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2021 The American Express Sleepers and Longshot Picks

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in Golf

Jan 20, 2021 · 6:07 AM PST

Russell Henley
Russell Henley putts on the 13th green during the second round of the Sony Open golf tournament Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Jamm Aquino)
  • The PGA Tour season continues with the American Express on Thursday, January 21st
  • Russell Henley ranks first in this field in strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained approach over the last 36 rounds
  • Read below for analysis of the event and our favorite sleepers and longshot plays

The PGA Tour moves from Hawaii to California this week for the American Express, formally known as the Career Builder and Bob Hope Classic. 156 players will tee-it-up on Thursday, looking to become the latest longshot to win this event. Last year, Andrew Landry took home the title as a 175-1 longshot, while the year before Adam Long went off at 400-1 before outlasting Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin for the trophy.

There are plenty of enticing triple-digit sleepers on the board this week, and while we’ll get to them shortly, we can’t ignore the value on Russell Henley at +3500.

2021 American Express Odds

Golfer Odds to Win Top-10 Odds Top-20 Odds
Russell Henley +3500 +400 +163
Sepp Straka +8000 +900 +350
Peter Malnati +11000 +1100 +400
Brian Stuard +25000 +1600 +700

Odds taken Jan. 19th at DraftKings

Henley’s Hot Run Continues

Simply put, Henley is a ball striking stud. Last week, in his first start of 2021, he picked up right where he left off in 2020, gaining 2.6 strokes on the field with his irons, and another 1.7 off the tee. He’s gained strokes on approach in each of his last 13 measured events, and although a win has yet to come, he’s been awfully close.

He’s posted five top-9 finishes during that stretch and was flirting with lead for most of the Sony Open last week. He leads the field in strokes gained tee-to-green, approach and ball striking over his past 36 rounds, and is just one of three players in this tournament who ranks top-10 in each of those categories.

Russell Henley Strokes Gained Data – Last 5 Measured Starts

Event POS T2G OTT APP
Sony 11 6.9 1.7 2.6
RSM 30 2.7 -0.4 2.2
Houston Open 29 5.1 0.9 3.3
Zozo 4 13.4 1.8 9.2
CJ Cup 3 5.3 3.8 3.4

His course history isn’t ideal here, with three straight missed cuts, but he was a completely different player entering each of those appearances. Now with his ball striking better than ever, I like him to make a serious run at the title this week.

Pick: Russell Henley to Win (+3500)

Don’t Sleep on Straka

After a slow start at the Sony Open, Sepp Straka flipped the switch on the weekend carding nine birdies and an eagle over his final two rounds. He gained a combined 3.7 strokes ball striking on Saturday and Sunday to vault himself into a top-25 finish for the third time in five starts.

He’s gained at least 3.3 strokes on approach in four straight measured events and has made six straight cuts leading into this tournament. Last year, he posted a fourth place finish at the American Express, draining 23 birdies along the way. I love looking for players who finished the previous week extremely strong, and Straka certainly checks that box.

Pick: Sepp Straka Top-10 Finish (+900)

Ride the Malnati and Stuard Form

Speaking of strong recent form, look no further than Peter Malnati and Brian Stuard. Malnati had a share of the first round lead last week in Hawaii, and wound up finishing second in total birdies and first in putts per greens in regulation.

The bucket hat wearing Malnati wound up finishing T-14, his third T-20 finish in his past six starts. He also mixed in a 21st place result over that stretch, and placed 18th here in 2019. I’m betting that his T-20 trend continues for at least one more week.

Stuard meanwhile, was flying under the radar all last week until Sunday, when he popped with a fantastic ball striking performance. The 38-year-old hit 85.7% of his fairways and 77.8% of the greens in regulation in the final round, gaining 3.8 strokes on approach . He isn’t the sexiest name in the field by any means, but this event should play directly into his strengths.

The TPC Stadium course, which players will play three times, demands accuracy off the tee and precise iron play. Our guy Stuard checks both of those boxes, ranking 24th on Tour in strokes gained approach, while hitting over 70% of his fairways.

He’s definitely a boom-bust play, but when he’s on a top-20 finish is well within his reach. He racked up five top-20 results last season and if his hot ball striking from Sunday carries over to this week, another one will cash us a nice ticket.

Pick: Peter Malnati Top-20 Finish (+400), Brian Stuard Top-20 Finish (+700)

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