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AMEX preview: Stars return to action as TOUR hits California

Meg Oliphant / Getty Images Sport / Getty

With Hawaii in the rearview mirror, the PGA TOUR turns its attention to California with the American Express kicking off three straight weeks in the Golden State.

The Pro-Am format sees three courses in play, with the Pete Dye Stadium Course serving as the setting for the final day. Players will be out in twosomes and guaranteed a round at each course, with the cut coming after 54 holes instead of the usual 36.

When: Jan. 18-21
Where: Stadium Course, La Quinta Country Club, Nicklaus Course, La Quinta, California

How to watch (all times ET)

Date Time Channel
Jan. 18 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. GOLF
Jan. 19 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. GOLF
Jan. 20 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. GOLF
Jan. 21 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. GOLF

Last year's result

Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The American Express marks the second time in the first three events that Jon Rahm won't be defending his title after his move to LIV Golf. The Spaniard claimed the trophy for the second time in his career last year with a 4-under final round to win by one stroke over Davis Thompson.

Things were very tight on the final day before Rahm birdied the par-5 16th to separate himself by one. It was Rahm's second victory in January last season as part of a sizzling opening stretch that eventually resulted in a Masters victory. His absence will certainly be felt at the California event this time around, but a strong field should keep interest at the long-time stop.

Recent winners

2023: Jon Rahm
2022: Hudson Swafford
2021: Si Woo Kim
2020: Andrew Landry
2019: Adam Long
2018: Jon Rahm
2017: Hudson Swafford

Featured groups

Reasons to watch

Star-studded field

Last week in Hawaii lacked top-end star power, but the return to the mainland comes with plenty of firepower. Ten of the top-25 players in the world are in the field, with Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark, Tony Finau, Tom Kim, and Jason Day headlining the list.

One notable player making his season debut is Justin Thomas. The two-time PGA Champion is coming off the worst season of his career and missed The Sentry due to his inability to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs last year. Thomas has shown he's ready for a change in 2024 with three straight top-five finishes in his last three events worldwide.

Berger's back

Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Gary Woodland's comeback last week in Hawaii grabbed headlines, and this week sees Daniel Berger return to action after 18 months off due to a back issue. Berger first felt back pain in late 2021 but played through it until the 2022 U.S. Open. It wasn't until he missed the cut at The Country Club that he decided he needed to step aside.

"That was the worst six months of my life," Berger told PGATOUR.com. "I've had a pretty easy life. I play golf for a living - it's not that stressful. But there was a point that I would have given up golf for the rest of my life to not feel like that."

Berger was eventually diagnosed with a bulging lower disc and deep bpne sensitivity. His world ranking has plummeted outside the top 600 as he tees it up this week in California. However, if he can regain the form that helped him grab four career wins before age 28, that number should change drastically in short order.

Shootout in the desert

A score of 21-under would return only one victory over the last 10 years of the American Express. While the Stadium Course is a tough test, the other two tracks are among the easiest on the PGA TOUR. Low scores are a must if you want to compete in the desert. There have been multiple rounds of 59 in the history of the tournament - first by David Duval in 1999, then by Adam Hadwin in 2017. Expect more fireworks this time around with excellent conditions expected in California.

Betting odds

Scottie Scheffler +550
Patrick Cantlay +850
Xander Schauffele +1,000
Sungjae Im +1,800
Justin Thomas +2,200
Tom Kim +2,200
Min Woo Lee +2,500
Sam Burns +3,000
Tony Finau +3,000
JT Poston +3,000
Chris Kirk +3,300
Eric Cole +3,300
Jason Day +3,300
Rickie Fowler +3,500
Si Woo Kim +3,500
Wyndham Clark +3,500
Adam Hadwin +5,000
Andrew Putnam +5,000
Cam Davis +5,000
Shane Lowry +5,000

Odds via theScore Bet

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