The American Express kicked off in La Quinta, Calif., on Thursday, and the traditionally low-scoring tournament appeared to be right on pace, with the first-round leader posting a sizzling round of 10-under-par 62.
That round was shot by Davis Thompson, a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie. Thompson has one career top 10 but is still seeking his first win. If he wants it to be in La Quinta, he’ll need to keep the pedal to the metal. There were 123 players who fired rounds under par on Thursday, 26 of whom are within four shots of his lead.
One of those chasers is Jon Rahm, fresh off his come-from-behind victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui earlier this month. Rahm fired an impressive opening round of eight-under 64 — two shots shy of Thompson’s lead.
As a former champion at The American Express in 2018, Rahm knows the importance of going low all too well. The year he won, he opened with a 62 and went on to finish at 22 under.
“It’s a great start to the tournament,” Rahm said after his round at La Quinta Country Club, one of three courses the pros will play in the opening three rounds. PGA West’s Pete Dye Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament Course are the other two. The final round is played at the Pete Dye Stadium course. “You can’t really win it on this golf course, but you can sure fall off the pace,” Rahm said of La Quinta CC.
Despite Rahm’s excellent start, he also said he didn’t have his best stuff — but that’s exactly why he’s feeling good about his chances of claiming a second title in La Quinta, despite the number of other big names and proven winners on the leaderboard, like World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (-4) and Xander Schauffele (-7).
“I didn’t have my best,” he said. “I didn’t find myself in the fairway very often through the round, but was able to get birdies out of it. And that’s the beauty of that. Yeah, I mean I would like people to think that it’s hard to beat me and almost impossible because, again, if I don’t have my A game and I’m shooting rounds like this it should be a pretty good year.”
History is also on Rahm’s side, and he knows it. In his last three appearances in La Quinta, he hasn’t finished worse than 14th.
“I’ve been consistent every single time and I’ve given myself a chance,” Rahm said. “So hopefully again I can just keep doing what I’ve been doing and find myself on Sunday with a chance.”
Rahm tees off in the second round at the Nicklaus Tournament Course alongside Rickie Fowler at 12:58 p.m. ET.