tour for the 2018 season.

At this event three years ago, Landry birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff with Jon Rahm, pushing him to four extra holes before Jon Rahm finally prevailed. Landry won later that season at the Valero Texas Open. It was won in 2015 by Bill Haas, in 2016 by Jason Dufner, in 2017 by Hudson Swafford, in 2018 by Jon Rahm, in 2019 by Adam Long and last year by Landry.

American Express Tips

To Win:

Abraham Ancer. Mr Consistent

Each Way:

Cameron Champ. Big hitter with glorious short game

American Express Fantasy Picks

Abraham Ancer. That first win must come soon

Cameron Champ. Is far more than somebody who muscles his way around

Brooks Koepka. Huge year for Koepka

Patrick Cantlay.  Has the game to win anywhere

Scottie Scheffler. Capable of going low - really low

Matthew Wolff. Big-time performer

Tony Finau. Looking to cement Ryder Cup berth

Paul Casey. Still doing it in his 40s

Francesco Molinari. Has the Italian turned the corner?

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Tags: PGA Tour FedEx Cup

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