Aside from his baby face, Davis Thompson didn’t look like a PGA Tour rookie making his 20e start most of the week at the American Express 2023.
The 23-year-old Georgia grad led after the first and second rounds in the Coachella Valley, where his five eagles over 36 holes set a record for most eagles made in a 72-hole event (1983-present). In Sunday’s final round at the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, California, he was grouped with 2018 AmEx winner and World No. 4 Jon Rahm and JT Poston.
“I’ve had a great week,” said Thompson, who ultimately fell one shot short of Rahm in what would have been a playoff for his first PGA Tour win on Sunday. “My dream is to compete against the best in the world and I did that today and I proved I can handle them. It was very fun.
“A lot of nerves and I hit a lot of quality golf shots under pressure, which was really cool.”
Thompson played the par-5s at 14 under over the first three rounds spanning La Quinta Country Club and PGA West’s Stadium and Tournament courses. On Sunday on the Stadium Course, Thompson played the four par-5s just par after his 2-under attempt on Saturday.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Thompson said of the difference between his two weekend rounds. “I had a few tee shots off line. I mean, didn’t really give myself a chance to go for it on 5 and 16 because of bad tee shots. Besides playing the par-5s all week, I actually didn’t do very well today.
“Jon made par on 5, which I thought would birdie, but he made par on 5 and birdie on 16. That was two shots,” explained Thompson. “I overplayed those holes 1. So that was kind of a two-shot swing there.
On Sunday, Thompson had hit T-62 in fairways, 62nd in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 54th in SG: Around the Green among 69 players who made the cut. But his toughest breakaway of the day came on the 17the green, where Thompson made a heartbreaking par after his birdie putt from 15 yards hit the flagstick and failed to fall into the hole. The putt would have tied him and Rahm for the lead with one hole left to play.
“Usually I always leave the stick in from a great distance. I feel like it helps me with my speed,” Thompson said of his decision not to pull the pin. “Unfortunately, I will be playing the ‘what if’ game in my head for a long time to come.”
Aside from the missed opportunity at number 17, Thompson still had a chance to birdie on the final hole after missing the green with his approach. Despite his poor performance around the greens on the day, the TV coverage crept up on Thompson’s attempt to hit the tricky chip within two feet and nearly hole out.
“I went through just about every option in my head. I could have just hit a low bump and run away, but that hill was so steep,” Thompson said of the show. “I put down my 60 and I knew I had enough, I had a good lie to get up quickly. Just goes back a little bit to if you want to make it, you chip it. If you want to hit him up close, put him. So I tried to make it clear. Thought it might as well.”
Thompson has made the cut in five of his six starts so far this season, finishing T-9 at the season-opening Fortinet Championship. He went toe to toe with one of the world’s best Sundays and didn’t give up under the toughest pressure. He has tremendous talent for his age. Moxy too.
Keep an eye on the young rookie. You can also.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek