‘I’m playing against Jon Rahm:’ Rookie co-leader relishing underdog role at The American Express

Davis Thompson of the United States walks off a green during the third round of The American Express at PGA West Pete Dye Stadium Course on January 21, 2023 in La Quinta, California.

Davis Thompson will be a clear underdog Sunday.

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The two players in Sunday’s final pairing at The American Express could not be in more different places in their careers.

Jon Rahm is in the midst of the peak of his career and in the middle of an outstanding run with eight top-10s in his last nine worldwide starts.

Meanwhile, Davis Thompson, who shares the lead with Rahm going into the final round, has just one top 10 on the PGA Tour in his short career.

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The rookie jumped out to a two-shot lead through two rounds, thanks to a PGA Tour record-tying five eagles, but cooled off Saturday and now finds himself in a battle with the hottest golfer on the planet.

Needless to say, the oddsmakers are favoring Rahm, significantly. The favorite coming into the week is -175 to win Sunday, according to BetMGM, while Thompson is +300. No one else has odds better than +2800 as the pair is four clear of the rest of the field.

Thompson wasn’t surprised.

“For sure, I’m playing against Jon Rahm,” the 23-year-old said when asked if he felt like an underdog after the round. “I feel like everybody would pick me as the underdog.”

Thompson is making just his 20th PGA Tour start, but it’s not like he doesn’t know how to win. The Univerisity of Georgia product had a standout amateur career, twice becoming the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

He spent just one season on Korn Ferry Tour after finishing 16th on the Korn Ferry season points list in 2022, thanks in part to his first pro win at the REX Hospital Open.

This week also isn’t the first time he’s been in the lead on the PGA Tour. Shortly after leaving college, he shot 63 in the opening round of the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic to lead by two. He ultimately finished tied for 58th.

“I’ve been in this position before,” Thompson said. “It’s just not— it was just on the Korn Ferry Tour last year and it was in amateur golf and in junior golf. But now it’s on one of the biggest stages. So it’s exciting to kind of test my nerves and test my ability and I’m looking forward to it.”

He’s also looking forward to being the underdog.

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“I kind of relish that label, I guess,” he said. “I just try to go out and do my own thing and try and not to let anything bother me.”

It’s not like he hasn’t played just as well as Rahm this week. He does, however, have something else working against him.

Thompson had travel issues getting to Palm Springs, and with the unique nature of the tournament being played on three courses, he only got to play holes 14-16 on the PGA West Stadium Course for the first time Saturday. He only got in tee shots on 17 and 18.

He played that run in even par. That kind of thing is part of being a rookie on tour. Now he’s got some added confidence on that stretch going into tomorrow, he said.

And despite this being the first time he’s ever been in this spot on the PGA Tour, he sounds pretty relaxed heading into Sunday.

“I feel like I don’t have anything to lose in my rookie year. Just kind of freewheel it,” Thompson said. “But I’m excited to play with Jon. He’s obviously a top-5 player in the world. He’s very good. But I’m excited about the challenge and just looking forward to tomorrow.”

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