2023 American Express leaderboard, grades: Jon Rahm holds off feisty rookie Davis Thompson for win at PGA West
Rahm on Sunday picked up his fourth victory in his last six worldwide starts as he continues to pick up momentum
It wasn't as pretty as his Tournament of Champions victory two weeks ago, but Jon Rahm's triumph at the 2023 American Express featured equal drama down the stretch. Entering the final round at PGA West at 23 under and in a share of the lead with PGA Tour rookie Davis Thompson, it appeared early on that Rahm would run away from the field for his ninth title on the PGA Tour.
Hitting his approach shot on No. 1 to 2 feet and his approach into No. 2 to 1 foot, Rahm quickly grabbed a two-stroke lead over his playing competitor. Thompson would battle back with three birdies over his next six holes to get back within one, and when Rahm made bogey on the par-3 13th, the two were suddenly all squared.
Pivotal moment after pivotal moment would ensue over the final five holes. With Thompson in with an 8-foot birdie look on the 14th and Rahm needing to hole a putt of similar distance just to salvage par, a two-shot swing appeared imminent. Instead, the two walked off the green in the same position as they began the hole and would remain this way until the par-5 16th.
Rahm received the break of his tournament when his second shot tight-roped the 19-foot bunker protecting the green and remained on the proper level. Faced with a relatively straightforward up-and-down, an 8-foot birdie blow from the Spaniard's blade curled in the top side to give him the solo lead at 27 under.
This margin was nearly short-lived as Thompson's birdie bid on 17 careened off the flagstick, surprising even an onlooking Rahm. Ultimately exchanging pars, and doing so once again on the 72nd hole, the former world No. 1 was able to successfully fend off the 23-year-old for his fourth worldwide victory in just six starts. Grade: A+
Here is the breakdown of the rest of the leaderboard at the 2023 American Express.
2. Davis Thompson (-26):, and the only reason he didn't get his first win is because the hottest golfer on Earth was playing the same tournament as him. Actually, perhaps the only reason he didn't get his first win is because he didn't take the flag out on the 17th hole on Sunday. Grade: A+
T3. Xander Schauffele (-26): After withdrawing from the Tournament of Champions, Schauffele put on a show on the weekend in Palm Springs, shooting 14 under over two days to nearly chase down Rahm. He said earlier in the week that his back, which was the source of that WD in Hawaii, feels better and he plans on playing a lot over the next few months. Grade: A
"Yeah, it's just a little sore," said Schauffele. "I did nothing and I had a lot of work done on it. So it's a little sore. I've gotten in probably more swings than I wanted to in these last three days. So just more work to be done on it. I got to be a little bit more patient in my return."
He also made the Tour's first albatross since July 2022. Grade: A
T3. Chris Kirk (-25): What a start to 2023 for Kirk, who is playing his best golf in nearly a year. He finished third last week at the Sony Open before scaring the lead on the back nine on Sunday this week. Surprisingly, Kirk hasn't won on the PGA Tour since Colonial all the way back in 2015. Following his struggle with and slow recovery from alcohol abuse and depression, a win for him would be both celebratory in the golf community as well as inspiring. Perhaps it's coming soon, but even if it doesn't, Kirk -- who finished in the top five at last year's PGA Championship -- is a fun and intriguing follow right now. Grade: A
5. Taylor Montgomery (-24): How about this: There are nine players tied for second in top 10 finishes this PGA Tour season. All of them have three top 10s. And they're all trailing Montgomery who, after his fifth-place finish here, now has four. He's been playing at an extremely high (and underrated) level so far this season and is going to make some real noise in both the Official World Golf Rankings and the FedEx Cup if this is his baseline level of play. Grade: A+
T6. Erik van Rooyen (-23): EVR had his best finish anywhere in the world in a year and managed to do it while looking like somebody who knows his way around a saloon and travels the Tour's west coast swing via railway. Which I support, of course. Grade: A
T26. Cameron Young (-18): The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year ranked fourth in strokes gained approach during his two rounds on the Stadium Course but continued to struggle with the putter. Switching back and forth between a conventional grip and the pencil grip with the flat stick, it is clear he is going through something on the greens. His around-the-green play wasn't much better, and only then, when his short-game woes dissolve, will Young find the winner's circle for the first time. Grade: C
T54. Rickie Fowler (-13): It was a resurgent swing season for Fowler with a runner-up finish at the Zozo Championship and another top-10 effort at the Fortinet Championship. Making his 2023 debut this week, he showed that, despite some great moments, he still has a long way to go to reenter the upper echelon of golf. Too many big numbers were ultimately Fowler's downfall, but volatility can often be a precursor to success. Grade: C-
Rahmbo pulls ahead
The Spaniard caught a break when his ball stayed up on top the level of the putting surface. Able to get up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 16th, Rahm heads into the final two holes with a one-stroke margin over his playing competitor Davis Thompson.
Taylor Montgomery water ball
I'm not sure he enjoyed this shot on No. 17. He was one back of Rahm and Thompson at the time, but now he's completely out of it.
Big moment on 14th green
Davis Thompson and Jon Rahm were both faced with 8 foot putts. Howeverrrr...Thompson's was for birdie while Rahm's was for par. A potential two-shot swing was in the making until the rookie's effort fell wide and Rahm's fell in the heart. They remain tied for the lead at 26 under.
Rahm drops a shot, now tied with Thompson
From just inside five feet, Jon Rahm failed to connect on a par putt on the par-3 13th. He is now at 26 under and in a share of the lead with Davis Thompson with five holes left. Taylor Montgomery and Chris Kirk are still in this at 25 under. We've got a ballgame.