Power Rankings: The American Express
Yet another thrilling lineup is promised in the Coachella Valley: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Tom Kim, etc.
What, you were expecting Bad Bunny, Rosalía and Frank Ocean? Come back to these parts for those artists and many, many more in mid-April for the annual music and arts festival. This week’s focus is on The American Express, although Gwen Stefani and Darius Rucker will be entertaining in the event’s concert series later in the week.
A trio of courses is set to host the tournament. Details on the format and more below.
POWER RANKINGS: THE AMERICAN EXPRESS
|15 Sahith Theegala In his tournament debut last year as a PGA TOUR rookie, the SoCal native carded a career-low 62 at Nick Tourney in the second round and finished T33. Three top-six finishes this season.
|14 Sungjae Im Serves as a litmus test for his game right now. Since splashing here in 2019, he’s gone T12-T10-T12-T11, but after opening 2023 with a T13 at Kapalua, he missed the cut at Waialae by four.
|13 Cameron Young Back for redemption after getting upended by a closing 77 to finish T40 in his debut last year. He sat T5 and just three shots off the lead entering the finale. Opened 2023 with a T13 at Kapalua.
|12 Taylor Montgomery If only he was more comfortable with a PGA TOUR card… The (very) early Rookie of the Year favorite is 8-for-8 with seven top-15 finishes, including a T12 last week at Waialae.
|11 Tom Kim Tom Kim … The 20-year-old is making personal history of sorts this week because this is the first host site on TOUR where he’s making his second appearance (MC, 2021). T5 at Kapalua two weeks ago.
|10 Tom Hoge With a T6 (2020) and a solo second (2022) in the last two editions with a 54-hole cut, he’s earned this faith. And, hey, at least TCU lost by a zillion since his T3 as a first-timer at Kapalua.
|9 Sam Burns The 26-year-old still struggles in putting four rounds together, but his floor is so high. Also, in two appearances with 54-hole cuts at PGA WEST, he finished T18 in 2019 and T6 in 2020.
|8 Brian Harman The lefty has been a fixture here throughout his career. Since 2016, he’s 6-for-7, all paydays going for a top 25, including a pair of T3s (2017, 2022). All 24 rounds this season are par or better.
|7 Andrew Putnam Arrives with a pair of strong streaks in tow. For one, he’s cashed in 13 straight starts with three top-five finishes; T4 at Sony. And at PGA WEST since 2018, he’s 5-for-5 with four top 25s.
|6 Si Woo Kim It’s Si Woo SZN. He’s fresh off the surge to win the Sony Open in Hawaii and he’s only two years removed from his victory at PGA WEST in 2021. Also placed T11 in his title defense.
|5 Will Zalatoris Ended his injury sabbatical by limbering up with a T11 in his first appearance at Kapalua where he was sub-70 in every round. Opened last year with a T6 in his debut at The American Express.
|4 Tony Finau Sixth appearance and fourth consecutive since returning with a T14 in 2020. Added a solo fourth in 2021. Shed whatever rust he had with a well-balanced T7 at Kapalua two weeks ago.
|3 Patrick Cantlay He’s a machine for whom there’s no reason not to expect him to contend. He’s mastered the art of cadencing competition with rest. He’s also gone T9-2nd-9th in his last three appearances.
|2 Scottie Scheffler His quartet of title defenses are on the horizon, but this is neither a bridge nor a primer for all of that. He’s finished third (2020) and T25 (2022) at PGA WEST. Rested after a T7 at Kapalua.
|1 Jon Rahm With three wins, a T2 and a T4 in his last five official starts worldwide, he’s a default No. 1 here. Oh, and not that he needs more evidence, but he’s also a former champion (2018) at PGA WEST.
Eight courses across three tournaments in three weeks. That’s how the West Coast Swing opens, so for any golfer scheduled to launch into the stateside version of the 2023 slate, patience will be a weapon. Naturally, for rookies and other first-timers, the learning curve will be getting a workout.
The American Express is anchored by the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA WEST. The Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST (a/k/a “Nick Tourney”) and La Quinta Country Club share in the duties. Each of the 156 in the field will get one lap around each course before the cut falls at the conclusion of the third round. The champion will be decided among the low 65 and ties on the Stadium Course on Sunday.
Every entrant will be paired with an amateur for the first three rounds. That usually leads to longer time spent inside the ropes, but there can be a nice balance of pleasure with the profession for all who embrace the experience.
Each course is a stock par 72 ranging from 7,060 yards at La Quinta to just 7,187 yards on the Stadium Course. The latter was extended by 40 yards with a back tee at the par-5 16th hole that now can reach 600 yards. In consideration of fairness across all courses – and this goes for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am the week after – hole locations remain in similar spots on the greens until the rotation is complete. While foot traffic always is concentrated around holes, they will be separated by as few paces as possible.
La Quinta CC is the easiest of the three, but even its scoring average of 69.917 last year was its highest of the last six times it’s been utilized. (It sat out the 2021 edition due to the pandemic.) With TifDwarf bermuda greens now fitted on its back nine, the aforementioned learning curve will apply to all there. The primary rough is up half-an-inch to 1.75 inches this year.
Nick Tourney checked up at 70.256 in 2022. Although it’s been among the easiest par 72s most seasons, this is likely a new norm since its greens were modified to TifEagle bermuda and increased to an average of 7,000 square feet prior to the 2021 edition of the tournament. The thickest rough on both tracks at PGA WEST is trimmed to two inches.
The Stadium Course averaged 70.571 a year ago, and that includes a final-round split of 70.914. That’s the bull’s-eye when weather cooperates, which it will again this week. After rain clears out on Monday, a dry pattern will dig in for the remainder. Daytime temperatures will climb into the mid-60s and winds will be light.
All greens are prepped to run no longer than 11 feet on the Stimpmeter, so even the amateurs will be busy penciling circles.