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It’s not an elevated event, but many of golf’s biggest names have flocked to the desert this week for The American Express.
The third PGA Tour tournament of the year kicks off this week in Southern California, where five of the top 10 players in the world will tee it up in what is the best field The American Express has seen in quite some time.
By the end of the weekend, there could even be a new top-ranked golfer — or golfers — as the West Coast swing gets going.
Here’s everything you need to know for The American Express:
The American Express
PGA West | La Quinta, California
Par 72 | 7,060 yards
Purse: $8 million/$1.44 million
FedExCup points for winner: 500
Betting favorite, via BetMGM: Jon Rahm (+600)
Last time out: Hudson Swafford rallies to grab third career win
Swafford picked up his third career win last season at The American Express after a massive finish in La Quinta.
Swafford eagled the par-5 16th and made a birdie on the 17th to close out his round by going 3-under on his final three holes to grab a two-shot win over Tom Hoge. His only par on the back nine came on the 18th in what was a wild finish for the 35-year-old. He started the day three shots back of the leaders, yet Swafford matched the low round of the day at 64 to grab his second win in as many seasons.
Swafford is not in the field this week to defend his title, as he was among those who jumped to LIV Golf last year, which prevents him from playing in PGA events. Longtime tournament host Phil Mickelson will miss this week’s event for the same reason.
Jon Rahm the favorite once again in La Quinta
Rahm has had some impressive stretches of golf in recent years. The Spaniard, however, is entering this week in the desert on what could easily be called the best run of his career.
Rahm, making his first start since his comeback win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, is once again the betting favorite at The American Express. If he could lift the trophy at the end of the week at PGA West, it’d mark his fifth win since 2022 and put him in an incredible position in the early weeks of the Tour season.
“This has been my best stretch of results, being able to get it done and finish in the tournaments, right?” Rahm told the Golf Channel. “That Sunday in Maui was the third Sunday of 63 or better I’ve had since September … It’s something to be proud of. Hopefully I can put myself in a better position to where if I shoot those 62s, I’m winning by a bunch of shots instead of waiting to see what happens.”
He will once again, however, have quite a bit of competition in the field with him this week. Ten of the top 20 players in the world are competing this week, including Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay and Will Zalatoris — something that’s likely being done to help players qualify for the Tour’s Player Impact Program bonus.
“You want to beat the best, and I’m glad people are coming,” Rahm said. “It’s good that more players are trying more events. I think it’s due to the some of the new events going on during the year. The fact that we have all those big events that we have to play if we want to earn that PIP reward.
“That opens up to all those three, let’s say lower events that you need to play, it opens people’s eyes to maybe some events they haven’t played in the past because your schedule changes a little bit. I know I’m one of those. It actually kind of tied me up later on the year. So this event really serves a lot of purpose in more than one way.”
Both Scheffler and Cantlay could reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings this week, too. There’s even a scenario in which the two would share the top spot, something that hasn’t happened before. If Cantlay wins and Scheffler finishes alone in eighth, the two will overtake Rory McIlroy. Regardless of what Rahm does, however, he doesn’t have a path to the top spot this week.
Yet Scheffler, who won four times last season, insists he isn’t focused on the rankings one bit.
“I’m focused on trying to put myself in position to win the tournament. I have no idea what a finish or win would do for me in the world ranking,” he said Wednesday.
“I haven’t checked in a while, but I know I’m still No. 2, and No. 1 is better than No. 2. I don’t focus too much on that stuff. I just try and — I don’t focus too much on the past, I don’t focus too much on the future. For me, it’s always best to stay present and continue to work on the things that I’ve been working on for many, many years.”