Steve Palmer's American Express third-round preview, best bet, free golf tips
Frontrunning Sungjae Im should come under pressure from talented quintet
Where to watch
Sky Sports Golf, 8pm Saturday
Paul Casey to win threeball
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Story so far
Sungjae Im has shortened from 22-1 to 4-1 after 36 holes of The American Express - the South Korean reaching 11 under par to take a one-shot lead into the weekend.
There are two courses being used for the California event and Im carded a first-round 68 at the easier one - the Nicklaus Tournament Course - on Thursday. A second-round 65 at the more difficult Stadium Course has been the key to his surge to the top of the leaderboard.
A quintet of players are tied for second, including last year's American Express runner-up, Abraham Ancer. Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Cameron Champ and Phil Mickelson all missed the halfway cut.
The Stadium Course will stage the final 36 holes. A calm day is forecast in La Quinta, but there is scope for some short, light showers late in the third round.
-11 Sungjae Im
-10 Nick Taylor, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer, Si Woo Kim, Brandon Hagy
-9 Emiliano Grillo, Francesco Molinari, Doug Ghim
-8 John Huh, Brendan Steele, Max Homa, Andrew Putnam, Charley Hoffman, Roger Sloan, Brian Harman, Adam Schenk
4 S Im, 11-2 T Finau, 7 A Ancer, 9 S W Kim, 18 N Taylor, 22 F Molinari, E Grillo, 28 B Harman, 33 B Hagy, P Casey, 40 bar
Another PGA Tour weekend, another congested leaderboard, and another wide-open betting heat. Sungjae Im is in front, but can be backed at 4-1, with only one PGA Tour title to his name and a host of players breathing down his neck.
Im won the Honda Classic just prior to lockdown for his PGA Tour breakthrough, then finished third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational next time out. Post-lockdown form was less convincing, but two performances in the last three months have restored plenty of confidence - second place in the Masters in November and fifth spot in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the start of this month.
Those two magnificent debuts from Im at Augusta and Kapalua underline the suspicion that he is a world-class talent capable of becoming a Major champion. Whether he will win The American Express is another matter, though, and his Saturday odds seem no more than fair.
Im has been carrying a cold putter this year and over a weekend of almost inevitable low scoring at the Stadium Course, he may suffer a flat patch on the greens which denies him glory. Im rolled in a couple of long, downhill putts coming home in round two to assume pole position, but recent history suggests the flat-stick will let him down at some point.
Racing Post Sport followers are not advised to have any further outright investments at this stage, with Abraham Ancer and Si Woo Kim going along nicely.
Nick Taylor - a two-time Tour champion who seems to be continually underrated in the market - and Brandon Hagy - a talented Californian who career has been hampered by injury - are on offer at generous prices of 18-1 and 33-1. Taylor won in California at Pebble Beach in February, while Hagy is relishing this home-state assignment. More cautious punters may want to add strings to their bow with Taylor and Hagy, but those who have ante-post wagers on Ancer (30-1) and Kim (60-1) can be confident of having a player in contention for Sunday.
Ancer, aside from a pushed tee-shot at the 17th in round one which found water and resulted in a double-bogey, has been in rock-solid form at the PGA West venue where he finished runner-up to Andrew Landry last year.
Kim, tied with Ancer for second, carded a bogey-free 66 at the Stadium Course on Thursday and seems to enjoy that layout. Im has an enormous amount of respect for compatriot Kim, who won the Players Championship in spectacular style in 2017.
The top six on the leaderboard are all capable of winning this, with Ancer, Kim, Taylor and Hagy arguably representing superior value to Im and Tony Finau.
Paul Casey has seemed at ease this week, warming to his task, and the Englishman seems a strong third-round threeball option against Sam Ryder and Josh Teater (6pm UK and Ireland time). Casey's career has typically been spent in Abu Dhabi at this time of the year, but he opted for a mission closer to home for 2021 and his ball-striking class has allowed him to fire a second-round 65 at the Stadium Course on Friday.
Casey will return to the Stadium Course full of belief for round three and can be fancied to account for weak opposition.
The final threeball of Im, Finau and Taylor is scheduled to tee off at 7.10pm.
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