Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay has picked up right where he left off last season.
Cantlay, the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedEx Cup champion, shot 10-under-par 62 at La Quinta Country Club to tie for the lead with Lee Hodges after the first round of The American Express in La Quinta.
All players in the field will play the Stadium Course PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club in the first three rounds, with the final round to be contested solely on the Stadium Course.
Players continued the trend of low scores that were shot in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii during the first two events of 2022.
“Welcome to the new normal,” said Patrick Cantlay, who finished solo fourth in the Sentry TOC by posting four rounds in the 60s. “You’ll have to get into the 20s (under par) to have a chance to win.
“I got off to a roll at the start and kind of made a bunch of putts and then I kind of lagged on the way coming in. But I was happy with everything. I thought I did everything well and it’s a golf course I really like. It’s in perfect shape and so, if you get the ball rolling on-line, it should go in.
“I grew up a couple hours away, so there are a bunch of friendly faces in the crowd and so it’s really fun. It’s the best part of what I do is when you get on a roll like that and you’re making a bunch of birdies.”
Cantlay, from Los Alamitos and UCLA, collected five birdies and an eagle at No. 6 to play the first seven holes in 7-under, then made three birdies in a row through No. 13 before finishing his bogey-free round with four straight pars.
Hodges, who also played La Quinta CC, had five birdies and an eagle at No. 5, and also made three straight birdies through No. 13 in another bogey-free round.
“It’s one of my favorite golf courses I’ve ever played, to be honest,” said Hodges, whose only pro victory came in the 2021 WinCo Foods Portland Open on the Korn Ferry Tour. “I played it I guess three times now and it’s spectacular. It’s like hitting off of mats half the time.
“It’s just in perfect shape. You get rewarded for good shots out here, which I like that. Good golf gets rewarded. … I knew that my game was there to play really well, so just got to try to change a little bit of my attitude. I think that was a big help.”
K.H. Lee of South Korea birdied the last three holes of the Stadium Course for a 64 and is in a tie for third with Cameron Young, who eagled the 13th hole at La Quinta CC.
Joseph Bramlett of Saratoga and Stanford made six straight birdies through No. 16 on the Stadium Course to post a 65 and is in a big tie for fifth that includes Brandt Snedeker, who birdied the last three holes at La Quinta CC, and Sam Ryder, who sank a three-foot eagle putt on the eighth hole while finishing on the front nine on the Stadium Course.
Also in the tie for fifth at 65 are Danny Lee of New Zealand, who birdied the last four holes of the Nicklaus Course, Seamus Power of Ireland, who played bogey-free on the Nicklaus Course, Wyndham Clark, who eagled the 11th hole at La Quinta, Tom Hoge, who birdied three of the last four holes on the Nicklaus Course, and Greyson Sigg, who eagled the seventh hole in a bogey-free round on the Nicklaus Course.
Top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who won this tournament in 2018, is tied for 13th after a bogey-free 66 at La Quinta CC, defending champion Si Woo Kim of South Korea shot 68 at La Quinta CC and is tied for 40th, and tournament host Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner of this tournament, struggled to a 78 at La Quinta CC and is tied for 154th and last in the field.
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