The PGA Tour is back on the mainland after opening the 2024 season with two events in Hawaii, and this week will play the first of three consecutive tournaments in California.
The American Express, in its 65th season, will kick off its four-day rub on Thursday on the Pete Dye Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in La Quinta, and La Quinta Country Club.
All players in the field will play each of those courses on the first three days, with the final round played exclusively on the Stadium Course.
For the second time in three events this season, third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain will not defend his title because he has been suspended by the PGA Tour after signing a lucrative contract to play LIV Golf. Rahm also missed The Sentry, which he won last year, to open the season at Kapalua Resort in Maui.
Still, The American Express has a strong field that includes top-ranked Scottie Scheffler (pictured), fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, and 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark, the reigning United States Open champion.
Also playing are Chris Kirk and Grayson Murray, winners of the first two PGA Tour events this season, plus Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Tom Kim of South Korea, Jason Day, Shane Lowry of Ireland, Eric Cole of Palm Springs, Min Woo Lee of Australia and Will Zalatoris.
Two-time PGA champion Justin Thomas, who has won 15 times on the PGA Tour, will be making his season debut after having a bit of a slump last year when he failed to win a tournament for the first time since 2013.
“I learned a lot this past season,” said Thomas, who also captured the 2021 Players Championship. “The No. 1 thing is, things are never as bad as people make them out to be. At times I was just a couple putts, shots, swings here and there away from at least having a chance of making a run in the Playoffs. But it’s a fine line out here.”
Next week, the Farmers Insurance Open will be played at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, followed by the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links, before the PGA Tour moves on to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the WM Phoenix Open on the TPC Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.
1. Scottie Scheffler, United States — The top-ranked Scheffler, who has six victories in the last two years including the 2022 Masters and the 2023 Players, started the new season with tie for fifth in The Sentry. He is playing in the American Express for the fifth time, finishing solo third in 2020 after leading for three rounds, and tied for 11th last year.
2. Xander Schauffele, United States — Even though the fifth-ranked Schauffele didn’t add to his PGA Toue victory total of seven last year, he posted 10 finishes in the top 10 including second twice, and opened the new season with a tie for 10th in The Sentry. He closed with a 62 last year to tie for third in The American Express after two missed cuts.
3. Patrick Cantlay, United States — The sixth-ranked Cantlay, who is coming off a tie for 12th in The Sentry, didn’t add to his PGA victory total of eight last year, but had nine top-10 results, including second twice. He closed with a 61 to finish second, one shot behind Si Woo Kim in the 2021 American Express, and was ninth the following season.
4. Tom Kim, South Korea — The 21-year-old Kim has won 12 times as a pro, including the Shriners Children’s Open the last two years and is up to No. 14 in the World Golf Rankings. He struggled to a tie for 45th in the Sentry despite opening with a 68 and closing with a 66, and his AmEx debut last season he tied for sixth by posting four rounds in the 60s.
5. Justin Thomas, United States — Having skidded to No. 28 in the world, the two-time PGA champion Thomas is makes his season debut with hopes to move back up. He had six top-10 results last season, but simply didn’t play the way he has in the past. JT tied for seventh in the 2015 AmEx and missed the cut a year before in his only other appearance.
6. Min Woo Lee, Australia — The 25-year-old Lee claimed his fourth professional victory in the Australian PGA Championship in December after winning the SJM Macao Open in October, in addition to finishing third in the Australian Open. He had three top-10s in limited appearances in the U.S. last year, including fifth in the U.S. Open. Amex debut.
7. Sungjae Im, South Korea — In the season opener, Im closed with a 63 to tie for fifth in the Sentry after claiming his sixth pro victory, including two on the PGA Tour, by winning the Woori Financial Group Championship on the Korean Tour last season. He tied for 18th in The American Express last season, his fifth straight top-20 finish in the tournament.
8. J.T. Poston, United States — Poston has started the new PGA Tour season with a tie for fifth in The Sentry and a tie for sixth in the Sony Open in Hawaii. This came after he recorded 13 finishes in the top-25 on the PGA Tour last season after winning the 2022 John Deere Classic. He tied for sixth in The American Express last year, tied for seventh in 2019.
9. Jason Day, Australia — Finally playing again like the 2015 PGA champion he is, Day posted four rounds in the 60s to open the season with a tie for 10th in The Sentry. That came after he posted 13 results in the top 20 last year, including his 19th pro victory in the AT&T Byron Nelson and a tie for second in The Open. Tied for 18th in the AmEx last year.
10. Eric Cole, United States — The 2023 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has started the new year with a tie for 14th in the Sentry and a tie for 13th in the Sony Open in Hawaii. Cole, who won 12 times on the Minor League Golf Tour, has yet to break through on the PGA, but had 14 finishes in the top 25 last year, including two seconds. Tied for 36h in AmEx debut.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Wyndham Clark, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Tony Finau, United States; Stephan Jaeger, Germany; Rickie Fowler, United States; Chris Kirk, United States; Cam Davis, Australia; Si Woo Kim, South Korea; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Matt Kuchar, United States.
1. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa — Has won 10 times as a professional, including three on DP World Tour. He finished T-11 in The American Express last season.
2. Mattieu Pavon, France — A five-time winner as a pro in Europe, Pavon finished T-7 last week in Sony by posting four rounds in the 60s. Captured the Open de Espana in October.
3. Justin Suh, United States — Former USC star won 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Championship and last year was T-6 in The Players Championship and solo fourth in WW Technology.
4. K.H. Lee, South Korea — Four-time winner as a pro had four rounds in 60s to T-30 in the Sony. T-21 with four 60s in 2019 was best result in five starts in The American Express.
5. Sam Stephens, United States — Former Oklahoma Stat star claimed his only pro victory in the 2020 Colombia Classic on PGA Latino America Tour. T-24 in Sony last week.
For first-round tee times and results once the tournament starts, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard