The American Express: Jon Rahm once again leads a fraught field on the PGA Tour in California

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It’s not a high profile event, but many of golf’s biggest names have taken to the desert this week for The American Express.

The third PGA Tour tournament of the year kicks off this week in Southern California, pitting five of the top 10 players in the world against each other in the best field The American Express has seen in a long time.

There could even be a new top golfer – or golfers – by the end of the weekend as the West Coast swing gets going.

Here’s everything you need to know for The American Express:

Tournament Basics

The American Express

January 19-22

PGA Western | La Quinta, California

Par 72 | 7,060 meters

Wallet: $8 million / $1.44 million

FedExCup points for winner: 500

Betting favorite, via BetMGM: Jon Rahm (+600)

Last time out: Hudson Swafford rallies to take third career win

Hudson Swafford took his third career win with The American Express last season after a massive finish at La Quinta.

Swafford reached the par-5 on the 16th and then made a birdie on the 17th to finish his round by going 3-under on his last three holes to take the two-shot win over Tom Hoge. His lone par on the back nine also came on the 18th, in what was a wild finish for the 35-year-old. He started the day three shots behind the leaders, but Swafford matched the day’s low round at 64 to take his second win in as many seasons.

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Swafford is not in the field to defend his title this week as he was one of those who jumped to LIV Golf last year, which prevents him from playing in PGA events. Long tournament guest Phil Mickelson will miss this week’s event for the same reason.

Jon Rahm is once again the favorite at The American Express this week. (UKTN/Matt York)

Jon Rahm again the favorite in La Quinta

Jon Rahm has had some impressive stretches of golf over the years.

However, the Spaniard heads into the desert this week on what could easily be called the best run of his career.

Rahm, who made his first start since his comeback win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, is once again the betting favorite at The American Express. If he can lift the trophy at the end of the week at PGA West, it would mark his fifth win since 2022 and put him in an incredible position in the opening weeks of the Tour season.

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“This has been my best result, to get it done and finish in the tournaments, right?” Rahm told the Gulf Channel. “That Sunday in Maui was the third Sunday of 63 or better I’ve had since September… It’s something to be proud of. Hopefully I can put myself in a better position where if I hit those 62s I win by a number of shots instead of waiting to see what happens.

However, he will again bring quite a bit of competition in the field this week. Ten of the top 20 players in the world are participating this week, including Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay and Will Zalatoris – something likely being done to help players qualify for the Tour’s Player Impact Program bonus.

“You want to beat the best and I’m glad people are coming,” said Rahm. “It’s good that more players are trying more events. I think it’s due to some of the new events happening throughout the year. The fact that we have all those big events that we have to play if we want to earn that PIP reward.

“That opens up to all three, let’s say lower events that you have to play, it opens people’s eyes to maybe some events that they haven’t played in the past because your schedule changes a little bit. I know I’m one of that one. It actually kind of tied me up later in the year. So this event really serves a lot of purpose in more ways than one.”

Both Scheffler and Cantlay could also reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings this week. There’s even a scenario where the two would share first place, something that hasn’t happened before. When Cantlay wins and Scheffler finishes eighth alone, the two overtake Rory McIlroy. No matter what Rahm does, he has no way into first place this week.

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Still, Scheffler, who won four times last season, insists he is not focused on the standings.

“I am focused on putting myself in a position to win the tournament. I have no idea what a finish or victory would do for me in the world rankings,” he said on Wednesday.

“I haven’t signed up in a while, but I know I’m still number 2 and number 1 is better than number 2. I don’t focus too much on that stuff. I just try and — I don’t focus too much on the past, I don’t focus too much on the future. For me, it’s always best to stay present and keep working on the things I’ve been working on for many, many years.”

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