Hudson Swafford pulled away from several players on a tightly bunched leaderboard on the back nine to claim victory.
The 34-year-old Swafford shot 8-under-par 64 to become the ninth player to win what is now The American Express for the second time by two strokes over Tom Hoge on the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta.
Every golfer in the field played the Stadium Course, the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club once each over the first three rounds before the 54-hole cut was made, and the final round was played exclusively contested on the Stadium Course.
“I made a bogey on the first hole today, but I did the same thing in the final round when I won here in 2017,” said Swafford, who has won three times on the PGA Tour, also including the 2020 Corales Punta Cana Championship. “To win for the third time is an amazing feeling.
“I hit the ball well all week, but my driver wasn’t quite right, so I went across the street last night and hit about 20 balls to get things straightened out. I really hit it well today, gave myself plenty of opportunities and just rolled it perfectly all week.’
“I played great all day and it was great to make that eagle on No. 16 and a clutch par putt on the last hole.”
Swafford, who overcame a rib injury and foot surgery in 2019 that slowed his career progress, bounced back from that bogey on the first hole with four birdies on the front nine, then rattled off five more birdies on the back nine and added a three-foot eagle putt at No. 16 while recording a score of 23-under 265.
Hoge, who was seeking his first PGA Tour victory, birdied the 16th and 17th holes to take second with a second straight 68, while left-hander Brian Harmon carded a bogey-free 64 to finish three shots back in a tie for third with Lanto Griffin, who holed out for an eagle from 110 yards on the 12th hole in a 67, and Lee Hodges, who was tied for the lead after a first-round 62 and closed with a 70.
“I played really solid most of the way,” said Hoge, who has three pro victories in lower tours. “But on one stretch in there today, five through 10, I didn’t make a couple birdies on some of those easy par-5s.
“But other than that, I played really well. It was nice to make a few putts coming in on, what was it, Nos. 12 and 17, a nice one to make. So, I’ll take some positives going forward and hopefully keep playing well next week (in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla).”
Will Zalatoris, the 2021 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, chipped in from 29 feet for an eagle on the 16th hole in a 67 and wound up one more down in a tie for sixth with Denny McCarthy, who sank a 16-foot eagle at No. 16, and Francesco Molinari of Italy, who had seven birdies in a 68.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who was in the lead after each of the first two rounds, totaled 68 and finished five strokes behind in solo ninth, while Paul Barjon of France slid to 10th, one more back following a 73.
Defending champion Si Woo Kim tied for 11th after a 67, top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who won this event int 2018, closed with a 71 and tied for 14th, and Patrick Reed, who won this tournament in 2014, closed with a triple-bogey 7 and tied for 55th.
Other multiple winners of the old Bob Hope Desert Classic, which as first played in 1960 as the Palm Springs Desert Classic include Arnold Palmer (five times), Billy Casper, John Cook, Bill Haas, John Mahaffey, Phil Mickelson, Johnny Miller and Corey Pavin, who all won it twice.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html