FANTASY GOLF The American Express
By James Dalthorp III
BEAST DOME NATION.
Once upon a time in Palm Springs, the movie gods and heroes of the world used to pair up with the most enticing west coast field this sport had to offer. Today, things are a little different. I used to believe full heartedly that some pros played better golf with celebrities and amateurs. Take Phil Mickelson, for example. He plays with non golfers and gamblers alike on a regular basis – sometimes on TV and you have to pay to see it. Meanwhile, some pros only like to play with their team around them or with top players in games that we can only imagine watching first hand – and most likely don’t interact much with common folk. And for that reason, this field (and the Pebble Beach Pro-Am) tend to attract players of a different inner security or level of acceptance. After all, watching the guy from your favorite childhood TV show shank a ball into a crowd of people can leave a bad taste.
But since a lot of people lot their taste this past year, this tournament is no longer a pro-am. It’s a pro only, all business affair. So for that reason, I don’t have the same mentality towards my top picks as I might have.
This event delivers on a number of spectacle levels. There’s multiple courses. It’s incredible desert golf with scenic backdrops – and some of the best weather you will ever play golf in. Typically, with no wind. And the greens are forgiving to an extent – leading to some of the game’s record low scores.
1. Jason Kokrak
Southern Highlands, where Jason won, has a similar backdrop type of vibe to this place. But the greens here will play a little slower. The biggest difference between then and now is that this is the first season where Kokrak has true job security with his breakout win. And this is the first event of the season where his length and his past history suggest he is a favorite. That may be a first in his time on Tour, but Kokrak should be thinking win and I won’t be surprised when he does.
2. Brooks Koepka –
Now here’s a guy who isn’t known for winning on shootout type of courses. However, there’s an odd correlation to this event and Masters champions. Now, Brooks is not a Masters champ yet. But from what I’ve seen over the past few years there, he’s shown the main overlapping traits that can help you win at both places: outstanding ball control with iron play (distance control being pin high) and strong putting. His game has looked strong to me and I expect him to come out on a mission.
3. Cameron Davis –
A solid ball striker, Davis came into his own around this time last year. He’s known as a solid ball striker and with the complications that 2020 offered, Davis should be reset and back on a good track now. His game shows that – and if this turns into a putting contest, he may not be the best putter out there but good ball striking can keep him in the game on days when things are a little off. Just look at past champions like a young Pat Perez.
4. Chris Kirk –
coming off some great play last week, I think Kirk’s probably the hottest trending name in the field. His game should suit this place fairly well. And I think he’s high on confidence and in one of the best places he’s been mentally for a long time.
5. Beau Hossler –
With an early run at this event in his first start here, a T20 following that – his experience is good but not great here. I like that from the sense that this will be a bit of a different vibe as a post Covid event. Along with all of that, he’s had about 6 weeks off from a very poor ending to 2020. However, Beau showed consistency that he hasn’t shown in a while later in the season – making a string of cuts where he looked up to his best form in a while. This is an event where he can recapture magic. When a guy’s been struggling, give him a break and a course where birdies come easily and he will thrive.
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