2023 American Express First Round Leader Picks: Can Davis Riley Start Hot?

The American Express, a pro-am tournament, splits play across three courses. Each player will get a chance at one of TPC Stadium, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the La Quinta Country Club. That means not every sportsbook will offer odds on the first-round leader markets, as the courses tend to vary in difficulty. Luckily, BetMGM has odds on a course-by-course basis, so we can pick and choose from the golfers on each course.

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The three venues are all short par 72s that offer players ample chances at birdies or better. The La Quinta Country Club is the easiest course of the three and may require a 63 or better for players to exit with the first-round lead. We’ve seen players go low at the other two venues before as well. The Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course is meant to be a sister course to TPC Sawgrass, which hosts the PLAYERS Championship, and typically yields the highest scoring averages for the week. The Nicklaus Tournament Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, generally falls in between in terms of scoring.

Putting from 20 feet and in and mid-to-short range approach shots are what to focus on this week in terms of skillset. With the different courses, we can also look at how players have fared over other similar layouts. As always, we’ll rely on OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to help us find the best value plays available on each course.

2023 American Express First Round Leader

Davis Riley First Round Leader at the La Quinta (+3300) at BetMGM

Riley will make his 2023 debut at the American Express. Because of that, bettors can get him at a bit of a discount. The second-year pro is coming off a great rookie season in which he recorded multiple top-10 finishes, and he should be well-rested after a long break.

Riley will start in a stronger wave, as many of the top players start at the La Quinta this week. That said, at odds of +3300, Riley’s odds put him in the middle of the pack. That seems far too down the board for his talent.

Riley can be inconsistent but is a strong iron player and putter. He ranks third in strokes gained from putting between 15 to 20 feet. That should be a key range this week, and Riley is more than capable of spiking for a low round on these easier courses. The long odds make Riley a solid play relative to his talent.

Luke List First Round Leader at the Stadium Course (+3000) at BetMGM

List make for an interesting target this week. He ended last year in terrible form, mainly the result of some horrendous putting. Fortunately, he started 2023 strong by posting an 11th-place finish in Maui at the TOC. He shot rounds of 65 and 64 for the week.

List’s strong showing in Maui stemmed from an improvement in his ball striking, so he has potential to improve on the greens this week. List will start at the Pete Dye-designed TPC Stadium Course, which is typically the hardest venue of the three. List has eaten up Dye-designed courses throughout his career. He ranks out seventh in strokes gained from the tee-to-green in on Dye venues.

The TPC Stadium starters are the weakest field of the three. With List available at odds of +3000, he makes for a great first-round target after showing good form in Maui two weeks prior.

If you’re looking to make a wager on BetMGM this week, then Luke List is a first-round leader target to consider at that sportsbook. He has solid 40-1 odds there, longer than most other places. New BetMGM users even get a bonus bet up of to $1,000!

With another weaker field, bettors should take shots with a basket of players with longer odds. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

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Byeong Hun An First Round Leader at the Nicklaus Course (+2800) at BetMGM

An had a solid week at the Sony. He could have competed for the win if not for one terrible hole that cost him three strokes. An played well enough in Honolulu by shooting three rounds of 67 or better and gaining a nice 6.9 strokes putting for the week.

An is a streaky player, and there’s no guarantee his solid putting from last week transfers over to this event. However, if it does, he’ll find himself in a good spot early. He’ll take on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tournament venue first, which lends itself to strong putting.

An ranks 10th in strokes gained from tee-to-green and total strokes gained on Nicklaus-designed venues over the last 50 rounds. He has put up some of his best results at PGA National and Muirfield Village, both of which were designed by Nicklaus. With a hot putter now in play, chasing him for long odds makes sense.

Justin Lower First Round Leader at the La Quinta (+6000) at BetMGM

Lower sets up as a perfect long-shot target. The American is a solid putter who ranks top 10 in in strokes gained from putting from both 5-10 feet and 15-20 feet. He has also proven to be a very strong iron player and ranks top 20 in overall proximity. Lower should fare well at this weekend’s American Express.

Lower had a solid fall. He grabbed multiple top-10 finishes and had some terrific openers, shooting 63 in round one of the Fortinet and 64 in round one at Bermuda. There isn’t much downside to backing Lower, especially since he’ll play on an easier course and owns odds of +6000.

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Geoff Ulrich

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