The American Express - Round Three
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The most accomplished person in the country in his sport is leaving Alabama to play more golf. But enough about Nick Saban. Amateur star Nick Dunlap turned pro on Thursday following his historic win last week at the American Express. It was the first PGA Tour victory by an amateur since Phil Mickelson did it back in 1991, and it moved Dunlap into the top 75 in the Official World Golf Rankings. 

If all of this sounds wild, that's because it is. It just ... doesn't happen. 

"A week ago today, if you told me I'd have the opportunity to live out my dream as a 20-year-old, it's pretty surreal," he said on Thursday. "But it's also scary, there's a lot of changes.

"It was the easiest, hardest decision I've ever had to make, by far."

Though Dunlap did not receive the $1.5 million awarded to the winner last week in Palm Springs (that went to runner-up, Christiaan Bezuidenhout), nor did he receive any FedEx Cup points, Dunlap did get his PGA Tour card through 2026 and is now eligible to play in all the remaining 2024 signature events.

That's a big deal for anyone, even more so a college sophomore who just turned 20. 

Dunlap was already eligible for the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship based on his U.S. Amateur victory last August. He loses the Masters and Open exemptions by turning pro but regains a Masters invite because of the American Express victory and will also have a spot in the PGA Championship and Players Championship.

Heady stuff for somebody who was just trying to have a nice two-week stretch of pro experience in January. Dunlap was also slated to play in this week's Farmers Insurance Open but withdrew following his win. He received a sponsor exemption into both the American Express and the Farmers, which is not unusual for a U.S. Amateur champion. 

On Sunday, Dunlap held off two of the guys he'll now face every week: Justin Thomas and Sam Burns. At times, he clung to a 70, which another player who finished in the top 10 last week, Michael Kim, said was made all the more impressive because of who he was playing with. 

"An amateur winning in this day and age is absurd," Kim said on Twitter. "Playing in the final round with J.T. and Sam, that's real pressure, especially on those closing holes. Serious congrats to Nick." 

Dunlap, who is the only golfer ever besides Tiger Woods to win the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Amateur, leaves Alabama ranked No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.