The American Express DFS picks 2023: Our expert’s strategy for handling Xander Schauffele's injury
The California Swing kicks off in Palm Springs for this week’s American Express. We have officially entered “course-rotation season”—golf fans will see eight courses in action over the next three weeks.
For The American Express, every golfer will play PGA West (Stadium Course), La Quinta Country Club and the Nicklaus Tournament Course over the first three days. Then, there will be a 54-hole cut with the final round being played back at the Stadium Course. That will add a few more layers of strategy to the equation. If you’re playing Showdown lineups in DFS, or you have access to first-round leader markets that aren’t segmented by course, target players teeing it up at La Quinta Country Club—that has historically played as the easiest course.
La Quinta, CA
Here are the players who have my interest—and those who certainly don’t—this week at the 2023 American Express.
Golfers I'm Definitely Playing
Jon Rahm ($10,800 DraftKings | $12,000 FanDuel)
Rahm’s victory at the Tournament of Champions marked his third win over his past five worldwide starts. The two that he didn’t win during that stretch were a T-8 at the Hero World Challenge and a T-4 at the CJ Cup. It’s safe to say that Rahm is dialed-in as he heads back to an event he won in 2018 and hasn’t finished worse than T-14 in any of his past three trips.
Tom Kim ($9,500 DraftKings | $11,000 FanDuel)
Kim missed the cut last week as the highest-owned golfer on the slate. I might be a glutton for punishment, but I’m going right back to him. The problem was the putter—losing 6.69 strokes with the flatstick—the worst mark of his career, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. However, over the first two rounds, he was the 12th-best ball-striker in the field. I’m not worried about an outlier putting performance as many will avoid Kim this week.
Sahith Theegala ($8,600 DraftKings | $9,900 FanDuel)
If you’re looking for high-risk/high-reward, Theegala is your guy. Theegala has one of the highest ceilings of his similarly priced peers, gaining five-plus strokes in a round 8 percent of the time – the same as Xander Schauffele. Unfortunately he also has a very low floor, gaining strokes at all just 56 percent of the time—the same rate as Luke List.
Thomas Detry ($7,600 DraftKings | $9,100 FanDuel)
I’m excited for Detry to get his 2023 underway on the PGA Tour. He played in the European Tour’s Hero Cup last week and was on the victorious Continental Europe side. He’s gained at least six strokes to the field in nine of his past 17 starts worldwide and is proving that he can contend anywhere. He hasn’t missed a cut on the PGA Tour this season—with four top-15s in five starts.
Nick Taylor ($7,000 DraftKings | $8,500 FanDuel)
Taylor finished T-7 last week in Honolulu, marking his fourth top-25 finish this season and his second top-seven of the campaign. He’s made the cut at this unique event in five of his past six trips, and Taylor generally thrives during the California Swing. He’s made four straight cuts at the Farmers Insurance Open and has three top-15s, including a win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Golfers I Might Play
Xander Schauffele ($10,000 DraftKings | $11,300 FanDuel)
Schauffele dealt with a back injury in Maui, playing one round before WDing. The reports since are much more optimistic—Schauffele has gone through testing and treatment, feeling comfortable enough to tee it up this week. If Schauffele is remotely healthy, he’s one of the best players in this field. He capped off his 2022 with four straight top-10 finishes and a win at the Presidents Cup. If ownership is light on him due to the injury concerns, I might be heavy on Schauffele this week.
Brian Harman ($9,300 DraftKings | $10,300 FanDuel)
I couldn’t fathom playing Harman last week, which ended up working out nicely, but this feels like a much better spot. Harman drove it well in Honolulu but lost nearly two strokes on approach, something that has been commonplace for him around Waialae Country Club. This week, however, is a different story. Harman has six top-25s in his past seven trips to Palm Springs and has gained a total of 8.57 strokes on approach in his last two trips alone.
Adam Hadwin ($8,200 DraftKings | $9,800 FanDuel)
When it comes to course horses, Hadwin’s name is always going to appear on the list at The American Express. In seven career starts at this event, Hadwin has never missed the cut and has four top-six finishes. It’s been two months since we’ve seen Hadwin in competition, earning a T-7 in Houston and extending his made-cut streak to nine.
JT Poston ($8,000 DraftKings | $9,900 FanDuel)
Poston has been very consistent finishing exactly T-21 in each of his past three starts. More impressively, he’s gained strokes off-the-tee and on approach in each one of those events. His approach play in Palm Springs has been lacking, but he’s been able to produce quality finishes despite that facet. If he can marry his historic putting at these courses with his recent ball-striking, Poston could be a contender this week.
Harry Hall ($6,600 DraftKings | $7,300 FanDuel)
Rahm famously called this event a “putting contest” out of frustration a few years ago, but that could be a really good thing for Hall. He’s gained strokes with the flatstick in five of his past six measured events, gaining 8.9 strokes with the putter in Honolulu and 5.6 in Houston. Plus, he plays out of TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, so desert golf should be right up his alley.
Golfers I'm Fading
Sungjae Im ($9,800 DraftKings | $10,900 FanDuel)
I want to be clear, Im hasn’t been “bad”—he just hasn’t been himself. He lost 2.6 strokes on approach at the Sony Open, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. He lost another stroke off the tee, ending a streak of 15 straight measured events gaining in that category. His putter has cooled off since the fall, and he’s priced near a lot of really great options. I’m not completely out on Im for this week but will be treading with caution.
Aaron Wise ($9,000 DraftKings | $10,100 FanDuel)
It is with a heavy heart that I fade Aaron Wise this week, one of my favorite golfers on tour. There’s just something about his history here—three straight cuts—that I can’t get past. This is not a normal event at all. It’s a three-course rotation with a bunch of amateurs, long rounds and making small talk with people you met the day before. There are just some guys who don’t like this format, and Wise’s results might indicate that he’s one of them.
Sebastian Munoz ($7,500 DraftKings | $8,900 FanDuel)
Munoz is making his first start since mid-November, which was a MC at the Houston Open. It was a struggle for Munoz coming down the stretch last year. He played well at the Presidents Cup but didn’t crack the top 30 in any of his past nine events. He’s struggled in all facets, lacking consistency, which is certainly a cause for concern.
Taylor Moore ($7,300 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Moore flashed in the elevated events this fall, earning a T-12 at the Zozo Championship and T-23 at the CJ Cup. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to muster up much more than that. He ended his year losing strokes/off-the-tee in seven of his past eight events while also losing on approach in five of his past seven.
Mark Hubbard ($7,000 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Hubbard is working back from a toe injury that sidelined him from practice time this winter. He struggled around Waialae, losing strokes everywhere but around-the-green. He seems rusty and is a handful of starts removed from gaining strokes to the field. Hubbard should have a decent season, but he needs to get dialed-in first.
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.